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  • Image Editing with GIMP | ATA/BAR Divers

    Free & Easy Underwater Image Editing with GIMP Bottom Line : Looking for a cheap and easy software fix for your imperfect digital underwater images? Give GIMP a try. GIMP, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program Those of us at ATA/BAR DIVERS have been called many things of the years, but none of us have ever been accused of being underwater photographers. Sure, we love our little GoPro ® cameras and underwater lights, but our rigs—and general photographic knowledge—pale in comparison to some of the set-ups regularly seen on dive outings. While we may know our place in the true underwater photographers’ world, it does not keep us from trying to find that perfect shot, in spite of our underpowered equipment. Recently on a dive at Anacapa Island , a Garibaldi , with its unusual and almost human-like lips, took a fancy to us and our GoPro® camera and Underwater Kinetics lights. The water conditions were good but not perfect, and to add additional injury to this photo was the floating string that attaches the Polar Pro® Switchblade 2.0 macro lens to the camera housing, which enabled the close-up photo of this golden fish with its funky lips. The photo seemed salvageable but I needed help from an image editing program to deal with the lens twine and the so-called backscatter , which is basically the illumination of particulate (floating bits of junk) in the water by camera or natural lighting. Off to the internet we went, looking for a solution that didn’t have a deep learning curve. One diver blogged about GIMP , the Gnu Image Manipulation Program . The price was right (free but donations gladly accepted) and it did exactly what was needed to correct backscatter, errant twine and other image imperfections. GIMP is an open source project that has been around since 1996. It is as easy—or as challenging—a program as you want to make it. We quickly found that the Healing Tool was magical and a favorite in dealing with imperfections, followed by the Clone Tool. Beyond managing image imperfections, the available tools are seemingly endless, but one you might want to examine closely is Color Management. If you find your red lens overpowers ambient light underwater, you can quickly try to tweak colors by using the multiple tools found under the Colors dropdown menu. The list of available tools could go on, but it won’t. If you are an avid (but uneducated) underwater photographer who is not willing to spend gobs of money or months of time learning a top-end image editing program, but want some great results for no investment, download a free copy of GIMP today. You should have visible results within minutes!

  • ATA/BAR Divers | PADI Rescue Diver Courses

    PADI Rescue Diver Course As a courtesy to local diving enthusiasts and potential scuba students, we offer this list of scuba class courses and schedules. These links reflect the latest information available from the noted PADI training facility on each class page. ATA/BAR Divers does not make or accept training class reservations. Please call or visit the respective PADI training facility to sign-up for classes. Prices subject to change —and classes subject to cancellation —without notice.

  • Review: Scurfa Watches | ATA/BAR Divers

    Scurfa Watches: Made for Deep Divers with Shallow Pockets Bottom Line : Every once in a while we run across a product that we want to tell everyone about. So is the case with Scurfa Watches and its Diver One watch: Traditional, sturdy, beefy, dense, easy to read, and well priced. We were recently in the market for a dive watch—something traditional, sturdy, beefy, dense, easy to read, and not too expensive. Consumer market research began and we happened upon some outstanding reviews of Scurfa Watches . Yes, Scurfa . We were particularly intrigued by the watch’s reasonable price and the company’s story . We whittled down the competition to two timepieces: (1) The incomparable Citizen Promaster Diver , and (2) The Scurfa Diver One . We decided to go with the relative newbie to the watch market and we couldn’t be happier. Among its many outstanding features, the Diver One is rated to 1,000 feet and has a domed sapphire crystal that makes reading time underwater a breeze. The second-hand is prominent—particularly helpful for dive instructors when conducting timed scuba training exercises. It’s solid, attractive, and classic design gets lots of compliments on dive boats. (It even looks good on a female diver’s wrist.) The watch’s rubber band is sufficiently large enough to work with a 7mm wetsuit. The Scurfa line of dive watches continues to expand with its latest offering, the striking Bell Diver 1 , with a rated depth of 1,640 feet. It’s price point is higher than the Diver One, but its unique look deserves your look. If you are in the market for a classic dive watch but have pockets that aren’t as deep as you dive, we suggest you give Scurfa some serious consideration. ​ This product review is solely the opinion of ATA/BAR DIVERS as a product consumer and is provided without compensation, affiliation or consideration of any kind. Figure 1. The Scurfa Diver One. Figure 2. Caseback of the Scurfa Diver One. Figure 3. Profile of the Scurfa Diver One.

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  • Review: Indigo Industries TAC Fin | ATA/BAR Divers

    Do These Fins Even Work? Indigo Industries proves—once again—that a small fin can do big things underwater. Meet the shorter and lighter TAC Non-Military fin. Bottom Line How short and light can a scuba fin go and still maintain a high level of performance? INDIGO INDUSTRIES pushes the envelope and delivers with the TAC Non-Military fins. Bigger is not always better, and a scuba gear company you may not yet know is out to prove that very point by pushing the boundaries of conventional scuba diving equipment with their latest offering: The TAC Non-Military fin . We have written about INDIGO INDUSTRIES and their innovative fin, the Defiant XT, before. If you are not familiar with our backstory on the Defiant XT, please check it out here . Figure 1. Twin Jets (left), Defiant XT (center), and TAC Non-Military (right). Indigo Industries TAC Non-Military Maximum Length: 18.5 inches Maximum Fin Width: 11 inches Centerline Length: 17 inches Weight: 2 lb 2.2 oz each fin with Indigo spring strap Scubapro Twin Jets Maximum Length: 24.75 inches Maximum Fin Width: 10 inches Centerline Length: 24.75 inches Weight: 2 lb 12.5 oz each fin with third-party spring strap Indigo Industries Defiant XT Maximum Length: 20.5 inches Maximum Fin Width: 10 inches Centerline Length: 19 inches Weight: 2 lb 7.5 oz each fin with Indigo spring strap We've been diving the Defiant XT since its introduction to the dive market, and for reasons described elsewhere, we love them. Then came along the TAC... We had to try a pair out. ​ When the TACs arrived, our first impression was "Do these fins even work?" The TAC fins are two inches shorter, one inch wider, and five ounces lighter (per fin) than its older sibling, the Defiant XT. Compared to the venerable Scubapro Twin Jets, the TAC is over six inches shorter and 10.3 oz lighter (per fin). INDIGO INDUSTRIES fins get some interesting looks on the dive boat and underwater, and for good reason: We can't think of another dive fin on the market that casts a similar shadow. Indeed, INDIGO's fins have broken the mold when it comes to what a dive fin can look like while still performing like its larger counterparts. ​ ​ The TAC and Defiant XT perform similarly. Propulsion and maneuverability are comparable. The TAC fin is negatively buoyant but its lighter characteristics were immediately noticeable; a quick modification in body position addressed this difference easily. ​ We found the bottoms of the new TACs to be quite slippery on the boat deck. For this reason, we suggest roughing the bottom up across the boat deck, concrete, asphalt, or some other surface in order to remove the slick sheen. ​ INDIGO's new spring straps worked well. The strap holds the fin firmly in place. ​ Used with a size 14 Henderson 5 mm Molded Sole Gripper Boot , we found the TAC fin pocket to be tight, which is helpful when avoiding unnecessary midfoot flexion. But we could not get the foot pocket to fit a new pair of size 14 ​Henderson 7 mm Quick Dry Aqualock Boots . ​ We will continue diving with the TAC Non-Military fin and look forward to trying out one of INDIGO's latest offerings: The Bionic AF Omin-Directional Carbon Fiber Standard fin . Figure 2. Defiant XT (left) and TAC Non-Military. Figure 3. TAC Non-Military with Indigo spring strap.

  • Review: Olympus TG-4 | ATA/BAR Divers

    Olympus TG-4: Simply Add Water for Stunning Aquatic Imagery Bottom Line : Every once in a while we run across a product that we want to tell everyone about. So is the case with the Olympus TG-4 camera and the Olympus PT-056 underwater housing. We love our GoPro cameras but they do have a purpose. Think about it: When was the last time you saw a GoPro TV ad featuring still images? Exactly... It was this lack of still photo chutzpah that made us venture out to find a reasonably priced, smallish underwater camera to take good ol' photos with. ​ If you've done any recent research on this topic, no doubt you have run across countless reviews of the Olympus TG-4 (MSRP $380). One review in particular caught our attention: Backscatter's Jim Decker gave a glowing review that is almost too good to believe: "For the price, the TG-4 is unbeatable..." Could it be true? The answer is a resounding YES! The TG-4 is an amazing camera. ​ With about 20-seconds of "preparation and training," i.e. "How do you turn this thing on?," these images (Figures 1-3) were taken during a recent Channel Islands dive trip. Visibility was particularly poor with turbulent sea conditions that put lots of floating junk between the camera lens and intended subjects. ​ Figures 1-3 were literally point-and-click photos, so the results were not expected to be much. We were stunned by the clarity and detail in the photos. Native resolution for the TG-4 is 4608 x 3456 and files average about 3 MB each. ​ The camera, housing (Olympus PT-056 , MSRP $300) and external light source (Sola 3000 , MSRP $600, may be out of production) were configured for these photos as depicted in Figure 4. As full list of hardware (tray, handle, clamps and mounts) were purchased from the helpful folks at Backscatter and will be detailed here later. ​ The TG-4 also takes video in *.MOV format using an color auto-correction (replacing reds at depth) with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080. Does it compare to GoPro video quality? We have to say YES! again. Underwater video examples include: Socorro Island, Mexico Anacapa & Santa Cruz Islands, California ​ We agree with Jim Decker: The TG-4 is an amazing and simple camera for underwater photo enthusiasts who aren't enthusiastic about spending $10,000 for a camera rig. ​ Figure 1: 1/200s, f/3.2, ISO 100, Focal Length: 5.1mm Figure 2: 1/400s, f/2.8, ISO 100, Focal Length: 4.5mm Figure 3: 1/125s, f/3.2, ISO 125, Focal Length: 5.1mm ​ Additional Equipment Shown in Figure 4 An external light source can be mounted to the PT-056 underwater camera housing by using a cold shoe mount , but we found the camera, housing and Sola light a bit unwieldy to handle using the camera housing itself... so we added a real handle and tray to our rudimentary rig. We will likely add a tray extension , another handle, and a second light to balance the lighting out. All items were acquired through Backscatter.com : ​ Sola Ball Mount Kit Ultralight Mount Clip Ultralight Tray Tray Handle T-Bolts and Washers for Tray ​ This product review is solely the opinion of ATA/BAR DIVERS as a product consumer and is provided without compensation, affiliation or consideration of any kind. Figure 1. Cropped, unretouched photo of a Garabaldi damselfish taken with the TG-4. Figure 2. Cropped, unretouched photo of a green anemone taken with the TG-4. Figure 3. Cropped, unretouched photo of a kelp bass taken with the TG-4. Figure 4. Olympus TG-4 + PT-056 housing + Sola 3000 video light with Backscatter tray, handle, clamp and mounts.

  • Toxic Effects of Sunscreen on Coral | ATA/BAR Divers

    Toxic Sunscreens: Impact on Coral Reefs & Other Sea Life Bottom Line Protect yourself from the sun by wearing SPF-rated clothing to decrease the need for sunscreen use. Protect coral reefs and other sea life by avoiding sunscreen products with the active ingredient oxybenzone (benzophenone-3) and a host of other potentially harmful chemicals. Educate fellow divers and students on the impact of sunscreens on the underwater environment. Be a role model and use only sunscreens that are free from harmful ingredients identified by independent researchers. Sunscreens marked “reef safe” may not be! Read the contents label. Use sunscreens that contain non-nano titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. The Problem As open water divers, we find ourselves in the sun a lot, and the regular application of sunscreen has become part of our dive day regimen. But sophisticated sunscreen consumers we were not. Our sunscreen buying “research” started and ended when we found a sale at our favorite big-box retailer. Over the years, sloshing mask water and sweaty brows contaminated our eyeballs with sunscreen lotion applied to our face. The results were anything from stinging eyes to dilated pupils and outright episodes of temporary blindness. Our search for tear-free sun protection made us realize that some of our favorite sunscreen brands actually harm the very coral we dive to enjoy. We clearly had missed the news: Research has shown that Oxybenzone (Benzophenone3) and other common sunscreen ingredients adversely impact the growth of coral, and there is a growing effort to ban sunscreens containing these harmful ingredients. ​ Community Action MEXICO. Along Mexico’s Riviera Maya, aquatic eco-nature parks like Xcaret and Xel-Há confiscate sunscreens from inbound visitors containing ingredients like: Octocrylene Benzophenone Butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane Hexyldecanol cetyl dimethicone methylparaben polyethylene Propylparaben, and Butylcarbamate ​ The park replaces harmful chemical sunscreens with a “biodegradable sunscreen” considered more ecologically friendly. ​ U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS. Sunscreens containing oxybenzone, octinoxate and octocrylene are now banned, according to the Los Angeles Times . ​ BONAIRE. Look for this diving mecca to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate on January 1, 2021 . The Bonaire Island Council approved this measure during a 2018 meeting, according to InfoBonaire . ​ HAWAII. In 2021, Hawaii will prohibit sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Back in May 2018, the state legislature sent Senate Bill 2571 to the governor for signature. ​ KEY WEST. In Florida, the Key West City Commission voted to ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Read the New York Times story. ​ THAILAND. The country of Thailand has banned sunscreens containing xybenzone, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor or butylparaben. Read the Bankok Post story. ​ PALAU. In 2020, the country of Palau will be the first nation to ban sunscreens deemed caustic to reefs. Palau is considered one of the world's top diving destinations. Read the New York Times article here . ​ AMERICAN NATIONAL PARKS. The National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, published a flyer called Protect Yourself, Protect Your Reef! that outlines the harmful effects of certain chemical sunscreen active ingredients on coral reefs. ​ How You Can Help If you are a diver, dive instructor, or just an adventurous, above-water sun worshiper, become an informed sunscreen consumer. SPREAD THE WORD! You have the chance to educate friends, family, fellow divers and dive operators about this important topic. Start reading sunscreen labels. If the active ingredients have unpronounceable, chemical-sounding names, there is a good chance you could be adversely impacting coral reefs. ​ Look for sunscreens that use active ingredients like non-nano titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. We have had good luck with no-tear face protection during dives using the following brands: ​ Raw Elements Caribbean Solutions Tropical Sands Kinesys Zinc Ointment ​ The Research We will not rewrite the empirical research conducted on this topic; rather, we will point you to solid links on the harm chemical sunscreens can do to our oceans. Please take our warning: SOME SUNSCREENS THAT CLAIM TO REEF SAFE ARE NOT! Some sunscreen manufacturers have gone so far as to fund junk science studies in an effort to debunk scientific research. ​ Downs C.A., Kramarsky-Winter E., Segal R., et al. (2016.) Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter,Oxybenzone (Benzophenone3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 70(2), 265-288. doi:10.1007/s00244-015-0227-7 [See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26487337 ] Environmental Working Group. (2017.) The Trouble with Sunscreen Chemicals. Retrieved June 3, 2018. [See https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/] ChemSec SIN List. (2018.) International Chemical Secretariat’s SIN (Substitute It Now) listing for Oxybenzone. Retrieved June 3, 2018. [See http://sinlist.chemsec.org/chemical/131-57-7] ​ Danovaro, R., Bongiorni, L., Corinaldesi, C., Giovannelli, D., Damiani, E., Astolfi, P., … Pusceddu, A. (2008). Sunscreens Cause Coral Bleaching by Promoting Viral Infections. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(4), 441–447. doi:10.1289/ehp.10966 [See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291018/ ] Haereticus Environmental Laboratory. (20 Oct. 2015). New Scientific Study Finds Coral Reefs Under Attack from Chemical in Sunscreen Lotions. (Press release). [See http://www.haereticus-lab.org/story_content/ecotox-sunscreen-lotion.pdf] Zafar, H., Ali, A., Ali, J. S., Haq, I. U., & Zia, M. (2016). Effect of ZnO Nanoparticles on Brassica nigra Seedlings and Stem Explants: Growth Dynamics and Antioxidative Response. Frontiers in Plant Science, 7, 535. doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00535 [See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27148347 ] Zamoiski RD, Cahoon EK, Freedman M, Linet MS. 2015. Self-reported sunscreen use and urinary benzophenone-3 concentrations in the United States: NHANES 2003-2006 and 2009-2012. Environmental Research. 142(Oct): 563-567. [See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26298557 ] ​ Links Ban Toxic Sunscreens National Ocean Service Skincare Chemicals and Coral Reefs ​ Updated 15 November 2021 "A Harmful Mix." Time Magazine Infographic on Oxybenzone.

  • ATA/BAR Divers | PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course

    PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Course As a courtesy to local diving enthusiasts and potential scuba students, we offer this list of scuba class courses and schedules. These links reflect the latest information available from the noted PADI training facility on each class page. ATA/BAR Divers does not make or accept training class reservations. Please call or visit the respective PADI training facility to sign-up for classes. Prices subject to change —and classes subject to cancellation —without notice.

  • ATA/BAR Divers | PADI Dry Suit Specialty Diver Courses

    PADI Dry Suit Specialty Diver Course As a courtesy to local diving enthusiasts and potential scuba students, we offer this list of scuba class courses and schedules. These links reflect the latest information available from the noted PADI training facility on each class page. ATA/BAR Divers does not make or accept training class reservations. Please call or visit the respective PADI training facility to sign-up for classes. Prices subject to change —and classes subject to cancellation —without notice.

  • ATA/BAR Divers | PADI Open Water Diver Course

    PADI Open Water Diver Course As a courtesy to local diving enthusiasts and potential scuba students, we offer this list of scuba class courses and schedules. These links reflect the latest information available from the noted PADI training facility on each class page. ATA/BAR Divers does not make or accept training class reservations. Please call or visit the respective PADI training facility to sign-up for classes. Prices subject to change —and classes subject to cancellation —without notice.