Little Cayman

By Sunday, June 3, 2012grafphoto

Hey folks, we are back.   It was a great week enjoying a getaway to this little island in the Caribbean.   The sun was intense at times, humidity high and relatively calm seas.  We ended up being quite fortunate as far as the weather.  Our resort had to cancel diving for 3 days for the group in the prior week due to a tropical storm passing through.   Those conditions were on the forecast for returning in the latter half of our week, but fortunately the storm systems ended up going above and around us towards Cuba.   I’ll give you a “brief” overview in this post, and offer some more detail as I process more images.

Dawn Twilight at Sand Point, Little Cayman island image # SL-9580

The main image here is at dawn at a spot called Sand Point, which is on the far east end of Little Cayman.   Getting here for dawn meant renting a scooter to leave at 4:30 am, ride across the island in the dark from where we were staying near the southwest end, to be on site by around 5:00 am.  That enabled me to have a little time to scout around before dawn twilight started happening at 5:25 am.   Sunrise was at 5:50 am.   How I came upon having a scooter rented this early in the morning is part of a larger story of a mishap on the trip.   More on that later.   

Caribbean area around Cayman Islands

Little Cayman, Cayman Islands

Little Cayman is the smallest, and least visited of the three Cayman islands.   It is currently only about 4% developed, which means wildlife here is quite abundant – from birds and reptiles on land, to the beautiful condition of the reefs off shore.   It remains a stark contrast to Grand Cayman, where quite a bit of development is present.  Therefore this little island has become a bit of a sanctuary for a lot of native Cayman flora and fauna, some quite endangered.

We stayed at Little Cayman Beach Resort, which turned out to be an absolutely fantastic place.  Very comfortable, with very well run dive operations.  The resort itself had excellent staff, very friendly, and the food was incredible.  Gourmet food served breakfast, lunch and dinner in a buffet style.   They famously hosted a National Geographic project on coral reefs done by Jim Hellemn, who stitched together a 280 image panoramic portrait of Bloody Bay Wall, the popular reef system at Little Cayman.   I didn’t know much about Jim’s work prior to this trip, and am in a bit of awe when looking at what he has done in the realm of underwater photography.   If you like u/w work, definitely check his stuff out.

Little Cayman and photography

As far as photography, some pluses, some minuses, and a particularly big minus.   Obviously I had a good sunrise one day, and it isn’t difficult finding tranquil imagery on a tropical island.  A minor minus: I didn’t see any sharks that I had hoped for.  One of our dive masters reported they had to stop spearing invasive lion fish in the area because sharks were becoming a little “too friendly” and frequently bumping divers.   So they have turned to netting them now, and with no fish blood in the water, no shark attractant.  Perhaps not seeing them wasn’t so bad after all!

I brought 2 underwater camera setups for this trip; my D700 in a Nauticam housing, and my Canon S100 pocket camera in an Ikelite housing.  I used my D800 on land.   Juggling multiple cameras led to how I came to have a scooter at 4:30 in the morning.

On a dive where I decided to take both cameras because my D700 was setup for macro, and I wanted a camera in case a turtle or something else large presented an opportunity, so I also brought the S100.   The S100 was strapped to my BC (buoyancy compensator vest for you non-divers 🙂 ) so I could operate the D700 with both hands, and then just grab the S100 if I needed it.  I thought it was quite secure, and I ended up being wrong.   For 50 minutes of the dive, the S100 was fine and secure.   In the last 10 minutes of the dive  I was photographing some shrimp with the D700.  When I finished, I noticed the S100 was gone.   Somehow one of the rings on my strap setup came free and let the S100 in its housing drift off.   It was positively buoyant, so it headed towards the surface somewhere without me noticing.   There was also a bit of a current, so it was drifting and floating.

I searched the area the best I could with the air I had left, but had to return to the boat, where we had everyone on board scanning the surface for it.   The captain kindly circled the boat around the area for some time, but it was very difficult to see such a small object (mostly clear and black) in a very big sea.    We were probably a half mile from shore, so we abandoned the sea search and my wife and I decided to search the shoreline.   We needed to rent some bicycles to get to the other side of the island.  One gear bicycles, much too small for me, on a very hot day in the middle of the afternoon!   We had no luck searching the very rugged shore and came back exhausted from the heat.  We decided to come back the next day, only with scooters this time to make getting around a bit easier.

Tripod equipped scooter

Unfortunately, the scooter search didn’t yield any different results.  After several hours and darkness approaching, I left my name and number just in case with some locals and we headed back.   As much as I was bummed about losing the camera and housing, I was more bummed about the images and video on the card inside – at least 3 dives worth and assorted shots/video from the trip.   I can replace the camera and housing, but the images and video are gone.

The small perk was the scooter guy told us we could have them for a half day rate and he would pick them up after 8 am the next day.  We always left for diving at 8 am, so I had a scooter available if I chose to go out to catch some sunrise shots before diving.

I did do this, evident by the sunrise shot at the start of this post.   I have to say I rather enjoyed the scooter ride getting there.  This trip was the first time I had ever been on a scooter.  I got a small taste of the feeling of wind in your hair, bugs hitting your face, and the challenge of avoiding fiddler crabs crossing the road.

So despite losing the camera and housing, it was a really nice week of diving, and as the editing goes on, hopefully a few more keepers will emerge.


Join the discussion 15 Comments

  • Mark says:

    Sorry for your loss, Mark. Seems as though when we reap the benefits of a good time, we always have to give something up in return.

    Quick questions….
    1. After the beautiful sunrise pic, did you have plenty of time to make it back to LCBR before the dive boat left?
    2. What other spots on L. Cayman are maybe worth doing some ND/GND shots at?
    3. Did you find yourself wanting to shoot more WA or Macro when diving?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Mark D.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Mark.

      1. Yep, sunrise was at 5:50, I was done shooting by around 6:20 or so and made it back for breakfast at 7:00.
      2. Sand point is one of the better ones, there is also a spot on the far west end for sunset, but I didn’t go there.
      3. I shot both, and it was hard to choose – which is why I had 2 cameras with me! 🙂 There are plenty of opportunities for both.

      Let me know any other ?s…

  • Paul says:

    What an adventure, Mark. That’s a lovely sunrise shot. Sorry to hear about the lost camera and housing. I was hoping that you would say that either someone returned it or that you found it on the beach at the far side of the island. At least you got to go and had a good time!

  • Glad you made it back with this image. I like the gradations of pastel. Very much too bad about your S100. What a heartbreak. Puts in perspective my recent hard drive failure and loss of the one set of my best images.

  • Greg Russell says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss, but it sounds like a great trip overall…I can’t wait to see more of your images!

    I love the tripod-equipped scooter…where there’s a will, there’s a way. 🙂

    • Mark says:

      Hey Greg – thanks. Yeah, I was wondering a bit how I was going to get the tripod there. But after placing it on the scooter, I found it just naturally seemed to fit there. 🙂

  • Marco says:

    Ciao Mark, love the image at Sand Point, really amazing! Sorry to read about the S100.

  • Earl says:

    Mark, the dawn shot at Sand Point is strikingly beautiful. Sorry to hear of the loss of the S100 and contained video/stills. I hope that event didn’t cast a shadow on the whole trip. Welcome back!

  • Mark: Absolutely, wonderful, sublime image! Will be interested to hear your comments on how the D800 performs and whether it is worth the “upgrade.” Have been shooting the D700 for over a year now and pretty comfortable with the IQ.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks Andy. I am still evaluating the D800. I have yet to make a print yet – just too many things going on before our trip, etc. File sizes are much bigger of course. I don’t plan on getting rid of my D700 anytime soon. So unless you have some underlying need to take up more HD space or print bigger – I’d say stay with the D700. 🙂

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