Part 4 Day 4 and 5 – Covering ground

Part 4 Day 4 and 5 – Covering ground

I woke as usual very early to chase the morning light,  first the rise of it on the horizon and then was shut down with rain, lighting and thunderstorms by 730am.  It continued to rain until 3 pm and I was very ready when it cleared to head out on the waverunner to find some images.  My goal today was to find a wave to shoot.  Normally the area can really fire on a good swell.  I knew there weren’t many waves but was looking for a little mini reef break wave.  I really only came upend one spot of the coast of Hope Town but the water wasn’t clear enough for my likes.  Explored on various deserted islands and constantly waited for the clouds to clear.  It seem all day, today was meant to be a lay day!  Atleast I cam home to an amazing surf and turf lobster dinner by Amelia and Darrin!  Legend hosts!

Day 5 began very early again but the clouds were thick across the horizon preventing any A+ photos to be made.  I only had until 11 am to shoot as I was leaving to go back to the states.  Headed back out on the waverunner and booked it way south to search for sharks.  I found a spot with a few black tips patrolling in about 3 feet of water.  Perfect!  Well unlike most I was trying to get close to them and they weren’t having it!  After an hour plus of tracking sharks I gave up!  Continued my search for all things images and came up with some neat areas.  I also went back to the thick of starfishes since the previous images were so popular, I shot some more!  Just before heading back from the dock to pack I decided i would go fill up the waverunner with some gas as nice gesture!  Well, my quick gas run turned into a mess.  The station was only 200 yards from our dock and halfway there a clump of seaweed with a rope got caught in the impeller and shut the engine down.  This was no time to hold me up!  I quickly paddled it in, ran back to the dock and Mauricio helped me find a knife to cut out the rope.  Got it down, got gas, biked back to the house and packed!  Amelia and Darrin even took me back to the airport, via boat, then car ride.  My plane only had 5 people on it!  Stoked!  Arrived in West Palm Beach and we all got searched by customs!  That was not fun!

Ben Hicks  www.bocaratonphoto.com     www.benjhicks.com      www.seaturtlephotos.com

Supported by #Cressi Dive Gear USA    #Dakine Photo packs7Q7A3331Lobster 7Q7A3340Blowfish 7Q7A3375Anglefish 7Q7A3441Starfish

More starfish

More starfish

Man O War Cay, where I base camp was.

Man O War Cay, where I base camp was.

Back home flying over Peanut Island

Back home flying over Peanut Island

E54A1849Sunrise E54A1859Sunrise 7Q7A3238SandDock

Behind the green room

Behind the green room

islands!

islands!

Abondoned sunrise

Abondoned sunrise

Palm over the rainbow

Palm over the rainbow

Part 3 – Day 4 Mother Nature’s in charge

Part 3 – Day 4 Mother Nature’s in charge

Rising to the sound of lighting and hard rain is not ideal when on a photo trip!  This morning I was forced to take a lay day, well atleast a half day.  Hard rain, heavy clouds and lighting don’t help my efforts in shooting.  Finally about 2 p.m. things started to clear up a bit and I was quick to be prepared and ready.  Based on the the previous days research and findings I had a few spots I needed to return to when the proper light and tide was just right.  I also researched a few wave spots….
My weapons of choice were a wave runner, fins, Cressi mask, snorkel, and Canon 1d Mark 3 with a Canon 8-15mm lens in an Aquatech DV4 housing with a LP1 Dome port.

Since the marina gas station closed earlier in the day because this place is a ghost town this time of year I was left with just 2 bars in the red for gas on my trip.  They assured me I would be fine!  My trip would take me about 7 miles total.  First stop was a sand bar lagoon on a cut to the north.  The first day we tried shooting spotted eagle rays but with the tide push was hard to swim against and keep up with the rays. At the point of slack tide there is a higher chance of the clearest water as well.  Making my way north I come to the lagoon, out of a calendar landscape and immediately see the 4 large spotted rays on the bottom 20 feet down. That was the last time I saw them!    I immediately anchor in the shallows and gear up, jump in and they are gone.  I continue to search the lagoon for 25 mins and come up empty.  Instead I find a large stingray gliding through the area and start to slowly inch closer without him taking off.   In shallow water its actually very hard to swim without making much noise and stirring up the sand not to mention avoiding drifting into a 3 foot sting ray tail.  Moved on to shoot a little cove back south where I had spotted a mangrove clump and potentially life below it.  As many of the spots go I am always being watched by large barracudas in the shadows.  This spot had a lot of shadows and was creepy.  The silt of the floor was thick and easily disturbed making swimming an art.  As the sun was nearing the horizon I had one more spot to go.  I headed out a channel and to an outer reef.  Moored the ski and jumped in the clam windless sea.  Conditions were now perfect.  As I had been told about the sharks in the area, it was on my mind the whole time jumping into this spot.  Deep channels and lots of fish around.  Never saw one!  As the light started to fade and headed home.  The gas warning beep started to go and I was immediately thinking of alternatives to running out of gas, which there really weren’t any!  I made it back to harbor with the alert blaring away before dark.  Turned out Mother Nature gave me some chances today!  Thanks!  Note:  Everything shot was in the wild, not hand fed or attracted with chum for those asking.  I also exclusively free dive, with no tanks, weight belts or oxygen.

Ben Hicks  www.bocaratonphoto.com     www.benjhicks.com      www.seaturtlephotos.com

Supported by #Cressi Dive Gear USA    #Dakine Photo packs

Fish!

Fish!

Patroling

Patroling

This guy followed me everywhere.

This guy followed me everywhere.

Parrot color

Parrot color

Fish poop

Fish poop

On to the next grazing spot!

On to the next grazing spot!

Stained glass minnows

Stained glass minnows

Fisheye

Fisheye

Mangrove School

Mangrove School

Mangrove tree

Mangrove tree

Inside a mangrove

Inside a mangrove

protection

protection

Yellowtail mangroves

Yellowtail mangroves

Black and white

Black and white

Mullet

Mullet

Symmetry

Symmetry

Turned on

Turned on

Hi

Hi

Profile

Profile

The glide

The glide

The swoop

The swoop

The split swim

The split swim

hover craft

hover craft

Paradise found

Paradise found

Found one.

Found one.

Where I begin and end my day.

Where I begin and end my day.

 

Eastern Bahama Bank Part 2 – Day 3 – Paddle power

Day 3 – Paddle power

This morning I rose to the rooster next door.  5:15 was sleeping in anyway, so thanks mr rooster.  My plan today was to explore on an SUP the local spots around the island of Man O War.  I am very lucky to have a top notch watercraft selection that includes 2 boats, a jet ski, SUP and 2 kayaks.  Badass hosts for a photographer I must say.  The downside…. Gas is over 6$ a gallon over here.
An SUP can put me in places quietly and in very shallow water like nothing else can.  I also have the ability to see everything by standing.  Today I chose there 14′ Tower inflatable.  Plenty of space for my gear and stable to shoot from if need be.  I set out at 7 a.m. and explored the entire northwest coast of the island.  Paddling in and out of sand bars, reef, cuts, mini harbors and more.  I did about 5 miles and was out shooting for about 5 hrs before my body was ready to quit.  From creeping up and huge stingrays to shooting rows of starfish it was a day full of creative thinking on how to get the most interesting angle from a situation.  I finally made it back to the harbor and then rode my bike back to where I was staying.  I had to finish and edit and then I passed out for 3 hours in preparation for tonights star shooting, which wouldn’t conclude until 11pm.  In the afternoon when the sun started to descend back to the horizon I headed back out on the SUP to head south into the harbor.  The wind was strong and straight into my face.  Didn’t shoot much but checked off another area to explore.  Came home to continue working and then headed out on the golf cart to look for a secluded dock in the darkness of the night.  I shot about 4 images in an hour.  Long exposures and each time I would lay down on the dock and watch the stars, something you just can’t do in Boca Raton, Florida where I am from.  Overall I had a great day with my focus being on Stingrays and Starfish, spending hours searching for them and carefully sneaking up on them (not the starfish!).  Stingrays and interesting animals and I am fascinated by how they react around me.  I had to be extremely careful as these were wild and not at all used to human interaction ( unlike many of the photographs you see of stingrays in the bahamas).  They are extremely skittish and I had to approach very slowly to even get a glimpse close to them.
The sun set and my arms were toast from paddle boarding for 4+ hours and my legs were jelly from swimming for long periods of time with rays!  Note:  Everything shot was in the wild, not hand fed or attracted with chum for those asking.  I also exclusively free dive, with no tanks, weight belts or oxygen.

Ben Hicks  www.bocaratonphoto.com     www.benjhicks.com      www.seaturtlephotos.com

Supported by #Cressi Dive Gear USA    #Dakine Photo packs

There was a lot of research before, during and throughout this trip.  Tides, moon phases, Sunset sunrise times, winds, water clarity, temp.  You name it.  Preparation is it!

There was a lot of research before, during and throughout this trip. Tides, moon phases, Sunset sunrise times, winds, water clarity, temp. You name it. Preparation is it!

Can you say amazing host!  This is just one of Amelia's dinners she made!  My stomach smiles!

Can you say amazing host! This is just one of Amelia’s dinners she made! My stomach smiles!

I shot two different star shots from the same dock, totally different exposures and also add a flash light to one of the dock images as well.

I shot two different star shots from the same dock, totally different exposures and also added  a flash light to one of the dock images seen below.

I shot two different star shots from the same dock, totally different exposures and also add a flash light to one of the dock images as well.

I shot two different star shots from the same dock, totally different exposures and also added a flash light here.

The ever so curious schools of Tang.

The ever so curious schools of Tang.

Are those minnows flying?

Are those minnows flying?

In a cloud of fish.

In a cloud of fish.

Touchy feely.

Touchy feely.

Not a bad place to call my office today.

Not a bad place to call my office today.

Stars.

Stars.

Star colors

Star colors

The starfish creep along ever so slightly.

The starfish creep along ever so slightly.

Banked turn.

Banked turn.

Stealth bomber.

Stealth bomber.

I think he woke up on the wrong side of the sand flats.

I think he woke up on the wrong side of the sand flats.

stopping to search for food.

stopping to search for food.

Sails

Sails

Eastern Bahama bank: Part 1 The Long flight

Part 1 The Long flight

As the summer began to close I had an open week at the end that needed to be filled to shoot somewhere.  Narrowing it down to the Bahamas meant an extremely short flight, which was really nice compared to the places I usually fly.  As usual I carried everything on the plane and hardly ever check bags.  It makes things much quicker!  This trip I would be going back to a wedding destination I went to last year with my wife and staying with our friends who told me, your always welcome back.  FYI, if you ever tell me that be prepared to see me again, especially if your in a cool place in this world!  I was fortunate that Amelia, Darrins wife was flying back home from a business trip and was on my same flight.  Her husband Darrin picked us up from the airport and then we loaded up with groceries and then headed to the docks of Abaco where we headed out to their island of Man O War in the calm seas.  Off to a good start!  We would eat dinner and I heavily picked their brains with maps, charts and images of the area to plan where I would go in the following days.   I could;t have asked for better hosts.

Day 1:  I arise at 5:30 a.m. to pack up and head down to the docks where Darrin graciously let us use his 17′ Montauck for todays expedition.  The boat I grew up with and knew very well.  I left the dock on bahamian time to go pick up local photo student  Gabrielle whom had taken up my offer of some adventure photography in the area and also give me her valued knowledge of the area and the places to potentially create some interesting images.  She had grown up in this small island community with her ancestors dating way back on the island.  We came upon our first destination, a reef pass as the sun rose over the horizon.  This would be the first dive of the trip and the first time I photograph a Hawksbill sea turtle, whom I barely got a glimpse of before taking off again.  Thankfully Gabrielle noticed it camouflaged in the reef.  Just a juvenile struggling the steep road ahead of him or her of life as a sea turtle.

Turtles are protected in the Bahamas but only until somewhat recently have they all been protected with a new law passed in 2009.  Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species inhabit the Bahamas, and previously it was legal to kill any sea turtle species found there except one, the hawksbill. The hawksbill turtle has been protected in Bahamian waters since 1986.

We continued north to areas just off the islands north of Man O War and would hop into the water whenever I felt to need to explore.  We headed back south around noon to gas up and head south where we would pick up Gabriell’s friend Eric in Hope Town, whom joined us in the hunt to find some interesting spots for me to explore with my cameras.  We shot throughout the rest of the day traveling over 60 miles.  From Tiloo National Park to Great Guana Cay and everything in between the day was successful in finding some gems to shoot at.  Special thanks to Gabrielle and Eric for leading the way and showing me some of their favorite spots to go.  I crashed hard after dinner but not before doing more research, editing and gear prep for the next day that will start at sunrise again.  Note:  Everything shot was in the wild, not hand fed or attracted with chum for those asking.  I also exclusively free dive, with no tanks or oxygen.

Ben Hicks  www.bocaratonphoto.com     www.benjhicks.com      www.seaturtlephotos.com

Supported by #Cressi Dive Gear USA    #Dakine Photo packs

Blue tangs speeding by.

Blue tangs speeding by.

Blue tangs speeding by.

Blue tangs speeding by.

Blue tangs speeding by.

Blue tangs speeding by.

Grunt life.

Grunt life.

Puffer at Mermaid Reef

Puffer at Mermaid Reef

Abaco reef meeting.

Abaco reef meeting.

Great secret spot we found with forests of sea fans.

Great secret spot we found with forests of sea fans.

Boat dragging looking for things to shoot once it got choppy and we couldnt see anything.

Boat dragging looking for things to shoot once it got choppy and we couldnt see anything.

Bahamas

Bahamas

Jacks in the mangroves

Jacks in the mangroves

7Q7A2007MangroveBait

Mangrove school

Mangrove school

7Q7A1969MangroveMinnows

Cuda's lair.

Cuda’s lair.

7Q7A1942SaturatedMangrove

Starfish seemed up to no good climbing on the mangroves.

Starfish seemed up to no good climbing on the mangroves.

Roots make great reefs!

Roots make great reefs!

The upside down jellyfish

The upside down jellyfish

An Eagle ray near sunrise

An Eagle ray near sunrise

Hawksbill Juvenile sea turtle swimming near a reef.

Hawksbill Juvenile sea turtle swimming near a reef.

Exploring the underwater world of the Eastern Bahama bank.

This week I will be exploring the far Eastern Bahama banks set of islands with cameras, creativity and breathe holding skills in tow.  Looking forward to see what I find!

Hopefully with will watch these amazing and extremely threatened animals!

The threatened Green Sea Turtle.

The threatened Green Sea Turtle.