DDNet Trip Report
|Where: Taveuni Fiji|
When: 05/02/2004 - 05/16/2004
|Type: Land based|
Accomodations: Garden Isle Resort
Dive operator: Aqua Trek / Swiss Fiji Divers
Overall photography friendliness: Excellent
Camera tables/prep area: Not applicable
Camera rinse tanks: Average
Charging facilities: Not applicable
Voltage: 220-240 AC
So many new things. I’d never been below the equator. Never crossed the dateline. Never seen soft coral in such abundance. The 2004 Digital Shootout was held on the
in island of Taveuni . This was a chance for me to do these things, meet a couple of DNNers and hopefully learn something about using my camera. Success! Fiji
We stayed at the Garden Isle Resort on Taveuni, which was fantastic. The people that worked there knew every one of our names by the second day and would great us with a “Bula!” and a bright smile every day. They had never had a group of this size visit before. There were 50 attendees and maybe 10 staff. A few too many for the resort to handle evidently since one guy had to stay at a resort up the road and they had to borrow 2 boats and crew from Swiss Fiji Divers to handle the diving. But they did it well and with smiles on their faces.
Rand and I were there almost a week early so we were able to experience the resort and dive sites with and without the Shootout crowd. Both were exceptional.
When we arrived there was a full moon, so we experienced the currents at their strongest. Good news for the spectacular soft coral exhibitions – they open to feed during the strong currents - but difficult for photography. As our 2 weeks sped by, the currents lessened until it was relatively non-existent by the last days.
The entire reef we were diving was called Rainbow Reef. Individual dive sites on the reef had names like Great White Wall, Yellow Tunnel, Blue Ribbon Eel Reef, and Jack’s Place. The Great White wall was the most famous and with good reason. Right off the boat, you drop to about 40fsw, and enter a tunnel that lets you out at about 75-80fsw. Here you are on a wall that is totally covered in white soft coral. When the current is strong here, it’s all you can do to just drift and marvel until it takes you around to another tunnel that will return you to the boat. When the current is weak, the top of the reef near the boat is a fun place to explore the hard and soft corals and plenty of little macro critters.
I alternated between shooting still and video on the dives. I tried to access the conditions of the dive and take the video when I thought the currents were strong. I wasn’t real successful at that.
It didn’t take long for the DMs to realize 3 things: We were all pretty good divers, we moved slowly, and we all were basically solo and just wanted them to be spotters. They were very accommodating. The briefing quickly became a sketch of the reef and the direction of the currents and maximum depths. We pretty much dove where we wanted and came up when we were done. Most of the time, we would stay in areas protected from the current and then do a safety stop at full current – 2001 space odyssey style. It was a little disconcerting at first to be tumbling alone in space in the open sea for 3 minutes or so but as I got used to it, it was fun. Once you came to the surface, the current was gone, and the boat would travel around picking up the divers scattered all over the ocean. There were never any swells, so it was easy enough to see the divers.
Another fun thing was going to a beach for our surface intervals. We could walk the beach, play with splits, snorkel, or eat cookies, papaya, and oranges. We usually did a little of each.
My only regret was that I didn’t bring a good laptop. Had I thought more seriously about the contest, I may have invested in one but as it was, I only had an old beater that had no screen resolution to speak of so I couldn’t even see my pix well enough to tell the good from the feeble. We were allowed to enter 12 and I only entered 5. Of those, there were three that embarrassed me when I got home and saw them on a real computer. But what do I know. One of those won an honorable mention. Go figure.
Here at home, when I load my kayak on the beach, I often have people see my camera system and ask if I am a professional photographer. On the boat at the Shootout, when the DM asked which camera was mine, I would have to mumble meekly, “It’s the little one in the corner.” Everything is relative. At first, I was asking everyone about their fancy dSLR rigs and contemplating a new purchase. Then, after a few days of seeing and hearing about the equipment problems they were having with those complicated buggers, I felt a little better about my 4 year old, simple Ikelite system with the ancient compact G2 inside. When I took a 2nd place with it, I was feeling a lot better. Not that I don’t still want a dSLR, I just feel better about waiting for them to get the bugs out and bring the price down.
Bottom line: Great time. Learned a lot. Wonderful locals. Helpful Shootout staff. Interesting group of photographers. As soon as I can afford it, I’ll do it again!
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