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Trail mix: Outdoors bits and pieces

Snorkelers and divers are forever sharing their stories of fantastic underwater encounters with each other and their land-based audiences. Sometimes, words just can't do the scenes justice. So as more divers seek to carry these memories in ways other than in their heads, it's no wonder improvements in underwater cameras have been coming rapidly in this digital age.

Dive shop owner and instructor Bill Hardman of Aquatic Obsessions in St. Petersburg says point-and-shoot cameras ($15 disposables to $50 reusables) are a fine way to start for those who aren't sure they want to delve deeper in underwater photography. These cameras take about 24 shots, use film and usually are suitable to a depth of about 15 feet, at which point the color red disappears. Some are good enough to go to 32 feet, but the photo quality usually plummets. Another con, Hardman points out, is you can't tell how good a photo is until you develop the film.

Once you make the decision to pursue the hobby further, digital is the way to go. The photo quality and instant feedback makes the experience quite rewarding.

Though water is what the experience is all about, water is the enemy of your camera. So remember Hardman's mantra: "It's not if it's going to get wet, it's when."

Once you come to terms with that and jump in, be prepared to spend around $300 to $500 on a digital camera with a high-quality, water-tight customized housing. Hardman says camera manufacturers Sea and Sea, SeaLife and Bonica produce excellent cameras that have a good track record. Any dive shop that sells cameras can handle all the technical questions.

Though some manufacturers attempt to make after-market universal housings that might fit a digital camera you already own, Hardman advises against it. You don't want to miss a picture because the housing buttons would not operate your camera efficiently.

Starter digital camera

Sea and Sea DX-860G

Cost: $500

Depth: Good to 150 feet

Tech stuff: 8 megapixel; built-in memory of 32 megabytes; takes a multimedia SD card; 2.5-inch LCD viewfinder; 35mm zoom lens range is 35-105mm; optical zoom 3x; internal and external flash with multiple settings; ISO settings of auto, 100, 200, 400; rechargeable Li-Ion battery; weighs 0.26 pounds.

List of five

Cocoa Beach's Matt Keane, 23, was recently recognized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for paddling the entire Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, all 1,600 miles of it. He e-mailed his five favorite spots:

Most remote: The 150-mile section also called the Big Bend Paddling Trail

Most wild: Florida Everglades

Best night paddle: Downtown Las Olas area in Fort Lauderdale, "where you can paddle right past the city nightlife."

Best place for meeting other paddlers: Tampa/St. Petersburg. "While I was paddling the new trail, I had the opportunity to meet with local paddling clubs," Keane wrote. "Tampa Bay won by sheer numbers of members. I believe there were around 250 members in the sea kayakers club."

Best place for an otherworldly encounter: Mosquito Lagoon (near Titusville), where you can see a NASA shuttle launch and the bioluminescence (tiny illuminated creatures that swirl just beneath the surface) in the water.

Outdoors poll

Last month: Which survival show is your favorite? Looks like the former member of the British Special Forces doesn't hold a camera to the guy who goes it alone:

Les Stroud's Survivorman75 percent

Bear Grylls' Man vs. Wild25 percent

(97 votes)

New poll question: You've heard of the Seven Wonders of the World. Which of these local treasures should top a Wonders of Tampa Bay list? Vote at

• Caladesi Island

• Fort De Soto

• Honeymoon Island

• Hillsborough River State Park

• Egmont Key

• Anclote Key

• Weedon Island

• Other (your pick in comments section)

People | Tom Mahoney

What I do: President of Bay Area Bassmasters since it started eight years ago. Started with six guys, now has 100 members, making it the second-largest BASS Federation Nation club in the world behind Lakeland.

Age: 50. Resides: Land O'Lakes

Occupation: Owner of T.A. Mahoney, a marine supply company in Tampa

Largest bass caught: "I put it back, but by the math (applying formula after measuring length and girth), it comes out to 123/4 pounds. Caught it on Lake Istokpoga near Sebring two years ago."

Best advice for a newbie: "Get in a bass club and fish with people who have been doing it and pay real close attention. There's so many little things to know. It's the right color, the right twitch, more than it's just using the right bait."

Early outdoors memories: Going to the family cabin near Lutz in the summer as a kid learning to swim, turtle hunting and waterskiing.

Favorite lakes: 1. Lake Istokpoga, 2. Lake Kissimmee, 3. Lake Tarpon, 4. Lake Guntersville in northeast Alabama, 5. Rodman Reservoir outside Palatka.

Pet peeve: "The lack of respect other boaters give fisherman. Especially jetskis that run between me and the bank I'm fishing."


There are numerous ways to throw a cast net. This Australian site has videos demonstrating two techniques. Plus, the accents are pretty cool, mate.

Use your skills

As part of the Florida Skin Divers Association's 2009 Southern Open Championships, there is an underwater photography contest. Two of last year's photo contest winners were first-timers at underwater picture-taking. Registration for this year's event is June 5, with the deadline for photos to be turned in June 18.


{outdoors-related bits and bites}

Trail mix: Outdoors bits and pieces 02/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 6, 2009 11:41pm]
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