Diving in Vegas?

On November 17th, worlds collided. Am I in Las Vegas for the Miss America Pageant? No, my heels are not tall enough, as can be seen in the photo below. What about the 2021 Car Wash Show? I am not kidding, that was a real and what seemed to be a respected event this weekend.

Not joking, there was a Miss America Pageant.
NOGI Awards. Pictured is Michele Hall Introducing Zale Perry.

I am here for the 2021 DEMA show! DEMA is one of the largest events for companies who work in scuba diving, travel, and ocean water sports. I am specifically here for the NOGI awards, presented by the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences, where legends in diving get presented with awards in different categories. I have the opportunity to attend these awards because of the connection I made with Michele Hall during the Boston Sea Rovers clinic just a month before. Her friend, Ed Stetson, who has been teaching scuba at UCSB for over 30 years, had tickets to the NOGI awards through the Lee Selisky Future Leaders of the Diving Industry Program. He and Selisky had created this program a few years earlier, and Stetson continues in Lee Seliskys memory.

Zale Perry and I!

When I arrive I immediately go to help Ed at the rehearsal dinner. Here, I am able to meet some of the other attendees and award recipients, including Zale Perry, who is presenting the recipient of her scholarship tonight. When the rehearsal dinner ends, I change into my fancy outfit and go back to the ballroom where other volunteers and I hand out tickets and direct people to their tables.

Frances Degruy and I

It is great to see Michele and Howard Hall again, along with documentary filmmaker Mimi Degruy and her children Max and Frances. At the table, Holly Lompa tells me a bit about her current job, and it was interesting to find out that she graduated from Santa Barbara City College, just five minutes from where I am attending college! Next to me is artist Robert Wyland, who paints beautiful murals all over the country, most notably of whales. One of these Whale Walls is actually located only 10minutes from my hometown and he tells me about some difficulties he had finishing that particular piece.

Holly Lompa and I

I love seeing all the recipients receive their awards, and the video that introduced each one. Paul Nicklen, one of my idols, is being recognized with the Arts award. Although he can’t be here to receive the award, I am in awe of his acceptance video! When the banquet ends, I help collect donation envelopes off all the tables and am able to introduce myself to more people outside my table. It is great to talk with Jamil Wilson, the current Our World Underwater Scholar. He tels me about his experience so far, and how he had even worked with the past BSR intern Russel Laman.

My table at NOGI Awards

And finally, Dan Orr gives me some advice. Always have my business card on me. And write letters, because letters are more remembered than emails. So if you meet me anytime from now on, expect a business card and a letter because Dan knows what he is talking about.

Boston Sea Rovers 2021

 

My business card!

You see, I have attended Boston Sea Rovers for a few years now. It is an amazing, crazy, busy weekend. But as the intern, stepping out of my dads truck in my dress and heels, instantly tripping, and then being introduced to Greg Skomal as I am handed my business cards, well that was a different kind of crazy. Wicked crazy, I should say. Not three months prior I was learning about Skomal in my high school marine science class, and now I was about to eat dinner at the same table.

Greg Skomal and I at the Jake Duvall Wine Dinner

I then got on a bus to attend the Jake Duvall Wine Dinner with around twenty or thirty other people. 

Krista Laforest (2017 BSR Intern) and I

Past interns Krista Laforest and Brendan Sullivan Brendan Sullivan help me a lot, informing me who people are and that I should just try to talk to everyone. So, I do. After an amazing dinner with the Rovers and past interns, we all move into another room for a reception. I talk to everyone and hear about their life and work and I am amazed at the depths people have reached; both literally and in their respective fields. At this reception I meet with the President of Boston Sea Rovers, Nick Fazah, where he exchanges my temporary name tag with the permanent blue name tag badge. We pose for an epic photo!

Epic photo #1: receiving my blue name tag!

The next morning I start my day by attending Aerial Drone 101 for Scuba Divers. I learn all about drone piloting and how drones can be a good tool for divers. I then have lunch with all the people in the film festival where Jake Stout, a past intern and also organizer of the film festival this year, goes over everybody’s cues in order to stay on time. My tip: basically don’t trip when walking up the stairs to be recognized as the new intern. I can do that, I think. I then walk around the exhibitor booths and meet Becca Boring from the company Backscatter. She is great! Backscatter supports the internship by supplying a camera and all the fix ins for the intern to borrow for the summer. I then made it to Faith Ortins booth. She runs a company called Blue Green Expeditions. Two years prior I had attended Boston Sea Rovers and went to her seminar as she shared videos of locations she recommends to dive. She remembered me from then which was pretty cool!

My table at the Board of Directors Dinner. (Left to Right) Howard Hall, Michelle Hall, Erin Quigley, Me, Jen Penner, Joel Penner.

I then got ready for the Film Festival, but first I attended the Board of Directors dinner. There I sat with Michele and Howard Hall. Michele talked with me about a possible opportunity to go to DEMA, a dive convention taking place in Las Vegas next month, which was really exciting! I talked with Erin Quigley as she is the master of post production editing which is something I would love to learn more about. She is very funny too! Joel and Jen Penner also were sitting at my table and I got to hear about their underwater photography careers. It was so cool to hear them all talking about their projects and careers!

The film festival was amazing, especially since I was able to just talk with the presenters about their work. Jennifer Selleti’s narration about the Andrea Doria was absolutely beautiful. Like, seriously, breathtaking the way she narrated the story. After intermission, Nick called me up on stage to be recognized formally as the 2022 intern! I was so nervous, but I didn’t trip! We then took another epic photo with me on stage.

Epic photo #2: Formally being presented as the new intern!
The intern booth

The next day I attended the current intern Russel Laman’s presentation about his experiences. I helped wrap up the intern booth and collect everything to close down the event. It was a truly wonderful weekend where I met so many amazing people and it makes me so thrilled to see what experiences I will have next summer!

Me and some of the past BSR Interns! (Left to Right) Me, Russel Laman, Jake Stout, Krista Laforest, Brendan Sullivan, JP Sullivan, Kim Malkoski, Rick Simon)

Who Am I?

My name is Hailey Springer and I am very excited to be the Boston Sea Rovers 2022 Summer Intern! I grew up in York, Maine and am currently a freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara. I hope to continue on the double major path of aquatic biology and communications! I am a part of the UCSB Scuba and Freedive club and have loved exploring the kelp forests off the west coast.

I started getting into photography in high school, and practiced by taking photos for local businesses in southern Maine. I also completed a year-long research paper exploring the marketing aspect of marine conservation, where I was able to converse with many underwater photographers and learn about their work. 

I became a PADI open water certified diver my freshman year of high school after seeing images taken by Becky Kagan Schott in a magazine my dad got me for Christmas. I am very excited to keep diving this winter and spring and ‘dive’ right into this opportunity next summer!

I hope this blog will serve as a place where you can understand the experiences of a Boston Sea Rovers Intern as if you were there, and I plan to include links to people and places I reference in a hope to make it as understandable and educational as possible. I’ll keep this, as well as my Instagram @haileyyspringer , updated with my upcoming experiences! Feel free to reach out!

Diving Folly Cove with Jake Stout:

After getting back from Monterey, I only had a few days before going back to school for the semester. I decided to take advantage of my free time and get in contact with Jake. Luckily, our schedules lined up and we managed to do a couple dives at Old Garden beach, in Gloucester MA. On our first dive we headed out along the left wall of the cove, following the bottom down to about 50 feet before turning around. The dive was a lot of fun, there were a ton of flounders, little tunicates, and hermit crabs scuttling across the sand. It was weird getting used to my big flashes after using the snoot in Monterey, but I still managed to isolate my subjects against the background.

During our surface interval, Jake and I discussed a lot about underwater photography, and planned out some shots for my next dive. He suggested I try and accentuate the ability of the flounder to hide in the sand. Soon on the second dive, I found a baby flounder that gave me just the opportunity. I got a shot I was really happy with, showing the amazing ability of the flounder to hide itself, with a stark side-lighting providing some contrast to still accentuate the flounder against the background. For this dive we stuck to the right side of the cove which was incredibly rich, full of dozens of flounder and lots of crustaceans. It was a fitting end to an amazing summer, and a great learning experience as I continue to work on my underwater photography.

Monterey: Day 7

My last day in Monterey I didn’t get the chance to go diving. There was nobody to dive with me, and I chose to let my gear dry instead of pushing the time where it was safe to fly before my flight.

Instead, I got the chance to go on a morning whale watching cruise!! Monterey is known for its whale watching, and it did not disappoint. While we only saw one humpback, we saw a number of dolphins and three blue whales!! We got several extraordinary views of the massive animals, who’s size is hard to comprehend until you see a humpback whale a few minutes later and realize how tiny it looks in comparison. I brought my camera and managed to get a few pictures but was focused on enjoying the whales more than anything else.

Around lunchtime, I made my way over to the Ansel Adams exhibit. This exhibit was unique in that it was a portrayal of Ansel Adams’ life through portraits. While Ansel Adams is clearly known for his landscape photography, he also is skilled a taking portraits. I really enjoyed the exhibit, which highlighted not only portraits he had taken, but portraits of him at various stages in his life and career.

That afternoon, I went back out on Berkeley’s boat, this time with Becca and her daughter. We traveled around the bay with topside cameras, looking to get close enough to some sea otters to snag some photos. We had some success, and I managed to get a couple shots of the amazingly cute animals.

My time in Monterey truly was an amazing experience. I’m so grateful to the Boston sea rovers and the entire backscatter staff for having me out. Over the course of my week I learned so much about underwater photography, and really saw a rapid improvement in my skills. Stay tuned to the backscatter website for a short article I’m writing for backscatter about what I learned while visiting them in Monterey!

 

Monterey: Day 6

Day 6 in Monterey was my last day of diving. In the morning, I didn’t have a dive buddy since it was a Saturday and everyone from the shop was busy. Still, Berkeley agreed to take me out on his boat. I went with the fisheye lens again, and we went back to the breakwater, focusing on over-under shots of sea nettles below, and the sea lion colony above. After a few minutes I was informed by a park ranger that I was getting to close to the marine mammals, so switched my dive plan. I spent the rest of the dive chasing jellies, trying to find where they were the most dense, get under them, and shoot up, framing them against the sky. In a tangled web of potential subjects, it’s really about finding the perfect composition.

In the afternoon, Becca came on-board Berkeley’s boat and joined me for a scooter dive! I’d never gotten the chance to use a dive scooter before, but it was a ton of fun! After some initial adjustments, I mounted my camera on the top of the scooter and Becca showed me how to use it. After a few minutes of getting used to, it was a ton of fun. I was quickly able to move back and forth along the dive site like I never have done before. The real highlight of the dive was the jellies. We were back at the sea lion colony, but headed out to sea where the jellies were thickest. I turned off the flashes from my camera, and shot bursts of photos, and some video as I cruised through the swarm. Suddenly, I found myself in an immensely dense patch, surrounded by a huge swarm of jellies in every direction. Here I got my favorite shot of the trip which I later changed to black and white, showcasing the eerie swarm of jellies slowly floating through the water.

Unfortunately, I did get stung a number of times… it would be hard not to, given the huge number of jellies I was swimming past. They didn’t hurt too bad but by the end my lips were definitely tingly. At the end of my dive, I’d gotten split up from Becca, but I suddenly saw a dead sea lion, partially decomposed on the bottom. Eerily, another sea lion swam down to check him out, juxtaposing life and death with the jellies right behind. It was an amazing end to an incredible week of diving.

Monterey: Day 5

My fifth day in Monterey was my last with Jamil. Getting to spend this week with him was a ton of fun! It was amazing to hear about all his adventures, and the amazing things he has planned for the future.

In the morning, we had some free time, and managed to get one last sea lion dive in together. This time, the sea lions were extra playful, coming close up to the camera and checking out their reflections in the dome port. The visibility also had improved significantly, so I was able to improve on some of my shots from the previous sea lion dive.

Around lunchtime, Jamil and I walked over to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a great experience, and pretty funny to see everyone marvel at the marine organisms we had seen in the wild just hours before. It was also nice to see their big focus on marine conservation throughout most of the exhibits.

In the afternoon, Jamil had to leave, but I got to go on a dive to the metridium field with Savagh. The medtridium field is several hundred meters out into the bay. To get to it, we followed a long rusty old pipe coming from an old cannery. At the end of the pipe, we took a compass bearing until a boulder field filled with beautiful white anemones lay before us. At the same time, a huge swarm of sea nettles was swept in, surrounding the metridiums from all angles. On this dive, I decided to try for the first time a fisheye lens. Berkley lent the lens to me for a few days, and I decided now would be the perfect time to try it out. Unfortunately, I spent the vast majority of the dive fighting backscatter, trying my best to avoid it by constantly rotating my strobe placements to try out different possibilities. I eventually figured out something that worked, given how wide the fisheye lens is. Be that point, most of the dive had gone by, and the metridiums had all curled in. I quickly turned my focus to the swarming jellies, and even as savagh went up, I stayed down, determined to get some shots. As soon as I hit 500psi, I made my way to the surface, freezing cold, but with plenty of air. I soon realized just how far offshore I was. A driving offshore wind was pushing a slight surface current against me, and I began kicking hard as I felt my feet go numb. This whole week I’d been relying on my awesome dry suit, but because of the long swim I figured a wetsuit would be easier. I paid my price, freezing myself on the way back in, but making it back in one piece.

Monterey: Day 4

My fourth day in Monterey, Jamil and accompanied Robin and Thomas to fisherman’s wharf, a fun macro dive site full of little critters. I was hoping to find a bunch of little blennies hiding in the rocks that I could photograph with my macro lens, but the swell was too great to get any good shots. I soon switched to the pilings that line the wharf which were covered in life. I managed to get in close with my snoot, and get some cool shots of a ghost shrimp, and a hermit crab.

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During our dive interval, Jamil and I grabbed lunch with Chuck Davis, Monterey underwater photography and videography legend. It was great to meet him and chat about his start in underwater photography. Hopefully we can dive together in the future!

Our afternoon dive on day 4 was absolutely spectacular. Berkley dropped Jamil and I off at an underwater pinnacle, noticeable only by a small clump of kelp that would occasionally bob at the surface. We followed this small patch of kelp down to the sheer pinnacle, covered in life. The current was strong, so we traversed our way around the pinnacle, staying close to the wall to avoid being swept away. After circumnavigating the underwater feature, we came back up to the top of the pinnacle which sat in around 30 feet of water. Suddenly, jellies started appearing out of nowhere, drifting slowly through the kelp fronds. For the next 20 minutes, I swam around frantically, trying to find the best angle for some awesome jellyfish photos.

Monterey: Day 3

My third day in Monterey, Jamil and I did three dives by ourselves. Our two morning dives we did in front of the shop, the first along the breakwater, and the second right in the middle of the bay, what’s called center reef. I took my macro lens, and while they weren’t as productive for photography, it was still fun diving with Jamil. Our second dive in particular was quite interesting, as we battled with 2-foot visibility for most of the dive and struggled to stay together as much as possible. While the backscatter was terrible even in my macro images, I tried to take advantage of it as much as I could, highlighting the backscatter while photographing filter-feeding tunicates.

In between dives, I got a chance to show my photos to Backscatter CEO Jim, and to Berkley, who gave me lots of pointers on how to optimize my strobe placements and camera settings for specific shots I wanted to get.

In the afternoon, Jamil and I got to go out on Berkley’s boat again. We went to a similar area as the day before and got some more unique wide-angle images. The real highlight was when we popped an SMB on the way up and accidentally scared a whole raft of Sea Otters trying to relax on the surface.

That evening, I got to grab dinner with a couple of the backscatter employees, and then we trekked down the California coast to a place with great wave action along the shoreline. There we set up to do some night photography shots. Unfortunately, a thick layer of mist and haze blocked most of the moonlight, but I still managed to get some cool shots of the waves crashing against the rocky shore.

Monterey: Day 2

My second day in Monterey, Jamil and I got a chance to dive off backscatter owner Berkley White’s boat! I took my wide-angle camera setup and we went out to the end of the breakwater, jumping in the water with the massive sea lion colony that resides at the end of the pier. On the dive, the visibility wasn’t good enough to get any close up stills of the sea lions, so I realized I had to find something a little more interesting to focus on. I spent the rest of the dive looking for cool foreground subjects that I could use with a sea lion silhouette in the background. This strategy worked, and I managed to get this cool photo of the sea lions swimming by!

For the second dive of the day, we got to use Berkley’s boat again, traversing along the California coast a mile or two until we found a shallow section with a teeming kelp forest. I focused on my wide-angle photography, getting up close to subjects like big fish-eating anemones, and framing them with the kelp forest behind. About halfway through the dive I also realized that the big swell was making whole bunches of kelp flop back and forth over the rocks. I soon found an ideal location, where a sea star was being routinely covered and uncovered by a whole mat of kelp. This was my moment to work on shooting with a slow shutter speed. I set up and stayed there for at least 10 minutes, taking countless shots to balance the perfect movement in the kelp, while keeping the sea star in focus below.

On the way back from our dive, we ran into a teeming swarm of sea nettles, all drifting slowly near the surface. I had my dry suit on with no weight belt, but I jumped in with my camera anyways, flopping around on the surface, trying to get down low enough to get some cool photos.