A freediver from our trip, showing the grace that a diver unfettered by equipment is able to display
A freediver from our trip, showing the grace that a diver unfettered by equipment is able to display

A forward from Duxy

 

“Katie and Tony kindly offered to do this trips report for me.
And it was their very first liveaboard.
Tony is shooting with a mirrorless set up an Olympus EM10, with twin strobes and wet lenses.
Katie is shooting with a ten year old Canon Ixus.
I don’t ever make any distinction about what camera any one comes on a trip with, or even if you come with a camera at all!

These trips are great for photographers of all kinds, but they are equally great for people enjoying their first liveaboard, or just those that want an easy life chilling out and diving when they want to, rather than being tied to getting up early.

We had early risers taking advantage of dive sites with no one on them, but we also had some early risers joining Emma Farrell and the Yoga group, and a good slice of folk just enjoying a nice lie in.
Thats the beauty of a Relaxed itinerary, you can choose what you want to do.
Four dives a day are on offer, but you can do two long ones if you’d like a lot of the time.
Your choice.

It’s a very different and much more slower paced holiday than a regular liveaboard trip with fewer zodiac journeys if you want it to be.
However if you want to get in all your four daily dives then you can.
We let you plan your day, wherever possible”

Duxy

An unsaid routine

When me & my hubby go diving abroad, we’ve always gone land based and usually gone with several club members whom we’ve dived with many times.
This giant Puffer fish was shot on Katies Canon Ixus a testament to her calm demeanour and good buoyancy to get so close to this big but generally quite shy fish.
This giant Puffer fish was shot on Katies Canon Ixus a testament to her calm demeanour and good buoyancy to get so close to this big but generally quite shy fish.

 

I’m usually the one flitting around, looking underneath pinnacles, into coral and inspecting the seabed searching for the hidden critters, the nudibranchs, a shy octopus or a camouflaged stonefish, whilst my husband calmly captures images of them on his larger than life Olympus camera set up … it’s an unsaid routine…

Clownfish and husband/buddy Beautifully composed picture of a clownfish facing the camera with buddy usefully filling the negative space in the shot. Buddies/Husbands can be quite practical and useful at times ;)
Clownfish and husband/buddy Beautifully composed picture of a clownfish facing the camera with buddy usefully filling the negative space in the shot. Buddies/Husbands can be quite practical and useful at times 😉

I’m usually the one signalling like a frantic air-traffic controller that the rest of the dive groups’ bubbles are just disappearing and we really need to move on from the last photographic shot to catch up…

Quite often I’m the one that soon finds a new non-camera wielding buddy & and temporarily dump my hubby whilst he partners up with another camera buddy… another unsaid routine…

So this November, I was really excited at the prospect of our first ever live aboard trip together, to explore the Red Sea’s Northern Reefs & Wrecks.

No mean feat from Tony here as patience is required to get a head on shot of one of the Red Sea's most iconic denizens
No mean feat from Tony here as patience is required to get a head on shot of one of the Red Sea’s most iconic denizens

Initial concerns unfounded

However, when I saw further details of the trip, which was designed to focus on photo friendly dive sites including 1:1 tuition & presentations, I truly didn’t know what to expect. A week at sea with a group of camera wielding strangers including photo professional Paul Duxy Duxfield onboard, with me having only really used my camera with any purpose other than to document try divers or students.
Maybe I was more apprehensive at the thought of a week afloat with my lovely but overly enthusiastic other half, who seemed to be packing much more than a cabin full of camera gear… it was going to be interesting…
A beautiful little spot that is often missed as its a bit hidden so I alter the dive profile to allow folk to witness this lovely natural window frame
A beautiful little spot that is often missed as its a bit hidden so I alter the dive profile to allow folk to witness this lovely natural window frame

 

 

After reassuring communications with the Scubatravel team and Duxy before the trip, who advised that I could dive with or without a camera, I decided I would seize the opportunity and hopefully maybe learn some new skills. So I packed my vast array of photographic kit into a ‘Finding Dory’ lunchbag,… an inherited Canon 960, a borrowed strobe, my PC, and a variety of chargers. Guess which one of us got our kit checked in security???

Smooth arrival on Whirlwind

On arrival we were swiftly escorted by the super efficient Scubatravel team, through the airport visa control, baggage collection and onto the impressive Hilton, as we’d opted for a day & night in Hurghada prior to boarding the MV Whirlwind.

On board I was stunned at how beautiful and spacious the Whirlwind really is. Our comfy en-suite cabin had so many storage compartments, we never did use them all!

With our crew and guides straightforward inductions and constant friendly assistance, we quickly absorbed the rules of the boat, booked our Nitrox, built our kit and met the other divers.
What a great mix! .. some repeat customers diving along with fellow club members, some travelling alone, some undertaking Rescue courses, all with a variety of diving experiences and photography experience. We also had the company of five amazing freedivers whose holistic approach included daily yoga sessions, in which many of us enjoyed learning amazing relaxation and breathing techniques.

Hitting the ground running

Our first night gave us the opportunity to bombard Duxy with a variety of questions,.. each evening we continued to receive hands-on advice, not just about our cameras or how best to set them up but also about the marine life that we might encounter and the environments that they inhabit. We enjoyed some great talks based around Lightroom editing, image storage, video editing, Go-Pro advice, all delivered with great humour and anecdotes.
It was clear from the outset that we were diving with a really experienced and approachable team of guides. In planning daily dives they blended their knowledge and skills with Duxy’s expertise and his very specific knowledge of the Red Sea too. Our route would take in a variety of sites including ones in Tiran, Ras Mohammed, Temple Reef, and The Thistlegorm.
The contrast between the red of the fish and the lovely deep blue of the background, is highlighted here. with the remaining fragments of wreckage providing a counterpoint to the fish
The contrast between the red of the fish and the lovely deep blue of the background, is highlighted here. with the remaining fragments of wreckage providing a counterpoint to the fish

 

 

Prior to mooring at each site, we had the most informative dive briefings ever, extremely direct but with specific environmental information, history and stunning visuals. We then had the option of an initial guided dive on each site or where appropriate we could dive with our buddies. Further dives could then be planned in our buddy pairs, groups, with or without guides or Duxy.

Open Deck Advantages

The benefits of Duxy’s Red Sea Relaxed itinerary’s ‘Open Deck’ policy soon became apparent… we had the freedom to dive at one site for several dives, at times which we chose, being limited only by our surface intervals and mealtimes.
This meant as well as the most brilliant night dives, we could also opt to experience the changing light of an early morning dive, as the deck usually opened at 530am.
On one occasion, one of the two zodiacs took just 3 of us out at 6am, to a most beautiful but little-known pinnacle, where I put into practice Duxy’s initial advice on using my little Canon manually, practicing white balance and concentrating on positioning myself where I would at least give myself a fighting chance of an image I could recognise later!
Only it's mother would love this face!! Near this spot at the Barge we found four big Stonefish camouflaged perfectly. Katie's shot here of one of natures best ambush predators picking this one out half buried.
Only it’s mother would love this face!! Near this spot at the Barge we found four big Stonefish camouflaged perfectly. Katie’s shot here of one of natures best ambush predators picking this one out half buried.

I realised that the time spent travelling and building kit on our previous land based trips, was being much better utilised, generally on an extra dive or two per day, or on talking with some of the other divers, looking at what they had been doing, totally different to me but on the very same dive site.

We compared how we dived too, discussing tips on buoyancy, on approaching different animals in different ways and their habits. We were also intrigued by the graceful exploits of the freedivers and sharing the experiences with them too.

Giant Morays

I particularly enjoyed photographing the giant morays which populated most of the sites, but especially the huge occupants on The Barge.
Katie's shot of a Moray hanging out in the wreckage is just the sort of thing you'll see a lot of at this very productive dive site.
Katie’s shot of a Moray hanging out in the wreckage is just the sort of thing you’ll see a lot of at this very productive dive site.
I found myself becoming more and more determined to get a better image each dive, but without wanting to agitate the same animal over & over again. Quite simply this became possible not just down to the number of morays, but moreover the fact that I could try again & revisit that particular dive later the same day. It was amazing to observe the changing behaviours and inhabitants of a section of reef or wreck from sunrise, throughout the day, into dusk and then at night.
Katies love of Morays is borne out here with a close up shot. It's perfectly possible to get really close to the Giant Morays of the Northern Red Sea, they are very chilled out and quite used to divers and UW photographers
Katies love of Morays is borne out here with a close up shot. It’s perfectly possible to get really close to the Giant Morays of the Northern Red Sea, they are very chilled out and quite used to divers and UW photographers

I’ve often heard divers who have returned from a live aboard trip enthuse about the great number of dives they’ve accomplished in comparison to being land based. I guess it’s true… This being my first live aboard, I can’t compare this Relaxed trip to the usual routines of a live aboard firsthand.

However, what I can be certain of is, that the real beauty of the ‘Open Deck’ is to have the opportunity to witness the variety of changes on a dive site .. it really is a privilege.
Having this opportunity WHILST being able to learn new skills to try to capture some images from these experiences, is the added extra of the photo itinerary with Duxy.

We’re coming back !

My hubby may be secretly cursing that he’s now got a new camera buddy!!!
The images he produced throughout the week are stunning and again testament to the many conversations he had with Duxy and also by observing how he takes images whilst he’s in the water.
This turtle was breakfasting on the wall at my variation on the Shark Observatory dive site.
This turtle was breakfasting on the wall at my variation on the Shark Observatory dive site.

 

 

I’m really proud of just how much I’ve managed to accomplish in just one week… Having access to Duxy’s expertise and his straightforward guidance has really given me a new perspective. I’ve learnt so much, gained more confidence and have many more new reasons to get underwater.

Safe to say we will be back to learn more …. we’ve already booked again for the spring!!! … It would seem we’ve developed a new unsaid routine…

Katie & Tony Barrett 2016

“My next itinerary similar to this is my Winter Warmer trip in late January early February.
Almost the same route, and the advantages of ‘Open Deck’ and freedom.
With me along to help you out if needed with any camera advice.
Regardless of the camera you’re shooting with
Katie was shooting with a ten year old digital compact camera, so I can lend you a hand whatever kit you own.
GoPro’s are very popular these days and so I reflect this in my help and advice, but if you’d like to just chill out on the boat and relax then you can it’s a win win for all”
Duxy
Wishing you all a very Merry Xmas and Happy New Year