Dive with Cristian Dimitrius

My last dive in Roatan was with Cristian Dimitrius, a filmmaker for National Geographic and BBC who filmed Wild Brazil, he has presented at the Sea Rovers clinic in the past. He came part way through the week from shooting on assignment. I went to his classroom presentation about visual storytelling where he showed us work that he has done in the Amazon and how he creates a story. I showed Cristian some of my shots that I had gotten and he asked what boat I was on so he could come on the same boat. Well I reluctantly told him I didn’t do the boat dives because I kept getting sea sick and that the shore dives were just as good if not better. The next morning at breakfast Cristian asked if I wanted to go on a dive, and of course I said yes! We geared up heading into the water, I asked where he wanted to go and he said I could lead the dive, so I said we should go to Coco View Wall of course. I was hoping to find my moray friend so that Cristian could get some good video. To my suprise Cristian shot me on the most of the dive. With his massive video camera and Keldan lights he directed me to swim certain places and shot certain things. As we got to the corner in the wall I found the moray and pointed it out to Christian who began to shoot it and me shooting it. We continued on photographing and filming then headed back after a while. Cristian made a short film of the dive called “Jake’s Reef”. I was amazed at how fast he put together the footage and how he made me look like an actual diver! My last dive in Roatan was probably the best, it was a honor to dive with Cristian.


Night dive and Pegasus Thruster

Me gearing up for the dive

Towards the end of the week I decided to try out a Pegasus Thruster, a small scooter that attaches to the back of the tank and you control with the push of button. I was a little anxious to try it out because it was hard to control at first and I would end up heading downward towards the sand. But once I got the hang of it I would scooter around just by moving my shoulders. I even tried a few short barrel rolls by tipping my shoulder. The scooter allowed me to go further along Coco View Wall than I ever had. I saw further down the wall than I thought I would be able to.

Later that night I tried a night dive where I was attempting to light paint the Prince Albert. I didn’t expect to get any good shots I just wanted to try it out. I went with Dylan from backscatter out to the wreck. Berkley had set me up with tripod and makeshift shutter holder so I could keep the camera’s shutter open for as long as I wanted. The viz wasn’t amazing but I tried it anyways, the main problem I ran it to was lots of divers shooting with Light and Motion, Nightsea Fluorescence strobes. This meant that every other shot a diver would swim into the frame with a massive blue light shining it into my camera and ruining my shot. This was a pain but at the same time I was able to nail down the route I would take around the wreck shining video light on it and trying to judge the exposure. I ended up getting a pretty bad shot, but I was still happy that I got to try a new technique, and I saw my first octopus on the wreck lurking about. A small translucent bluish octopus about an inch or maybe two across. So overall it was a great dive.

Wrecks and Reefs

After getting sick so much on the boat dives I decided to do shore diving through the rest of the week. The shore diving was just as amazing as the reefs we went to on the boat, and I had more time to spend with the marine life without worrying about getting back to the boat. I first checked out the wreck of the Prince Albert, a 140 ft wreck sitting in 65 fsw. Vis wasn’t always great on the wreck but it was amazing to be able to swim around such a massive structure that is accessed so easily. Further over the wreck lies Newman’s Wall a beautiful wall filled with masses of fish from soldierfish to nassau grouper and trumpet fish. I loved shooting wide on the shark dive and coming off the high from my success with that dive, so I made the decision to shoot wide the rest of the week. I would find an interesting subject get as close a possible, gain its trust get a few shots, back off, change settings and strobe positioning and head back in to get a better composition. This worked for most of the good shots I got and every day I came back to the same spot and began to learn the reef and follow its pattern. But by far my favorite part of the shore diving was Coco View Wall, an amazingly stunning wall with corals and sponges everywhere. Every day I would venture a little further down the wall and find something new.

By far my favorite dive on the wall was a 72 minute dive I did one day, where I found a 6ft long green moray. He sat curled around some rocks in a corner of the wall in 45 fsw. Every day I saw the eel there and would visit it. But on my 72 minute dive I decided to get a photo that would capture it’s personality. I sat with the eeel for 40 minutes face to face with. It’s deep blue eye would stare into me as I sat less than a foot away from it. Even with it curved back teeth, opening and closing it mouth slowly, moving its head back and forth, just as curious of me as I of it, I wasn’t afraid of it. Even though it could easily have bitten me it didn’t, we kind of had a trust. I respected it and it let me photograph. I ended up getting a shot that is personally one of my favorite shots from the whole trip. But more importantly I got to experience a green moray eel in the wild, spending time with it that most people will never get.

Deep Dive

Coming back from the deep dive!

To complete my deep dive training I was helped by the dive shop instructor at Coco View. One morning we went out on a shore dive snorkeled out past the Prince Albert and dropped down to 70 fsw, swam along Newman’s wall down to the the edge of the wall which was exactly 103 fsw. The instructor brought down a plastic water bottle that was filled with air that had compressed as we went down. He than added a little bit of air to it to see how it would expand as we ascended. He also had a little card with different colors on it to show how at 100 ft red and yellow didn’t exist they looked more like mild greens. This is due to the fact that as you descend in depth colors gradually subtract till you’re left with only blues. He then shined a flashlight on the card revealing the true colors. The last thing that we did at 100 fsw was open an egg and see how the pressure had changed it, but it really hadn’t because it has liquid and not gas in it. As we safely ascended we headed along the back side of Newman’s wall looking at the marine life we found another green moray this one about 4 ft. I found a sea biscuit, which is an echinoderm related to sand dollars. As we were swimming back along Newman’s Wall we spotted three spotted eagle rays! They flew effortlessly through the water it seemed like they weren’t waving at all but in reality they were speeding by us with the slowest movements and short flicks of their wings. It was an amazing sight to see. We headed back along the wall, did our safety stop and surfaced on the beach. I had completed my advanced training.

Shark Dive- Cara a Cara

Todd Winner from Nauticam helping me

After my day of fumbling around with macro I set myself up for wide. I was also signed up to go on the shark dive, so macro wouldn’t help me very much. Because this whole week is a competition I had this dream of taking a photo of the sharks using a slow shutter speed with second curtain strobe. A fancy way of saying a motion blur shot with the shark in focus. Unfortunately for me the Canon system I was shooting couldn’t do second curtain with the strobes I had so I went to the demo gear crew the night before and asked to set me up for the shot I wanted. They asked how many dives I’d done with sharks and said it was my first. The demo crew told me it was ballzy to shoot my first shark dive with a slow shutter speed. But I wanted to get an image that no one else was going to take, that I could call my own.

Caribbean reef shark

We arrived at Cara a Cara, or face to face, the prime spot to get up close and personal with Caribbean reef sharks. We climbed down the mooring line to a small sandy patch in 70 fsw next to a short reef wall about 12 feet tall I got a spot in the middle and got my camera ready for some slow shutter speed shots. I waited patiently as the sharks swam by to start shooting. I began to notice a pattern that the sharks would swim out then almost directly into me and turn right in front of me. So I waited for certain sharks with hooks in their mouth, distinctive patterns or interesting behavior to swim by me and I would fire off three or four shots and adjust my settings accordingly. After an hour underwater we started to head back up the line. About half way up the line I again threw up without any warning. Bobbing up and down on the safety stop didn’t help much either and I kept getting sick. Once on the boat I continued to get sick all the way back to the docks. But it was all worth it because I got some amazing shots that no one else took that I will always be proud of.

The Digital Shootout – Roatan, Honduras

While waiting in the Miami airport, eating my delicious airport chinese food, Sea Rover Woody Tinsley walked up, also on his way to Roatan for the Kids Sea Camp, while I was on my way to The Digital Shootout. It’s a week long photography competition and is hailed as the world’s best learning experience for underwater photography. This year’s shootout was held at Coco View a lush tropical resort with plenty of diving. The event is hosted by Backscatter Photo and Video the world’s largest underwater camera retailer, founded by Associate Sea Rover, 2017 Master of Ceremonies, and Diver of the Year, Berkley White. His team and others from Nauticam, Olympus and Light and Motion were on hand with demo gear and and they could help you with anything you wanted. I’ve had years of experience in photography but none with an actual underwater camera rig, and I was ready for some learning!

As the plane landed I was hit with a wall of dense humid heat, and all of a sudden the only thing I could think about was that I was going to be doing my first warm water dives here! Boy was I ready, but first I had to get my gear set up back at the room. I was golf carted back to Coco Villa, the house I was staying in with two roommates. I was the first to get to the house, so first come first serve, I took the master bedroom, which had a private bathroom and a walk-in closet that twenty of me could have fit in. I went back down to the center and rented a 3mm shortie wetsuit. It was like I was on another planet so different from the 45 degree water in New England, and headed out on my first dive.

Photo by Jennifer Penner of me photographing a neon goby on some coral


We headed out to Osman reef where I was introduced to the multitude of life that Roatan hosts. Dropping down to the reef I was greeted by hundreds of fish – everything from damsels to neon gobies. I was shooting macro because some of the people said it would be good to start with macro because it’s a little easier than wide angle. It was my first time using a camera rig. The rig, an Aquatica for the Canon 5d mark III, with Sea & Sea strobes was graciously donated to me for the summer by Backscatter. I fumbled around with settings and got pretty bad shots. Honestly, I wasn’t too happy with my work in underwater photography and began to wonder why I wanted to do this. Back on the boat I threw up from sea sickness, adding to my joy. We headed to the next site and thinking my sickness would wear off in the water I plunged in swimming around looking at corals. I took a few better shots after Associate Sea Rover Erin Quigley told me how to get some better shots and settings, during the surface interval. I was swimming along when I saw this amazing green moray eel that Roatan is known for. I got a few good shots of it and began swimming back to the boat. I was feeling pretty good about seeing my first moray and was super happy till all of a sudden I got sick right in the middle of the water column. Needless to say I made some fish very happy. We docked back at Coco View and I took it easy the rest of the day. 

Photo by Jennifer Penner of me swimming around

Aquaculture Symposium with George Buckley at WHOI

I spent the past few days with George Buckley, Sea Rover, Harvard Extension Professor, Boston Malacological club director, and much more. I took a couple of his Harvard Extension classes and I was hooked. George is responsible for inspiring me to become a SCUBA diver, and encouraging me to apply for this internship. I owe a lot to George for helping me so much. George took me as his guest to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute aquaculture symposium.

Sea horse at WHOI aquarium

We first went to Falmouth, Ma. to look around WHOI at their aquarium and visitor center. At the aquarium we looked at some of the marine life around New England and George told me stories and facts about all the different fish before us. Everything from the kind of cuddly kind of repulsing lumpfish, to the sea raven the true master of camouflage, George had a story and could tell me tons of facts about divers marine life of New England and beyond. We then headed to the visitors center where we looked at replicas of the deep sea submersible Alvin and saw the ROV camera that Associate Sea Rover Greg Skomal used to observe great white sharks off Cape Cod. The ROV had seen some better days having been attacked numerous times by the great whites that now lurk along the Cape.

Me inside replica of Alvin

That night George and I headed to the reception for the event where fresh oyster were being served. I always wanted to try oysters which are filter feeders, but then realized that they can filter down to viral size and that’s just a little off putting. We met up with Sea Rover Robbi Laak at the reception and we mingled with some of the great minds in marine science and aquaculture. One of whom was Larry Madin deputy director of WHOI and Vice President of Research, and also one of the world’s foremost experts on gelatinous marine life like salps and jellies. Mark Abbott President and Director of WHOI opened the evening and the event began. The symposium was centered around aquaculture which is underwater farming for food.

The next day at the symposium presernters talked about advances and application of aquaculture and how aquaculture could impact the market and our planet. Topics included coastal restoration using oyster beds, advancing technologies in aquaculture and new application in the open ocean, and aquaculture of kelp as a biofuel. All of the presentations were interesting but by far the most interesting part of the symposium was the panel discussion. Where top scientists, fisherman, and CEOs got into heated debates about aquaculture, if that was even a thing to debate about. Debates about the future of aquaculture were intense and how the companies were going to evolve in an ever changing world. Owners of oyster companies argued how their methods work and fisherman debated with CEOs about how aquaculture could improve, the scientists gave their input on impacts and profits of aquaculture, and the audience filled with more scientists, aquaculturists and a few students asked questions about the precautionary principle and how it relates to the fast growing aquaculture companies and technologies. My conclusion from the event was that aquaculture has come a long way and can be used successfully when top brains come together and hammer out the important considerations for the future of a massive industry. The few days I spent with George at the aquaculture symposium were a whirlwind of interesting topics that will in a few year or less be top news on how we feed a growing population.

Advanced Dive Training

My first task as the intern was to get my advanced dive certification. I worked with Rick Simon, a past intern and an excellent diver. He owns Manta Industries, Shoreline Diving and a farm. I met Rick at a dive site called Ft. Wetherill in Rhode Island. This site is all too familiar to me. I’ve done a few dives here before including the New England Aquarium dive club’s fish hunt, and I’ve gotten  to know the sight pretty well. One thing about this sight is that it has pretty bad visibility most of the dives I’ve done have been 2-6ft vis, so pretty bad, but that makes for great low vis training! We started the dive on the left side of the cove going along the wall of the short peninsula jetting off from the parking lot. We started the dive heading down to 60ft, I measured my psi and depth as we went so I could figure out my breathing rate. Rick had me practice my skills as we went. For having such bad vis I still really like Ft. Wetherill because of the amount of interesting life that lives here. Spider crabs flare their claws as we swim by, northern star corals line the wall sucking up any of the plankton in the water, and cunner swim around us. After completing the dive we do a surface interval and head back in, completing my low vis training.

The next day I trained with Vin Malkoski, a Dive Safety Officier and senior biologist at the Department of Mass. Fisheries. Vin and I decided to head to Back Beach in Rockport, Ma. to do my navigation training. Back Beach was absolutely beautiful, glass water, perfect vis. Vin briefed me on the training that I would be doing, and we geared up and headed into the water. Vin placed a marker buoy that would be our starting and ending location. I first did compus work, starting with a straight line out from the buoy and back, then a box, and then a triangle. Passed all with flying colors. Then came the complex box, an odd misshapen rectangle. I didn’t do as well with that, after three tries, a surface interval, and two more tries I finally got it. The only thing I could think of was that the flounders watching were laughing at me fumbling around with my compass, turning it back and forth trying to find my heading. We did a few search and rescue patterns and headed back in.

The next day I again worked with Rick on my nitrox training. We met at Divers Cove a shop in RI, where I did the classroom part of the nitrox training. We analyzed a few tanks and headed to the sea. We went to DeBois beach to do an evening dive on nitrox. The dive was nice, pretty low vis, but only a few feet into the water we saw a burrfish, it came up from the Caribbean on the gulf stream. Armies of spider crabs lined the sea floor all crawling along. A few horseshoe crabs sat amongst the mass of crabs, including the biggest horseshoe crab I have ever seen, it must have been about a foot and a half across. Overall, the dive was really nice and a site that I would love to go back to.

With my limited vis/ night dive, navigation, and nitrox done all that was left was to do a deep dive, which I plan to do on my upcoming trip to Roatan for the Digital Shootout.

Who Am I?

My name is Jake Stout.  I am a recent graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High school. I am excited to have the opportunity to be this year’s Boston Sea Rover Intern. I have been an avid photographer for 9 years and took 4 years of photography classes in high school. Which means I tell stories through photos but I’ll do my best to document my summer in words as well as photos here. I plan to post raw photos with little to no editing (unless it’s a black and white photo) so you can live vicariously through me this summer. My focus for this summer is to improve my diving and learn underwater photography skills.