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.


Wetpixel Ultimate Indonesia 2011 Step One: Get your leave agreed


I think it is one of the most beautiful words we have and I try to use it as much as humanly possible.

Sometimes you just have to say yes –  when the very idea makes you do that silent, on the spot wiggle of pleasure.

Sometimes you get to shout yes – with a victory punch to the air.

Sometimes, yes is tentative, questioning – like when you are afraid of heights but you know this will be something to remember.

And sometimes, yes can be a strong, confident statement of fact. You just know.  And it’s not a problem to say.

Sigh … because sometimes, someone else has the power of yes and when granted, it releases a great, deep, freedom sigh of relief.

And I was tired. Like everyone else, I’ve been working like a looney and I’m buggered. Late home from work on a Friday, I was stunned to find the Wetpixel Ultimate Indonesia 2011 trip. It started a couple of days after my already, reluctantly approved, 10 day trip to Borneo finished.

Genius. All it would take is yes. Yes from Dan the booking agent and a yes from my boss.

I was pretty shocked to get a yes from Dan within roughly 24 hours.

Really big sigh. So anxious, I’d sent a follow up email offering a brief description of myself, trying to impress – what a good diver I was, how easy going, how enthusiastic I was about underwater photography. A bit pathetic really and completely transparent. Whoever believes those “about me” descriptions.

As it was, I logged my 200th dive on that trip, not long after Phil celebrated his gazillionth. How embarrassing. Hope they hadn’t seen my email to Dan.

Phil 1,000. Eric stopped counting at 2,500 quite some time ago. Still, I was pretty chuffed.

Turned out getting the extra leave approved was the worst. Carrying on like this for 6 weeks seemed to strengthen my case –

Even so, my boss didn’t officially approve my leave until a couple of weeks before departure. I have paid, purchased and almost packed by the time the system recognised that I was really going on leave, for 7 weeks.

Yes. tentative, guilty, wiggle on the spot. confident. yay …

What is it about getting out of the office on the last day before a holiday break? My best laid plans came to nothing. Staying back for a week, 15 hour days, all to make for a clean getaway. No matter what I do, come 3pm on the last day and I’m faced with the awful reality that a 10pm finish is about the best I’m likely to achieve.  Have I packed?!?

Trying to make the point. “this is my last day before holidays”

Now I’m really tired,

What is it about holidays – especially dive holidays – they require so much organisation. The travel parts are tough enough – which trip to pick, international bank transfer payments should be simple but they involve banks. Coordinating international flights to connect with domestic flights in tiny countries, on small planes with no baggage allowance?

Phewwee, I’m frazzled and anxious by the time it comes to leave …

But yes … YES, with a victory punch to the sky,

A tentative nervous yes … I won’t know anyone

A deep, sigh of relief, yes


Yes … just plain Yes.