Wetpixel Ultimate Indonesia 2011 Step Four: Go see Norm

It has taken me ages to write about this trip. In part due to the shock of being back at home and work after such a long break (longest ever for me actually). And I find I’m a little prone to post holiday melancholia. It didn’t help that I had a Dementor disguised as a man working for me and a difficult boss. It didn’t help that I had something like 4,000 holiday snaps, most of which were ordinary, and none of which I knew what to do with. It really didn’t help that I was now in a permanent “wish I was somewhere else” state of mind. And it didn’t help that the cat was acting like a psycho.

Whithering look from Cat

So I did what all right thinking people do – I spent time in the consulting rooms, with Norm (www.indepthscuba.com.au). I don’t know what it is about Norm but just hanging out with Norm can make things better.

Norm, just makes things better

Like the long, hot trip back from Apo Island

Norm with Josh, who also makes things better

Who, at that time, were making my first dive with sharks better. True I had to be wrangled into the water –

Wrangled by daughter

Well, it was hair raising. It was gloomy down there and, to get to the entrance of the cave, we had to cross a channel that 30 or so grey nurse sharks were patrolling. But that’s all a different story. How was I to know that diving with sharks would turn out to be one of life’s great pleasures. Norm knew.

This is how Josh makes things better –

Thanks Josh, I feel way better now

This is how Norm makes things better –

It really was a dark and stormy night at sea

Turn it into a pyjama party – sweet

It worked a treat. Underwater, those Felix the Cat pjs glowed the most beautiful luminous purple I forgot all about the dark and stormy sea.

That’s Damo kneeling down in front. He makes things better by telling you to go eat some concrete.

This is how Phoebe makes things better –

Haha – drink concrete Damo

And really, I was in a complete post holiday funk.

I felt like this all the time, not just Mondays

Sigh. Norm makes things better by smiling and saying things like “How good’s that Jenster!”. Slowly, quality time with coffee, portuguese tarts and Norm worked its magic and I stopped being such a cry-baby. I decided it wasn’t so bad that I’d discovered diving so late. I decided it wasn’t so bad that I had a job, that paid enough to go diving. I gave the Dementor what-for in his performance appraisal and I decided to be the best 2iC that boss ever had (and then leave Bwahahaha). I bought Lightroom and spent a long time trying figure that out. I decided I never did like that cat much anyway. And I booked onto another dive trip.

I love you Normie.

But look, it’s passed midnight and I still haven’t written about the Wetpixel trip.

For the avoidance of any doubt, the Wetpixel Ultimate Indonesia 2011 trip was fantastic, the people were not just sensational photographers and knowers of all things oceanic, they were great people, funny, generous, easy to be with (and that’s my highest compliment), the itinerary was to die for, the boat luxurious, the cruise director (the now famous “The Mighty Bevan”) a total scream and the guides had eyes in the back of their heads.

Sigh. I’ll have another crack at a trip report on the weekend (maybe I’ll sub-title it “How Come My Photos Just Got Better“) and leave you with an Indonesian sunset to go on with.

World famous photographers know when it is the right time to start climbing a hill so as not to miss the light, I miss them


Postscript – I’m back dating the publish dates of this so that it appears in the right order. Shoot me. It’s my blog, made by my daughter Claire, because that’s how she makes things better.



Wetpixel Ultimate Indonesia 2011 Step Two: Pack

A quick adjustment to my return flight from KUL-SYD to KUL-DPS-SYD, book hotels, transfer the money (bloody banks), organise a visa, send Dive Damai details and I was set.

Who am I kidding? Travel and accommodation arrangements are just the start of organising a dive trip. Pretty soon I’m drowning in decisions about updating bits of dive gear (read purchases), travel doctor appointments (more purchases), new for me, photography equipment (actually quite a lot of purchases, thank you Backscatter) and the final horror, packing, which naturally led back to more decisions and more purchases.

Shiny new things

This all gets a bit time consuming and takes up too much space in my brain. I would be away for about 7 weeks so I resorted to lists – only to discover that lists attract some pretty malevolent universal forces.  Like an ever expanding universe and the Laws of the Void – every time I crossed something off the list more items would need to be added. I almost needed a red sign and Hubble Law (v = Hor), to measure the distance between the start of my list and its end.


And then there’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics – order always moves towards chaos – also in full operation. Adding a camera, housing, tray with arms, strobe and iPad, creates an exponential increase in things to pack. Batteries, spare batteries (5 types), five different battery chargers, optical cables, spare cables, spare O-rings (4 different types), O-ring grease, soft cloths, wipes, screw drivers and allen key, stick thingos, memory cards, memory card reader and cords, cords and more cords.  I thought I would end up having a serious anxiety attack. List, gather the things, check, pack, worry, re-check, find that something was missing, list, shop, check, pack, worry…

This is just some of the cords

And all this stuff added weight.  I don’t sweat paying excess baggage fees, they are worth having the right gear with you – but travelling light is a bit of a point of honour with the guys I’ll be with on the first leg of this trip so I’ll need to harden up for some serious bagging out. Far worse, it means more decision making. How best to spread the load, how much weight do I want to be lugging around in carry-on? What can I safely pack in the check-in bag?  Yikes, how much can I fit into my check-in bag?

Despite the failure of quantum physics to vanquish infinity, I did actually have to leave the country so there was an eventual end to the madness. But honestly, it’s a wonder I ever got out of the house. As it was, Norm had to sweet talk the check in counter person.  He has such a way with ladies!

Then a couple of good mates on the first leg leant me an extra arm for the strobe, an 8 AA battery charger with some extra batteries and a spare optical fibre cable from their camera kits to take on the second leg (thank you Rob and Pete). Sounds ludicrous given the amount of stuff I had already packed, but these additions were useful – following an ant invasion, Cor and Julie needed to use the battery charger, the extra arm on the strobe was genius and the borrowed batteries held their charge longer than my original ones. More friends on the first leg volunteered to carry about 4kg of unnecessary clothing I had packed, back to Australia for me (thank you Carolyn and Andrew). Still my check-in bags (that’s right, plural) for KUL-DPS weigh in at 38kg and Norm and Briony are somewhere over the Arafura Sea.  I felt obliged to warn the Dive Damai contact.

Eric sent a reassuring email and as soon as I met up with the Wetpixel group at the airport, it was obvious. I was about to go diving with some serious, and seriously good photographers.  While I had been fretting over spare cords and batteries, these folk were carrying spare “bodies” (that’s cameras to you and I), and multiple lenses for underwater shooting and others specifically for topside shots, dome ports, a selection of strobes, housing and arm set ups that required their own flotation devices, and compact cameras just for fun. Plus all the associated paraphernalia.

This is just some of the gear

I immediately adopted the term “holiday snaps” as my own and prepared to stand back and watch in awe.

After the trip I came across this. It turned out I had been seriously fretting over an amount of camera gear that was only marginally more than Eric carries around with him every day. What a cry-baby.


Somewhere on the interwebz is a discussion with Eric during which he shows what’s in his travel photography bag – it is eye popping. I’d have to be hospitalised if I had to check and pack that lot.

As for me, once settled onto the beautiful Damai II, I started a new list entitled – “Things I wish had been on my original list” and of course this evolved into a longer and more chaotic list “Priority additional things to bring on the next trip”.  Bloody quantum physics.