Instructor Mike Evans successfully certified a new family of divers at Moby’s.
Dad (Jeff) and kids (Will and Sydney) are heading down to Key West to explore the sights with their new skills and custom fitted scuba gear.
It is always a thrill to see families getting certified and enjoying this sport together. At their age, SCUBA can be an adventure for a very long time.
Versluis Lake started out as a gravel-pit in the early 80’s, then as Grand Rapids Gravel pulled the plug on this location about 2002 the development in the area began. In 2006 Versluis Lake experienced a flooding from the Grand River (which is adjacent to the lake). This flood introduced carp and zebra-mussells into the lake. After it settled back down to a normal level (from a rise of 13 feet over 36 hours) the visibility in the lake was churned up.
After about 12-18 months there was a noticeable increase in the visibility, due in large part to the introduction of zebra-mussells. At it’s prime Versluis Lake was offering up to 30-40 foot visibility with blue water and many fish to observe while scuba diving.
Recently (as of April 2013) the Grand River again flooded into the lake (as in 2006) but the flooding was a bit more intense as the water level increased approximately 4-5 more feet than in 2006, approximately 17-18 foot rise in the water level.
Consequently the visibility that summer was not as good, but made for great training environments and fish were still hiding below the platforms and our plexiglass dome, and as the seasons pass the visibility improves.
Couple of points to make about Visibility:
1) Visibility in any lake is based on many factors and a lake clarity cannot be judged on ONE dive. The FACTORS are:
- Time of year: The best time of year to dive in any lake in the Mid-West is generally NOT Summer as many do not realize. The best time of year to dive is usually September through to mid June. Not Late June through early September. The reason for this is the mid summer outside temperature will eventually heat up the water surface and penetrate downward from the surface, causing the algae bloom to cause turbidity lowering the overall visibility. When it is cooler out the lake starts to cool and turbidity settles. This means you will have to invest in that thicker wet-suit to do this, but frankly any lake (including the Great Lakes) will be too cold to dive under the thermoclines (that can vary in depth) even in the middle of summer. SOme of the best Great Lakes shipwrecks are at 70-130 feet down with water temperatures in the 50’s.
- Weather: If it rains. If it has been (or is) windy, the direction of the wind can affect the visibility for a few days afterward.
- Summer boat traffic on a lake: Boating on a lake can act as blenders that churn up the water. It is recommended to avoid lakes that are smaller and have several boater speeding around on it. You can count on poor visibility.
2) If you encounter poor visibility with your buddy on a dive, it is best to use this opportunity to practice skills. Review all of your scuba skills, practice taking turns with your compass, get out your dive light and hover close to the bottom to look for critters.
Every dive is a GOOD dive. Either it will be simply a clear-fun-enjoyable experience, OR anything else should simply be a training dive. No such thing as a bad-dive. Unless you are breaking scuba-rules.
With the advent of digital camera’s and more recently smart-phones that take exceptional pictures, underwater photography is available to every diver.
Many years ago when divers would show-off their underwater photo’s, they were typically poor because of the manual settings necessary to compensate for the white balance, contrast, lighting and focus. SO any good picture was generally a lucky shot or taken by an experienced underwater photographer with very expensive equipment. Today it is almost difficult for a novice to take a poor shot with a modern camera of some sort. There are even $40 waterproof housings you could use with your smart-phone that do a fantastic job, particularly in comparison to the days of disposable film camera’s.
Before you decide to take your camera in the water to snap some shots or video, keep these rules in mind.
- Be comfortable as a diver before introducing a new aspect to your dive. Rule of thumb is to have at least 15-20 dives under your belt with relatively consistent scuba gear that you use (as to not have to re-learn differing equipment every dive) and taking a class (if available) will help you know how to maximize your efforts to get the best end result.
- With the electronics associated with the modern digital camera, a diver has to do very little to set-up the camera to take the best image possible, with the exception of white-balance (or perhaps underwater settings available on specific underwater cameras). The best basic setting for camera’s in the water is to set the white balance on cloudy conditions, this helps to brighten and to keep the reds (that get washed out the deeper a diver goes) in the image to give more vibrant realistic color. Some would argue that the bluer the image the more realistic to what it looks like to the diver (at depth), while others would like the true color of the marine life or object as if it was pulled out of the water. This is up to you. But the point is, the diver has to do very little to set-up the camera before diving. Let the technology make the adjustments for you, then….
- Let your computer do the work. After uploading all of the photos keep this in mind:
- With the availability of memory sticks with up to 64 mb of space, you can take a lot of pictures, probably more than you physically have time for as a diver. SO take a lot of pictures, perhaps 3-4 of a single image. After the dive when reviewing, keep the very best – throw out the rest (literally trash them without a second thought) otherwise you will have a file full of mediocre pictures. Occasionally you may find a gem in one of these mediocre pictures that you can crop out and edit, but don’t try to make a good picture out of an overall BAD picture.
- You can edit your photo’s with very basic software that (in many cases) comes standard with your computer. straightening out the horizon, cropping and color adjust can make a decent image look good. You computer can do amazing color corrections with the right subtle adjustments, in many cases just adding a red hue will pull out the lost reds in your image.
- Holding the camera still throughout the video shoot. Keep in mind the end viewer gets really turned off by jerky motions, zooming in-out-in-out and panning (which is side-to-side) too often. Aim you camera on a subject and keep it there, while slowly following the subject matter keeping it in the center of the view field. If a better subject comes up, stop video then restart on the new subject keeping the viewfinder on target the whole time.
- When getting a good video of the subject, many of the camera’s will have a built in wide-angle lens than can include a wider field of view to get the whole image or subject matter. This can make it difficult to get a good close-up or see detail in some of the smaller things, so a good tip is to get as physically close to the subject as not to touch-it and to be safe. Some of my best video was holding the camera only a few inches away from the subject and keeping it in the viewfinder for at least a good 5 seconds (or more depending).
We recommend an underwater photography class to learn more tips and to practice.
Occasionally when discussing the course involved to become a scuba diver, some will wonder if they have what it takes to actually scuba dive. With concerns such as claustrophobia or a fear of being unable to breath (granted breathing underwater is not natural), these concerns may seem legitimate. However the reality of scuba diving is quite the opposite when looking at these two main concerns.
Claustrophobia : is the fear of having no escape and being closed in small spaces or rooms. Scuba diving is the opposite.
Instead of feeling boxed in, it is the closest thing a human could experience to flying effortlessly. Have you ever imagined being Superman (or Superwoman) flying through the air, up and around objects, hovering like a astronaut in space. This was the initial feeling I had drift-diving in Cozumel. coasting along in a current keeping perfectly buoyant and subtly adjusting the buoyancy in my BCD jacket to accommodate approaching coral heads and terrain. I certainly was not feeling boxed in. However some very low (limited) visibility conditions may be uncomfortable for inexperienced divers, but training in the limited visibility class can prepare a diver to have the right equipment and instruction to comfortably navigate through these conditions. But in most diving conditions with visibility at 10 feet or more, scuba diving is like levitating, free from gravity.
Inability to breathe or have enough air : The air that you breathe through a scuba regulator is delivered to you as you start your inhalation. If you have ever snorkeled , The snorkel (air-tube) is a fairly narrow tube that extends from the mouth (approximately 12-13 inches) upward out to the surface (of course) to breathe the air as your face is in the water hopefully with a good (sealed) mask on to see. As a snorkeler breathes, there is a subtle effort needed to pull (breathe) the air into your mouth, approximately 1/2 pound of pressure is exerted on the snorkel and the air-flow as you breath. This sucks, I mean literally you have to work a little bit as a snorkeler to get a good full breathing pattern. Breathing off of a scuba regulator is much easier.
A scuba regulator is designed to deliver air at ambient (surrounding) pressure. This means that whether you are at 5 feet, 10, 30, 50 or a 100 feet (depth of water) while scuba diving, the regulator is working to take the air pressure form the tank (whether it is full or down to 200 lbs of pressure) and deliver it to the diver on demand, compensated for the surrounding pressure. This means easy breathing at any depth. Balanced vs. Unbalanced regulators do have a slight difference in performance as the balanced regulators tend to be smoother and better performing at depth / air pressure variances.
Other areas of concern :
Age and orPhysical Condition or Shape: We have trained divers form age 10 to 77 and their age was not a factor in becoming a proficient diver. Managing the gear and lugging it may be more of a challenge, however establishing a convenient method of transporting gear and asking for assistance (from the Dive Master or other helpful divers) is not unusual or a negative thing. Many divers are very willing and able to assist if need. Being in good medical shape is fairly important, however some people with certain medical conditions are able to dive (with a Physicians approval) as long as their condition is manageable and predictable to control. Diver Alert Network (DAN) is an excellent resource to utilize in answering any questions about health conditions. http://www.diversalertnetwork.org .
One of our more animated divers we have trained had only one leg and didn’t consider diving until we talked him into it (taking class with his son). We worked with him to determine the best method of transporting his gear, donning the equipment and then determining the proper weight amount (and placement of the weight over his system) he became very comfortable as a diver and was able to master good buoyancy. Working through the learning curve with physical challenges eventually will allow a diver (with differing physical disabilities) to scuba-dive in a peaceful gravity-free environment that can be quite liberating.
It is best as a diver to be in good shape, just like any physical activity, the better shape you are in the better/easier the experience. But with proper training and assistance most people are able to dive in.
The most important consideration to becoming a safe scuba diver first and foremost is simply your desire to be a scuba diver. You have to want to do this, not for someone else, but for you. If you have the desire and willingness to learn we can teach ANYONE to be a safe scuba diver.