WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 2003: INTRODUCTION

I spent a week in West Palm Beach hanging out with Jim and Anna Abernethy, teaching them about digital imaging and web publication in exchange for a great time and a roof over my head. There are lots of photos below. :)

Please leave me a comment about this trip in my web journal.

The screaming turtle photo seems to be making its rounds on the internet! Click here for a direct link to the image. :)

Visitors:
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WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 11: SHARK CANYON

06:30 - It is 3:30am PST. My body is completely off!

19:17 - By 7:30am we were on the boat with Captain Mike and Eli, Ed, and Big Al (the three guys who are responsible for Shark Diver Magazine). We motored out for 35 minutes to Shark Canyon and dropped in to photograph sharks (duh!). Eli wanted to get a photo with the magazine -- and sharks all around him -- but the magazine all but dissolved as soon as he took it out of the dry bag. Too bad! Anna's strobes also refused to fire (as we are all familiar with, they worked fine on dry land, but failed to work at depth). It was a fun dive! Nurse sharks and caribbean reef sharks congregated all around us, giving us ample opportunity to take photos. Best of luck to Shark Diver Magazine! The premiere issue has just hit newsstands.

In the afternoon I introduced Casa Abernethy to the year 2003 and bought them a wireless router with built-in 4-port switch. Jimmy said, "I have a router...," but of course, he was referring to the "other" kind of router. :) So now all of their G4 Titanium-toting photo buddies will be happily connected when staying here. :)

Another highlight of the day: I was formally introduced to Zoe. Zoe said "hello" a few times, which was very nice, but he did try to bite me. To be honest, I'm scared or even mildy terrified of him. His beak is really big. At least he doesn't scream at me much. He did this weird head thrusting thing that Jim said was a good sign: "it's what he does to show that you're a part of the family. he's regurgitating food for you."

[see photos from today]
WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 12: SHARK CANYON

23:32 - I'm sitting here with Jim, in his study. We both seem to be glued to the computer when not out playing! Such are the curses of hobbies (and careers) centered around digital media.

During the late morning we hopped onto the Infatuation to hit Shark Canyon for another two dives (this time, with the Shark Diver Magazine folk, Greg "The Dive Master" from Scuba Radio, and Rob from Sharkman Studios. Like yesterday, the shark action was fantastic! The second time we dropped in we swam through a big school of Atlantic spade fish and saw a large male loggerhead turtle before seeing the sharks. Everyone had a blast, and I nabbed some good photos.

Afterwards we all went to the Roadhouse Grill and gorged ourselves on cow meat.

01:52 (next day) - You know what we ended up doing tonight? For some reason the preview window no longer works in Pnnacle's Studio 8 video editing software on Jim's computer. He's been submitting support requests since Jan 17th, and has done a pretty good job exhausting all of the recommended troubleshooting steps (short of removing the SCSI card, checking for IRQ conflicts, etc.)... and so I did all of the things that he had not gotten around to doing, and the stupid thing still won't work. This is why I have a separate machine dedicated to video work. I concede that a Mac is better at video than a cluttered PC is. (don't even think about saying that it's better for all media work. it just isn't! I've seen many-a-pro sit around waiting for various Mac-based image viewers to do... whatever it is that they do (slow, non-real time thumbnail generation, etc.) while I have already finished checking out my images and have my housing put back together. It's ridiculous. The thing may be more "elegant," but it's really DAMN SLOW.)

Of course, if Jim was a Mac video guy, we wouldn't have wrestled with hardware and software for two hours tonight. :)

*update* It was the camera that was screwed up. It's funny what salt water can do to electronics over time.

[see photos from today] [photos from anna]
WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 13

12:41 - Jimmy: "What's the date?" Me: "February 13th." Jimmy: "February?" Me: "uh... yeah." Jimmy: "I thought it was March." (more exchange about the date here) Jimmy: "I don't know! I just know that I'm going diving." :)

15:20 - I just took a shower with a parrot. It was really strange. :) He talked a lot, but he mostly said, "Hello," and voiced little grumbles that might have been attempts to say my name. I think he got it right once... but it was hard to tell. He's been saying "ouch" and "Hello Zoe" a lot today. He also ignores me when I come in the room, which is apparently what he does to people he likes. What a strange creature. :)

23:34 - We just got back from having dinner at the City Cellar with Douglas Seifert and Trinka. Douglas needs his own web site, because a google search for his name returns my web page as the first link! That means that I have complete control of his web reputation. :) Since he doesn't have a web site to tell you what he has been up to, I'll tell you! Douglas has been in Papua New Guinea for the last two months. He returned with 900 (post-pruning) images of several different rhinopias, and 4100 more images of other cool marine species I've never seen. I really want to see his images. :)

This afternoon, Jim took me along to run a series of errands. Afterwards, we stopped by the Marinelife Center and were fortunate enough to catch Larry Wood (the director, Jim tells me) as he was leaving for the day. Larry took us inside to give me a tour of the place. The Marinelife Center is a great turtle-education resource, and also have a fantastic gift-shop with lots of turtle toys and trinkets.

[see photos from today]
WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 14

21:29 - Two dives today: Shark Canyon and Jolly Jacks! The water was fairly choppy until we motored out into deeper water. We had heard that the visibility yesterday was around 10' at some dive sites, but we were lucky today and ended up with fair vis. At Jolly Jacks we saw two enormous loggerhead turtles, a green turtle, and two hawksbill turtles, one of which was really friendly, paddling right up to us and staring us in the eyes. Jim has video footage of me kissing her shell. :)

After the dives I went with Jim to Channel 5 (NBC), where he met up with a reporter, a friend (Connie), and two marine scientists to talk about the local beach re-nourishment project (the marine scientists were employees of the project). Apparently, the entire shallow reef in front of a hotel has been covered by sand that is being dredged up to fill in a beach (the site is right in front of the new beach). The project leaders and scientists have "stainless steel monitoring stations" (which the woman kept repeating) that somehow show that they have not killed anything, but the stations must not be in relevant places because we saw footage of the site before and after the project, and it looks completely dead now. The entire area is covered with grey, sooty sand. Anyway, it looks like some kind of war was started. My favorite line (from one of the scientists) was "there was no hard coral there" -- followed by Jim's footage of hard coral -- from the site, pre-project. I hope it was aired that way tonight (we missed it). :) It was also neat to see tv-ready anchormen and women walking around.

At 8:00pm, Anna left to work on their weekend liveaboard trip to the Bahamas. By 8:10pm, Jim had the ultralight fueled and ready for tomorrow's adventures (and it is STILL Valentines Day! :). Hanging out with Jim has made it very difficult to do work for Anna and Jeffrey. :)

Oh. I forgot to mention that there were a few people on the boat today who made it glaringly obvious why the rest of the world (except Britain!) hates Americans. I believe what I heard was, "I don't really care about the people in Iraq and North Korea, as long as I'm comfortable over here." I think he was talking about nuking them, but I'm not sure because I immediately ascended up to a different level on the boat to prevent my ears from being polluted by more ignorance. There was also a guy talking in a way that lumped all of the Middle East and South Asia into a category of "horrible" areas, which sounded to me like a fundamental inability to grasp the validity of cultures foreign to his own. One of the guys even had little beady eyes to compliment his shining personality.

[see photos from today]
WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 15

20:28 - A relatively uneventful day: we got up early and drove to the bridge to see if the conditions were flyable. The were not. So, we came home and I slept in for awhile before being rousted up to pick up the 500 pounds of fish heads and carcasses that we will be using for bait next week on the shark expedition. Jim systematically stuffed the useful parts into crates while I stood by taking photographs. You can't "sort of help" someone stuff fish carcasses into crates. It's all or nothing. :) By the end of the ordeal, Jim's truck was dripping with blood, and the entire area reeked! The fish are now in freezers and will freeze solid over the next couple of days, after which they will be put into sealed coolers and loaded onto the Shear Water. We also hung out with a few of Jim's flying buddies who had driven their flying boats in for a "fly in," but the wind never died down, so flying was put on hold. Even though I am getting a decent amount of sleep, I am exhausted!

[see photos from today]
WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 16

20:25 - Two dives this morning: Juno Ledge and Jolly Jacks. Didn't see too much: some turtles... a bunch of beautiful angelfish who wouldn't let us get close to them, and a small school of Atlantic spade fish that let me get right in the middle of them. The "other" group (the group in the front) saw a large eagle ray and many turtles.

We spent the afternoon eating, hanging out with Zoe, and doing web work. Yes, I have to do photo and web work while I'm here. It seems that I teach people this stuff wherever I go, and they put me in circumstances where I am likely to get good photographs. Sounds good to me! :)

23:00 - Classic Jimmy. Me: "Is that rain?" Jimmy: "Yeah." <pause> "Oh shit! Your stuff is outside." <pause> "Oh, shit!! MY stuff is outside!"

Jimmy: "Let's have some ice cream." Me: "Do we have any ice cream left?" Jimmy: "We're only on our second tub!"

[see photos from today]
WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 17

00:07 - Jim, Anna and I drove to Miami today via a leisurely route that included many U-Turns and doubling back on roads we had just driven down. It turns out that the Shark Diver Magazine booth at the Miami Boat Show was at the sailboat annex, and not at the main powerboat area. I saw signs of tacky 80s neon and Art Deco while we were driving around; unfortunately we had no time to wander around to soak it in.

After packing up the Shark Diver Magazine booth (they are leaving on their drive to Toronto a day early because of the huge snow storm that just hit the East Coast), we drove to South Beach to have dinner at Grillfish with Steve Drogin, and with Dr. Samuel and Marie Gruber of the Bimini Biological Field Station. Much fun was had by all (t-shirts, hats, and business cards were exchanged). Afterwards, the Shark Diver Magazine folk came back with us to Palm Beach to return Jim's television and to grab some images from us on CD.

I'm fading. Must... sleep...

[see photos from today]
WEST PALM BEACH, FEB 18

22:11 - What a day! Lazaro (who is active on our wetpixel forums) took a day off of work to come dive Breakers and Playpen with us. Coincidentally, a researcher had stopped by with 22 baby loggerhead turtles for us to release, so each photographer was given a little turtle to photograph while the little guys experienced their first few breaths of freedom. Unfortunately, many of those first breaths included bouts of aggressive posturing at (and attempting biting of) our dome ports. I guess they weren't used to seeing their reflections (or seeing shiny reflective things). :) The second dive of the day was at Playpen; Laz and I were dropped off at the wreck of a small-ish barge, where we descended into a large school of great barracuda. As we were poking around, I was almost run over by two large eagle rays! Luckily, I took a photo through sheer reflex before they glided gracefully into the milky distance. As we drifted along the rubble pile towards Playpen (dive site name), I spotted a floating "plant" less than an inch long, which turned out to be a tiny squid. I snapped off some shots with a 16-35L lens (w/+4 diopter) in an 8" dome port and managed to get the little guy to ink me a few times. Shooting something so small with such a wide lens is not ideal.

Lunch at Mondo's followed the dives, and then Laz and I drove off to visit Douglas Seifert and Trinka at Douglas' place up the road. Douglas has an amazing top-floor flat filled with rare books and nice screens. If I were a Mac guy I might have left his place soaked with puddles of drool. I took a look at his Apple Airport (wireless networking) settings because he was concerned about the security of his network, and the process turned into an hour-and-a-half long fiasco because 1) a password was forgotten and 2) his dsl connection decided to have issues at the same moment. Due to these problems, Douglas almost lost faith in my so-called "expertise" in computers, but by the end of the evening his faith -- and internet access -- had been restored. Doug has some amazing images, by the way. I should trade him a good web reputation through repeated mentions in echeng.com for an autographed image. I left instead with his Tiny Bubbles Expeditions jacket, which he is lending me for the upcoming shark trip. :)

It was fantastic to meet Laz! I had been told repeatedly by Jimmy and Anna that he was a "really nice guy"; they were definitely right. I hope I didn't keep him out here too long. :)

[see photos from today] (updated 2/19)