Underwater photography by Andy Kirkland

Dahab, November 2007

New camera … so I needed to go away and try it out.

Surprisingly, November was quite a tricky time for late deals. I wanted something chilled out (and shore-based) so I could work on technique.

So I booked (through Dive Tours) a week at the Bedouin Moon Hotel and the Reef 2000 dive centre in Dahab. The two “day trips” I’d done there in July had the flavour I was after.

I took two lenses with me – the 50mm macro and the 11-22 wide zoom (although – in the end – I only used that one on one dive).

It took me most of the first day to get used to the changes in technique. As I’d been warned, the “Live View” function wasn’t as good as using the viewfinder,but I was pleasantly surprised how clear the VF was (my eyes are getting old). This was excellent for grabbing focus.

I’m also getting used to the idea that you can take more than one shot – as soon as the strobes recharge – without waiting for the file to save to card.

For most of the diving, I left the camera somewhere around f8, aperture priority. The TTL connection through to the INON strobes worked well on this setting.

The only times I really neede to change the settings were to switch between Continous and Single autofocus modes, and to switch off the strobes.

I’m really impressed with the autofocus (although sometimes it has a tendency to “hunt” a bit in C-AF mode), and it managed to pick out some relatively small (and moving) targets accurately. In the album (when I put it up), I’ll be including some shots in full frame and cropped, so you can see what I mean.

This is going to dramatically change the way I post-process my images, and I’ll be cropping much more (and more “aggressively”) – particularly if I use the fixed-length macro lens. This is possible because of the quality of the Olympus glass and the accuracy of the autofocus. The main constraint is now back to …. megapixels.

The tricky bit is probably going to be choosing which lenses to take away with me – because of airline baggage constraints. I suspect I’ll be limited to two of them (and almost certainly to 2 ports).

One thing I do miss with the DSLR is electronic zoom – I only had one dive using the zoom gear (on the 11-22mm), and I certainly don’t find it as intuitive. I’d also be tempted to use a compact on night dives (again, weight permitting) as the screen display and zooming would be far more useful in this environment (.. or it may just be that my focussing skills need a bit more work).

Anyway … here are some topside shots …

The Reef 2000 dive sites board (so you can get your bearings) …

Reef 2000 - Dahab dive sites

The diving’s mostly shore based. Most of the sites are geared up to be diver friendly, often with shade and/or maps of the site.
Because of shore access, departure times aren’t as frenetic as Sharm, although the tides can dictate the time of the dive – some sites can’t be accessed at low water.
Reef have a boat on Wednesdays (going to Gabr el Bint), but I arrived on the Tuesday, so missed it. One for next year …

Nitrox is partial-pressure blended. Reef didn’t offer a deal for all-week use.

As you’ll see from the map, there are a few “clusters” of dive sites – so if you go “South” you’ll end up doing two of those (“Moray Garden”, “Um Sid” and “Caves” are all based at this Oasis).

“Eel Garden” and “Lighthouse” are accessed from the main town.

The area around “The Canyon” is one of my favourites, with three different dives available (if you include “Rick’s Reef” – a long drift on which I clocked 69 mins in the water).

The Bells / Blue Hole have, of course, legendary status, so I won’t go into much more detail.

The Hotel and Dive Centre ….

Bedouin Moon & Reef 2000 dive centre

The beach …

On the hill behind the hotel, you can get a view over Dahab as the sun rises over Saudi ….

Dahab and the Bedouin Moon

Into the hills...

Towards Aquaba ...

... the wadi behind the hotel

The hotel was friendly and unpretentious, but it’s easy to get a taxi into the town if you want to eat out.

Dahab is not as evolved a resort as Sharm, and this is one reason for the relaxed ambiance. Reef runs a “Fun Friday” at the “Rush” bar. Nice vibe, but don’t expect to be fit to dive on Saturday morning if you go along …

All in all, I really enjoyed this week, and it’s on the list of places I’d like to go back to.

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