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Reproduced from in focus 63. (Oct. 1998)

Bonaire (Dutch Antilles)

See also
Books: Dive Guides

From the 16th to 31st May '98, MARTIN EDGE conducted two of his one week Photographic Tuition Courses in Bonair. Here are two impressions by BSoUP members of: 'What really happened'.


by Pat Morrissey

'Bon danki' is the Papiamentu equivalent of our own 'Thank you', and seems the most fitting way to recall a recent trip made to the island of Bonaire, fifty miles off the Venezuelan coastline. We went out there in the company of Martin Edge and his motley crew of all the usual suspects, and the crack, as they say, was great.

Before I left England, someone had warned me about this far-flung outpost of the Dutch empire, saying somewhat enigmatically 'Well, it ain't Sipadan!' After two or three dives, I was beginning to see what he meant: there was nothing similar to Sipadan's luxuriance of fish-life, no regularly resident shoals of slow-moving jacks or ubiquitous turtles. And yet, once my eyes had grown accustomed to our house reef, this was not the problem it might at first appear to be.

Bonaire has a lot going for it, in terms of underwater photographic potential. An island where every car number plate proudly proclaims it as 'Diver's Paradise', the sites are never far from shore and all are clearly marked with a system of permanently-moored yellow buoys. Shore diving is the norm, and the two best sites of all - the 'Hilma Hooker' and the Old Town pier - can both be dived without much effort.

For me, the trip rapidly crystallised into a regular pattern, and the days passed in a languid swirl between fisheye lens dives (07.00, 10.45) and 105 mm macro rummages (15.45,18.45). The sunlight - which was at a definite premium during our first week - would creep delicately over the Sand Dollar Dive and Photo condo buildings, opening up opportunities for capturing moon jellyfish in Snell's Windows or patiently awaiting kitchen staff's feeding of the resident shoals of different fish in all of two metres of water.

Later in the day, either at the Old Town Pier (to be forever haunted by El Edge and the seahorse squad), or out on any of the sites to which the boats would drop us, there was the prospect of fish portraits, soft coral seascapes or taking part in the Great Purple Sea-fan hunt.

The course, which was really a series of fairly informal lectures interspersed with ad hoc tips and suggestions, occupied us for the first week and later acted as a useful buffer against 'burnout' which I found set in after about 8 days intensive diving. Thankfully, I still had enough time to work through this odd condition (in which I would find myself in beautifully clear waters and yet not know what to photograph!), and regain my mental focus well before it was time to quit the water for the last time

I learned a lot on this trip, mostly to do with maintaining that inner visual balance without which we all tend to become like kids let loose in a sweet shop; and so, 'bon danki' again, Bonaire, and 'te otro anja, - 'till next year'


by Anne Owen

In late May this year, I joined Martin Edge for a week-long practical workshop at the Sand Dollar Resort in Bonaire. Many of you will already know Martin and his 'TC' (Think and Consider) approach to taking underwater pictures, so I guess this article is for those of you who don't.

I had heard Martin speak at the Oceans event last year and had read his book, but I had not been on one of his weekend courses, so I was both impressed and a little daunted by the pre-workshop questionnaire I was asked to list five strengths and five weaknesses in my underwater photography, plus five things I wanted to get out of the workshop. I wondered if I dared come clean and just say 'have fun', but decided to play it safe and wrote something fairly meaningless about 'balancing dual lighting sources when using a housed camera'.

The travel arrangements courtesy of Dive Quest, worked smoothly and we started off the workshop with heroic tales from participants on the previous week. The format for the week was an early morning shore dive on the excellent house reef, followed by the two boat dives at 10.45 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. and finishing with a classroom talk at 6.30pm. This left time for a night dive for those with some energy left. It sounds quite relaxed, but add in meals and sessions to view and mount slides and it was a full timetable.

The workshop had its own boat (just as well, since Sand Dollar was full with over one hundred divers!) and, by choice, we did the majority of our dives at the town pier, well known as Bonaire's #1 night dive spot but in my view, even better during the day. It's like being in a well stocked aquarium with two differently coloured frogfish, a seahorse, an octopus, curious angelfish and three species of cleaner shrimps all within a few yards of one another and a spectacular backdrop of sponges on every pillar. Even the unprepossessing litter of old tyres and other rubbish are home to gems such as a chain moray and juvenile spotted drums. Going back to the same site gives you, of course, the chance to look at your images, see what hasn't worked and try again.

Martin's approach was to work with each person on his or her specific questions, even accompanying me on an entire dive to work on using two strobes. I have been on many workshops but this was the first time I had actually had 1:1 instruction underwater, it was excellent. He was equally enthusiastic about working with someone who had never taken a frame underwater before as with those with more experience trying to get the definitive close-up shot of the teeth of the lesser twin-spotted snake goby.

So did I learn anything? I suppose I'll really be able to answer that after my next dive trip, but I came away feeling I had made progress on all the things I had put on my list and with a few pictures from the week with which I was really pleased. I would certainly recommend one of Martin's workshops to anyone thinking about some practical underwater photography coaching.

Note Martin's book The Underwater Photographer is published by Focal Press, ISBN 0-240-51433-5.

For details of Martin's Underwater Photographic Courses phone Sylvia or Martin on 01202 887611

Reproduced from in focus 63. (Oct. 1998)

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