GALAPAGOS: THE ART OF UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY
Extraordinary image making with Shannon Conway
Dates: Tuesday 11th June - Monday 24th June 2013 (14 days)
Leader: Shannon Conway
Group Size Limit: 15 plus leader
Shannon has chosen the infamous Galapagos Islands of Ecuador for his next Art of Underwater Photography expedition. The photographic potential here is immense, however it is for the experienced diver and photographer only! Because of the nature of Galapagos diving, and the prevalence of swift currents, Shannon will not be conducting a formal workshop as he usually might. It is simply not possible to dive and shoot the way he might usually where conditions are calmer. Shannon will be available and willing to critique and evaluate your work in the evenings. He will also give talks and host discussions on some evenings.
Shannon Conway is a professional underwater photographer creating images for the advertising, editorial and fine art market. He has an energetic passion for his photography and the patience to capture the peak of the action. You’ll quickly understand how Shannon obtains such remarkable images time and again – he puts a great deal of effort, energy and research into every shot and he does not give up! Shannon is a very popular leader and his enthusiasm is infectious.
Originating from Poole, on the Dorset coast of England, Shannon has always been fascinated by the ocean, spending most of his childhood summer holidays in Bournemouth with his grandparents, searching rock pools for marine creatures. Shannon and his wife Amanda moved to Fremantle, Western Australia, in 2006 in the search for crystal blue waters and sunny skies. After changing from a previous working life in IT, Shannon now focuses on his new career, sharing his passion by teaching underwater photography.
Shannon is a very successful underwater photographer, and has won a variety of awards from the Western Australian Underwater Photographic Society and the British Society of Underwater Photographers. He has also been awarded the top slot on many Photoquests and was the winner in the underwater category of the prestigious Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and Papua New Guinea Nature and Landscape Photographer of the Year award in 2007 and 2008.
Being amongst a group of like-minded friends who are experienced and knowledgeable divers and photographers will make this trip enjoyable and rewarding. Shannon’s Galapagos trip will not, strictly speaking, be a workshop in the traditional sense. Whilst Shannon will critique your work and give evening talks and engage in discussion about your images and photography, whilst under the water you will be encouraged to pursue your own agenda. This is mainly due to the diving conditions in Galapagos which can be very challenging and do not always lend themselves to underwater tuition on a one on one basis.
Positioned on the equator some 1,000 km out into the Pacific Ocean from mainland Ecuador lie the islands known as ‘las islas encantadas’ or ‘the enchanted islands’. Here the very tips of huge underwater volcanoes emerge from the ocean and occupy a unique location. The cold Humboldt current from Antarctica and a warm current that runs southwards from Central America intersect over this thin spot in the crust of the earth that still, from time to time, spurts hot lava. The fusion of these two great currents affords divers the intensely exciting experience of encountering penguins and sealions, that may originally have journeyed north from the ice-filled waters of Antarctica, and also angelfish, Moorish Idols and turtles that are more usually associated with warm, coral seas.
One of the finest dive sites to be found around the central islands is Gordon Rocks. Here divers get the unique opportunity of diving within the cone of an old volcano, which once stood proudly above the waves but which over the years has succumbed to the ravages of the wind, rain and sea. Between the two rocks that break the surface are three vertical ridges that come to within 10 to 12 metres of the surface. Marine life abounds and here one can regularly record several species of sharks as well as moray eels, rays, snappers, groupers and large jacks. Turn a corner on these rocks and you are likely to bump into a hammerhead school! Look up and witness the amazing site of a ‘flock’ of Spotted Eagle Rays flying overhead and perhaps blotting out the sunlight! At about 30 metres the centre of the cone is filled with sand which forms the perfect habitat for a colony of garden eels, shyly peeping out and warily observing the passing marine life. Friendly and curious Galapagos Fur Seals are often encountered here.
Without doubt the finest, most thrilling diving is found around the small islands of Wolf and Darwin, two exceptional dive sites to the north of the equator and well away from the usual cruise itineraries. These two sites live up to their reputation of being ‘the’ place for big animal encounters. Perhaps because of the remoteness of the area, the animals here show less fear of divers and several people have reported Galapagos Sharks coming to within one metre. Conditions around these remote uninhabited volcanic rock islands can be very variable and there are sometimes big swells. There is no landing point here and boats must anchor in the open water. Below the water an exciting swell can lift and drop divers up and down the water column by up to 5 metres! At about 20 to 30 metres one can often see clouds of hammerheads passing over. The rocks and crevices hold Green Morays and many poisonous and well-camouflaged scorpionfish. Watch the water here and you may see the steely glint of silver combined with sooty black as this is a famous mating site for jacks. The mating ritual involves the male partner turning virtually black and pairing off with a silver female partner. The fish life is so profuse that many divers describe these dive sites as ‘wall to wall fish’. It is well worth sitting on a rock, or simply holding on, just as a bird-watcher would settle down in a hide, and simply watching as quietly as possible as the waters of the Galapagos reveal their finest show of creatures great and small parading in their thousands. Some of the diving cruises that visit Wolf and Darwin encounter magnificent and awe-inspiring Whale Sharks, an experience of which every diver dreams. Rays, hammerheads, Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles – the list is seemingly endless – pass by unafraid of the aliens in their midst. Here too Galapagos Penguins, Flightless Cormorants and boobies can be observed gracefully diving in a habitat which they merely ‘borrow’ in search of food.
Usually trips on board Galapagos Sky afford the opportunity to take part in several exciting land tours to experience the Galapagos just as Darwin did. Galapagos Sky has it’s very own naturalist onboard to accompany the land tours and teach you all about the endemic species, plants reptiles and birds that make the Galapagos islands a nature lovers paradise. A climb to the top of Bartolome Island as the sun is setting allows for some panoramic views and fantastic photographic opportunities. An escorted walk around Puerto Egas Island offers chances to see sealions and marine iguanas and towards the end of the cruise, a visit to the Charles Darwin research centre introduces you to Lonesome George, the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, native to the Galapagos Islands. Poor George is 72 years old, merely a spring chicken in tortoise terms, as he hit his sexual maturity at the ripe old age of 50, but George has no mate and so always appreciates a visit.
For details of the diving, please see the Galapagos section of our programme.
Our vessel of choice for this trip is Galapagos Sky (formerly Sky Dancer of the Peter Hughes fleet). Galapagos Sky, carries a maximum of 16 passengers in 8 staterooms. The four Master Staterooms, situated on the upper (lido) deck, have one queen-sized bed or two single beds, private head and shower and a window view. The four Deluxe Twin Staterooms have two single beds with private head and shower and a porthole view. Each cabin provides a quiet and elegant space for relaxing, reading or sleeping. Towelling robes are provided for your stay on the boat. Clean towels are provided daily and clean sheets are provided mid-week. Complimentary toiletries are placed at the wash basin and each stateroom is provided with a hair dryer. Eight crew offer superb service at all times, from morning coffee in your room to taking your tank at the dive platform on your return to the boat or providing hot towels at the end of a night dive.
The dive deck features a water fountain, mask defogging station, weight belt area, two showers, and a supply of fresh towels. Special rinse tanks for cameras are situated on the dive deck. Dive information is displayed on a large board which shows depth and marine life information. Of special interest to underwater photographers is the spacious multi-tiered, carpeted photo-table complete with cleaning materials. A full camera and video rental service is available at daily or weekly rates. The boat has a photo pro on board who will assist you with your photography and also, if you wish, take a customized video of your diving holiday. Galapagos Sky offers Nitrox facilities at no extra. A full range of diving equipment is available for rental.
After diving most people head for the sundeck where they can relax (either in or out of the sun) and help themselves to iced drinks and delicious snacks. Freshly baked breads and biscuits show up in the morning and appetizers are served in the afternoon. Beverages and snacks are available at all times in the salon (along with a well-stocked bar). Hot breakfasts are cooked to order. Lunch is usually a buffet-style spread and dinner is a waiter-served gourmet feast. Wine is served with dinner and after dinner drinks are always offered.
A note on water temperatures and exposure suits. Even if you tend to feel the cold, a dry suit is not recommended. You can expect water temperatures between 18 C and 26 C. Because temperatures fluctuate it is recommended that you take sufficient layers to feel comfortable on any dive. Rash vests, hoods, Aeroskin base layers and gloves are all recommended as well as booties.
Tuesday 11th June: Early evening arrival into Quito. On arrival take a taxi to the Casa Jardin Turi Quindi for an overnight stay.
Wednesday 12th June: Take a taxi to Quito airport for a short flight to San Cristobal. This afternoon board Galapagos Sky for a 10 nights cruise. Possibility for a check-out dive in the afternoon to check all your equipment.
Thursday 13th June-Friday 21st June: Diving the thrilling waters of the Galapagos Islands including Wolf and Darwin Islands.
Saturday 22nd June: Disembark Galapagos Sky and transfer to San Cristobal airport for a short flight to Quito and an overnight stay at the Casa Jardin Turi Quindi Hotel.
$8859 San Cristobal/San Cristobal
• 10 nights cruise on a twin/share basis on Galapagos Sky with full board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) plus coffee, tea, fruit juice, soft drinks, fresh fruit and local beer and wine with dinner.
• 9 days of diving (up to 3 dives per day) on air or Nitrox, escorted land tours where appropriate.
• Galapagos National Park and tourism fee and a recompression chamber support fee.
• 2 nights room and breakfast accommodation, on a twin/share basis at the Casa Jardin Turi Quindi, Quito
• Return flights from Quito/San Cristobal/Quito on cruise dates
• Services of Shannon Conway as leader.
Single Occupancy Supplement: $47 for the Sierra Madre Hotel (the supplement can be avoided if your cabin mate on Galapagos Sky shares a twin room with you). On Galapagos Sky the supplement is $7350.
Upgrade to Master cabin on Galapagos Sky: $200