• Across the Pond: Scuba Diving in the UK

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    Today’s blog installment is a guest post by a new diving friend from across the pond, Iain Sharp. 

    Dive sites around the United Kingdom

    I have been following and tweeting with Sheryl for a little while now and I was delighted when, after learning of my desire to blog a little more, being given the honour to contribute to her pages too.

    To give you some background, I am based in Northern England and a lot closer to the (old) York rather than the New York! I have been scuba diving for many years and given that in England you’re never more than about 80 miles from the sea in any direction, a lot of my diving has been around the waters of this island.

    The way that many people learn to scuba dive here in the UK may be different to the way that many people learn elsewhere in the world. Whilst there are the ‘resort course’ people who learn intensively whilst on vacation at a foreign destination and dive stores who offer a range of courses from the likes of PADI and other organisations, many people learn to scuba dive in the UK through a club environment. Whilst both of the other methods are perfectly legitimate ways to learn to dive, I’d like to tell you a little more about learning with a club as it is probably not something that you’re overly familiar with.

    The club will usually have a (swimming) pool session at local pool one evening a week and there is also a social meeting or gathering in that other great British institution, the pub, on a weekly basis too. Whilst the members all pay a fee in to the club, there is no profit taken from the organisation and in another Corinthian demonstration of commitment, the instructors that teach for the club don’t take payment for their skills either. Since no one is making a profit, many clubs can afford their own sets of equipment, so that you don’t have to go buy lots of expensive kit or invest the monies in to things like their own rigid inflatable boats (remember, not far to tow it to the sea either!)

    Scuba diving in the UK can be a mirror for life in general. The clubs are great sources and exchanges of information. This avoids the making of mistakes yourself and the use of more experienced people for their guidance. Certainly in life, it is very difficult to succeed without the help of others and surprisingly, a lot of this information and guidance is available without huge cost. It is often available for free or certainly inexpensively. Furthermore, with modern communication methods like the internet, message boards and blogs there is no shortage of information or guidance ‘out there’.

    Given that the British are supposed to be a sea-fairing nation, there is also no shortage of nautical advice available for divers, however the seas around the UK are notoriously fickle in places and many dives in the sea need careful planning.

    Perhaps the first piece of planning, especially for those that experience their diving in more tropical climates, is dealing with the cold. The waters around Britain, even in the height of a warm Summer, rarely exceed the low 60s Deg.F and a drysuit is pretty much essential all the year around.

    Tidal movement at some sites can also be quite fierce and knowledge of the tides and charts is also useful. Generally, for scuba, dives are aimed for ‘slack’ water when the tides is not moving and there is a small time window to take advantage of the lack of current. If this is missed, some sites become dangerous / un-diveable at the height of the tidal movement and sweeping an unwary diver several miles away, with the need for the involvement of the rescue services to assist them.

    Again, there are parallels with life in general. Planning for the future is essential and whilst life in general does not have it down physical chart / map, there is certainly a sizeable amount of navigation to be undertaken and storms to be avoided. Much of the diving that is done around the UK is pre-planned and like icebergs, hitting the water safely and successfully is merely the part of the iceberg that shows above the water. The planning and organizational part, including the clear instructions to everyone in the team as to what is expected of them and where they need to be (often this is time-critical, given the tidal movement) is often done some days before the actual dive takes place. There are even times that due to the weather or other circumstances, when the safest way forward is to cancel plans and come back again another time and try them. It wasn’t a case that the plan itself was ‘wrong’ or not up to the task, but merely because of things beyond the control of everyone contrived to stop the successful execution of the plan. Diving in the UK requires a certain amount of pragmatism that should also be transferred to life in general!

    I find scuba diving to be a great way of keeping my own life in balance. It nurtures the human spirit to explore and see what is out there and beyond. It is non-competitive, learning and often cathartic experience. It allows an all too brief observation and entry in to an alien world that is often so close to our very doorsteps. It also provides excellent exercise opportunities and is a great way of getting fitter. I also hope this blog has given you some ideas of how some of the skills used in successful scuba diving can also be used to enhance your wider life in general, bringing your success both above and below the waves.

    Guest Contributer: Iain Sharp is a scuba instructor based in Northern England. Visit his website: www.fivemetrestop.com. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter: @FiveMetreStop.


  • Sony Action Cam Video Part 2: Take a Swim with me!

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    Asphalt Green Pool

    I promised I’d update you on my efforts with my SONY ACTION CAM that I was given for the Moving 212 project, so here it is! When I last left off I was the proud new owner of a Sony Action Cam plus all the accessories that I would need to create stellar action footage for my part in the Moving 212 project. My assignment  was to produce two, 5 minute videos doing something active. My first attempt was to be taken while swimming laps at my gym, Asphalt Green. I placed the Action Cam into it’s waterproof housing, along with the supplied anti-moisture pad, grabbed my goggles, swimsuit and cap and headed for the pool. For this first try, I placed the camera on the side of my google strap with the strap attachment, turned the camera on to shoot and proceeded to swim.

    I couldn’t check out what my footage looked like until I got home and uploaded it to my computer. There were a few things that I noticed once I did this. First – it’s important to make sure that when attaching the camera, you make sure that it is right-side up! The first clip was all taken upside down! Yikes! Luckily, I could adjust that in quicktime so all was not lost. The next thing that I noticed was that having the camera on the side of my head was not the best position for it since every time I turned my head to breathe, the camera turned with it!

    Sony Action Cam on Neoprene belt

    This is how my Action Cam looked on the neoprene belt that I rigged to hold it onto my back while swimming.

    Next time I ventured into the pool I wanted to try another angle, having the camera on my back. Unfortunately, the only attachment that the people at Sony didn’t give me was one that could accomplish this. So I had to use some good old-fashioned ingenuity. I had a neoprene belt that used to hold my old waterproof iPod for swimming with tunes (now I have one that fits on my google strap). I attached one of the adhesive mounts that came with my camera to the plastic pocket that used to hold the iPod. Then using a needle and thread, I sewed the plastic pocket down so that the camera would sit flat against the belt when I put it on. With that figured out I headed off once again to the pool. I shot a few different variations, changing the positioning of the belt and camera to see what I would come up with – even turning the camera backwards to hopefully get my feet kicking. What I didn’t realize until I got the footage home was that since the Sony Action Cam has a very wide angle lens, anything right in front of it, up close looks very big! So you can imagine my chagrin to see what it made of my rear! That footage will never see the light of day!

    Any way, check out the video below for a sneak peek at what will hopefully be part of my final video to be on exhibit at the Sony Store on Madison Avenue for the Moving 212 project!

  • Ready…Set…Action! Behind the Scenes for my Sony Action Cam Video Shoot

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    Last week I received an email selecting me to represent NYC in a very cool project called the Moving 212 sponsored by Sony and Flavorpill. My assignment: pick up a SONY ACTION CAM from the NYC Sony Store, along with a bundle of mounting accessories (which I get to keep!) and shoot some video from the unique perspective that only I can see while doing something…er…active! The Sony Action Cam gives you the ability to capture action from a variety of views not possible with a regular camera.

    I arrived at the Madison Avenue store on Tuesday morning and was introduced to Tim, one of the store Sony Experts who was going to train me on using the Action Cam and all of its’ accessories. No sooner did I sit down when Tim brought over a shopping bag packed full of some pretty cool swag!


    Tim spent about an hour showing me how the Action Cam worked. He even showed me this cool app called Sony PlayMemoires that I downloaded from the App Store which allows me to view what the camera sees and change the settings right from an iPhone or Android device as long as you are in a wi-fi area. We couldn’t get the app to work on my iPhone in the store but I was able to figure it out when I got home. So I am able to use my iPhone, my iPad and my Google Nexus 7 Tablet…cool!

    When I left the store I headed home to plan my upcoming shoots! I have to deliver 2, 5-minute video clips using the Sony Action Cam. Since I won’t be skiing during the time frame that I have, I decided to try out my camera in the swimming pool. Later that afternoon, I got a call from Brian at the agency with some suggestions as to how I could best film myself in the pool.

    Armed with my new camera, waterproof case, google mount and headband mount, I headed off that evening to the Olympic pool at my gym, Asphalt Green to see what cool footage I could get. I first attached the camera to my goggle strap and started to swim laps. I swam for about 40 minutes, all the while changing around the camera position as best I could as well as trying out a few different strokes. I wouldn’t know how it all looked till I got home and could view the footage on my computer so I was shooting blind, so to speak.

    When I got home and took a look at the footage, I realized a few things. First, I need to make sure that the camera is right side up where I place it (the first bunch of laps I swam were upside down!) Thankfully, QuickTime allowed me to correct that on the computer! I also realized that placing the camera on my google strap was not the best idea since each I turned my head to breathe, the camera turned with me! A whole lot of footage like that will be sure to give someone a headache watching it! A better position I think would be on my back so the camera can capture more of me swimming. With all of the stuff that Sony gave me, the one thing missing was a belt ;to strap around my waist. But not to be deterred by that detail, I rigged up something that will hopefully work. I had a neoprene waist belt that I had bought to hold my waterproof case for my old iPod that I no longer use. I used one of the adhesive mounts that came with the camera to the plastic on the belt and tonight I am going to see how it works!

    Stay tuned for my next post which will take you with me on swim #2! Till then, as my Life is Balance swim t-shirt says, “Don’t Forget to Breathe!”

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