Aug 282008

There seems to be some new photography options around the corner. Two in particular have me interested:

Micro Four Thirds
The 4/3m format uses SLR sized sensors, but no mirror, much like the Sigma DP1. Unlike the DP1, these will have a lens mount to allow for swapping different lenses. This will be a very interesting market if someone does it right – no RAW file write delay, decent focus performance, decent ISO performance.

Reshaping the Digital SLR
Though some SLRs have had live view for a while, Nikon has shaken things up by giving the D90 the ability to record HD video (720p). This combined with their new high sensitivity & ISO speeds makes the camera a very sweet package. I suspect this will really change the amateur underwater photography game – HD cameras and housings are very expensive, and most people have to make a choice in gear between shooting video or stills. The ability to shoot video with any lens – wide angle, macro, etc – and great variable focus & depth of field will be huge in the UW market. People are going to have to brush up on their manual focus skills.

Aug 252008

Credit where credit is due. In 2006 President Bush turned the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands into Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument, which formed the largest marine wildlife reserve in the world. It looks like he wasn’t done. Bush has just proposed protecting more islands, atolls, reefs, and trenches from fishing and deep sea mining.

His list includes portions of the Northern Mariana Islands, Rose Atoll in American Samoa and various islands and reefs in the Central Pacific, including Palmyra Atoll, Kingman Reef, Johnston Atoll, Jarvis Island, Howland Island, Baker Island, and Wake Island. These areas could become protected as national monuments or marine sanctuaries.

Aug 252008

KPBS has posted a nice audio slide show of the UVeta project in Baja Sur. Water in Baja Sur’s remote areas is frequently from open wells, where the chance of contamination is high. Florence Cassassuce with Engineers without Borders came up with a way to use existing technology to make the water much safer – Ultraviolet light and a bucket.

UV destroys DNA of microbes so they can’t reproduce. This concept has been used for municipal treatment for a while, and over the last few years in higher cost travel items like the SteriPEN. But unlike most portable UV systems the UVeta can clean a lot of water at at a time and is very cheap – They worked with Tijuana producers to reduce the cost of the UVeta to $30.

More information:
The UVeta Project’s home site
UVeta story from La Prensa San Diego
CNN Heroes video

Aug 202008

Last night a generous coworker gave us tickets to the opening night preview of Spring Awakening at the newly renovated Balboa Theatre. The theatre has been in a state of neglect for a very long time and somehow survived being turned into parking lot and/or condos during downtown San Diego’s many changes. Thankfully some people have put a lot of time (Steve Karo) and money (Balboa Theatre Foundation) into restoring the theatre. They have done an amazing job; it looks fantastic now. Many of the design elements have been fully restored, like the great old neon sign out front and the interior of the main hall. Do yourself a favor and check out this wonderful venue.

Aug 152008

Randi and I both wanted to go diving on Vancouver Island, even though we weren’t going to be there long. We had arranged to go out on a boat dive with one of the local companies, but that fell through during the final week – there simply wasn’t enough customers for any of the dive charters to get out during the week days we were there. It seems like the weakness in the US dollar over the past few years is having an impact on the number of tourists diving.

The hesitation from a US point of view is understandable. Though the currency is (or was a few weeks ago) essentially equal, the prices still seem to be left over from a stronger US dollar. Boat dives in Nanaimo seem start at $120 for a double dive. In California most dive boats are in the $70-90 range for double dives. The prices on equipment seemed to be wildly out of sync with the dollar situation as well – prices on dive gear were anywhere from 20-50% more than what one would see in the USA. Rental rates also seemed to be much higher in Canada, I’m expecting that is because of their increased costs for equipment compared to the USA.

The boat dives were no longer an option, but we still wanted to dive. We shopped around and chose SOS Scuba because they had by far the best rental prices and were helpful over the phone. The couple runs a nice shop and helped us with directions and information about some shore dive spots.

Supplied with directions and gear we headed up the road to Nanoose Bay and into some residential areas until we reached Tyee Beach. The spot is a nice easy slope that breaks off to rock walls on either side. Diving here is pretty dark because of the emerald water, but the visibility was great under 50 feet.

There were lots of sunflower stars and lingcod, but we couldn’t find the wolf eels that live in the 80ft range in the walls. We did two dives here and really enjoyed it. The plant life dies off in the winter here, exposing the holes in rocks and clearing the water. I’m definitely interested in trying to make it back up here during the winter months to visit some of the more difficult wall dives with my own equipment.

Aug 132008

A Scripps researcher has a paper out called Ecological extinction and evolution in the brave new ocean. The findings are not for the faint:

Human activities are cumulatively driving the health of the world’s oceans down a rapid spiral, and only prompt and wholesale changes will slow or perhaps ultimately reverse the catastrophic problems they are facing.

…habitat destruction, overfishing, ocean warming, increased acidification and massive nutrient runoff as culprits in a grand transformation of once complex ocean ecosystems. Areas that had featured intricate marine food webs with large animals are being converted into simplistic ecosystems dominated by microbes, toxic algal blooms, jellyfish and disease.

To stop the degradation of the oceans, Jackson identifies overexploitation, pollution and climate change as the three main “drivers” that must be addressed.

The oceans are going through a major collapse that will impact our lives in many ways.

How to help

  • Before buying or ordering seafood, check the Seafood Watch.
  • Avoid eating meat or food from factory farms if possible (runoff promotes toxic growth).
  • Use UV shirts in the ocean instead of sunscreen (it damages coral)
  • Clean up trash or chemicals on streets that flow into storm drains (plastic is a killer)
  • Switch to biodegradable soaps & cleaning products, avoid fertilizers, eliminate oil leaks, don’t dump chemicals or medication down the drain.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint (pollution, warming, and ocean acidification).
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium has a number of ways you can help in their Take Action section.