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Following the lead of an old hand at freediving

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.

Frank O'Donnell

Apneic shutterbug
Apr 23, 2003
Salt Pond Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, April 5, 2004

More pics and trip report to come shortly


  • turtle2.jpg
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Great stuff Frank, as usual :)

It bought back memories seeng the shot in the Baths. I spent many summers in Virgen Gorda and used to know those rocks like the palm of my hand. A friend of mine once found a hammerhead shark swiming around in the back part of the Bath's caves where it starts to open up to the sea! He was quite shocked, it's sort of like finding a hammerhead in your bathtub :D

I also liked the tarpon shot very much, with the bait fish curving away from the fish.


Great trip, great pictures, great story! I can harldy wait until my daughter is old enough to do something like that!

Did you use any external strobes or lenses? Do you know what your camera settings were?

Thanks to everybody for the feedback. The trip was really a lot of fun, and I thought I came out with at least a couple of good keepers among the pictures.

To answer Jon's question, I took along an Oly 5050 in PT-015 housing with a single Ikelite DS-50 external strobe. Sometimes used the strobe, sometimes not. I kept an Inon UWL-100 wide-angle lens attached nearly all the time. I picked up this idea from a scuba friend who's a very talented u/w photog who I noticed shoots even macro with his wide-angle still screwed on. You might notice that some of the shots here look a little gauzy around the edges, which I think is an artifact of using macro mode on the 5050 and zooming in simultaneously while also using the wide-angle lens. I found a lot of the marine life was fairly skittish, so I made frequent use of zooming to get in closer.

Assuming conditions are decent, I'm slated to hit San Clemente Island this Saturday (back to kelp and 7mm wetsuits ;-) ), so I'm hoping to run a few tests in the water to understand this optical issue better.

Refresh my memory - where is Salt Pond Bay ? I spent a lot of time as a kid on the East End of St. John. The property my dad's partnership accumulated there bounded, or possibly encompassed a largish pond on the point, looking directly aross the Sir Francis Drake Channel toward Norman Island. It was separated from the Channel by a relatively thin strip of rocky beach, so I guess it must have been a tidal pool that eventually got so deep it got detached from the tides. Don't recall any turtle there, but it was eons ago and I was more interested in the goats. Is that the place in your photo ?
The property my dad's partnership accumulated there bounded, or possibly encompassed a largish pond on the point

Paul, two questions. First, Just how rich are you? Second, If I agree to name my next child after you will you pay for their college?;)

Frank, I use the wide angle lens on my film cameras all the time and now do the same with my digital. I believe the pro's call it "close-focus wide-angle" instead of macro when shooting that way.

With my old MMII I could focus down to less than a foot, when set to F22, and have everything else be in focus at the same time. When shooting at 5.6 everything from 3 feet out was in focus- which came in handy on some of those old deep-air dives when you "think" you know what you are doing.:friday

The nice part about shooting it with a digital camera is that it's so darn easy to crop the edges off of the photo to get rid of any barrel distortion that might show up on the image.


Originally posted by Paul Kotik
Refresh my memory - where is Salt Pond Bay ?

Hi Paul, come to think of it I remember enjoying reading your reminiscence of your boyhood diving on St. John. I recall thinking that it would be a neat place to visit. And voila, I just did.

I don't think Salt Pond is as east as your family's property would have been. It's west of Rams Head on the south side of the island. Check out this Park Service map for general context:


and then this closeup of the Salt Pond area:


Even so, it was a nice spot to enjoy the water and spy marine life -- quite shallow for the most part, and didn't get deeper than 25 ft or so out in the middle of the bay where I was following a ray and turtles along the bottom.

I also saw turtles on the north side of the island, such as the one in the shot with the sharksucker attached.
Great story and wonderful photos, Frank!
-- hope you post all of 'em in the Gallery. Some of the shots didn't come across my server for some reason. The coral pics reminded me of the GBR. I also liked the Tarpon w/baitfish. Good work!
" I'm slated to hit San Clemente Island this Saturday (back to kelp and 7mm wetsuits ;-) "
--- Let us know what's happening out there. The local hunters in San Diego are getting antsy about WSB!
Originally posted by OceanSwimmer
Let us know what's happening out there. The local hunters in San Diego are getting antsy about WSB!

Will do. But I have to say that in three years of freediving in local waters, I've yet to definitely see a white sea bass. I've _heard_ them 2 or 3 times -- as I'm sure you know they have a very distinctive croak. But since I usually have a camera in my hand, I'm typically inside the kelp as opposed to out on the leading edge of the reef where I'm told the big fish hang out.

My main concern is that this is usually the time of year that the water turns green for a couple of months (although last year it stayed that way long through summer and fall). So I may have to switch from wide-angle to macro ...
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