Diving Related Things to Do While You Can't Go Diving
We are now in a situation where most of the world is being asked to maintain 'social distance' to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As international travel is restricted, pubs, cinemas and activity centres start to close, what can scuba divers do to keep themselves occupied? Here are a few suggestions to get you started
Re-Read Your Training Manuals
It is my personal experience as a former instructor that many divers never read their training manuals completely, nor the entirety of the course materials when learning online. In fact, one of the most common questions I was asked when teaching professional-level courses was: 'where do I find all this information?' Well, it's right there in the Open Water manual!
Much as the agency-bashers might want to disagree, PADI's entry-level training manuals are actually pretty comprehensive in their explanations of diving physics and physiology, basic decompression theory, safety and equipment. The Adventures in Diving manual, which complements PADI's Advanced Open Water course, has 16 or 17 sections for each of the available Adventure Dives, but most divers only ever read the five which were required for their AOW certification.
Nobody said you can't read them all, and there's a lot of useful and interesting information to be found in the various sections. PADI's Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving is, in my considered opinion, one of the finest recreational diving publications available, if you can get your hands on a copy
Most of the major agencies have course material that is available online, which means if you don't have access to it then you have to pay for it all over again, and PADI's AOW online training only lets you access seven of the 16 Adventure Dives, which I think is a crying shame. If you don't have your own copy of the books, maybe see if you can borrow one from a friend or a friendly dive centre - it could be any agency's material, the entry-level guides mostly cover the same things - and there are plenty of second-hand copies available inexpensively on Amazon and eBay.
Learn How To Use Your Camera
Underwater photography is getting easier and easier, as technology advances and one-click-wonder-auto-filtered picture shooting becomes ever more prevalent. But GOOD underwater photography is not so easy, and although I am not a professional photographer, I would estimate that around 90 per cent of everything I see on 'blogs' is, basically, rubbish.
Great photography requires dedication and patience, and a good understanding of how to manipulate the various functions of a camera, a skill that can only be achieved through practice. The fundamental principles of aperture size, shutter speed, light and composition might need to be applied differently underwater than above the surface, but they are still fundamentals. What does it mean to have a 'bigger f-stop' or a '1/100 shutter'? Why are my pictures too dark or too blurry? What is macro and what is the rule of thirds?
Assuming you have a camera which allows you to manually adjust its settings, dig out or download the user manual and practice by experimenting with the settings while taking exactly the same picture. Focus on the pet cat/dog/hamster/child and take the same picture using the same shutter speed but different aperture settings, with or without flash, and vice versa, and note the difference in the results. Although underwater photography requires some extra skills, getting to grips with the basics will make that essential finding Nemo pic so much better next time you go diving.
Learn How To Edit Pictures
Of course - much that might not have been achieved through the lens can be added or removed later using editing software. You can turn okay images into pretty good images using even the basic photo editing suites that come built into Windows PCs, Macs, and most mobile phones. Cropping the photo to remove unwanted clutter such as extraneous bits of reef, photobombing fish and ponderous dive buddies is a useful tool, and also allows for the subject to be re-framed in a manner more pleasing to the eye.
Filters can do some incredible things but learning how to manipulate each of the components of light in a photograph will bring out the best results - white balancing, contrast, hue, saturation and colour correction of images shot in RAW format (preferable, if not essential) will turn ordinary photographs into outstanding images. Few would disagree that Adobe's Lightroom (for image processing) and Photoshop (for effects and manipulation) are among the best applications and they come with a seven-day free trial period, but a bit of Googling will throw up some free, open-source alternatives such as Darktable and RawTherapee. There are a ton of training videos available on YouTube. Some of them are even useful.
Dream About Diving
Well, of course, we are going to do this a lot while we can't get in the water – but there is a serious point to 'dreaming' about diving. The process of visualisation is often overlooked by recreational divers and yet it can be immensely beneficial to many aspects of scuba diving. From buoyancy control to emergency planning to improving your air consumption, running those processes through your head can actually help you improve your dive skills without ever getting wet. 7
Visualisation is a technique used in a wide range of activities where the repetition of essential movements is imperative - from tennis players meditating on their perfect serve, racing drivers visualising their way around a circuit, musicians playing instruments in their minds - and divers practising their hovers. Find some time, lie back, close your eyes and imagine yourself performing skills from your training course, or swimming your way through a favourite dive.
Imagining that delay between rising and falling using your breath control alone while neutrally buoyant really can help you improve your ability to do so underwater, and may give you an insight into whether or not you might have been overweighted in the past. Is there a dive site where you've experienced problems due to unfamiliarity with the surroundings? Swim around it in your imagination and place yourself where you need to be to achieve your goals or avoid the problem.
Visualisation really helps, give it a go. Stop and take some imaginary pictures while you're at it...!
Swot up on Back Issues
You could say that our 2015 relaunched print issue was designed for occasions exactly like this, although we'd prefer it to be just a long holiday, rather than solitary confinement – sorry, 'social isolation'. Instead of focusing on the latest gadgets and widgets, which become dates very quickly, our art-quality coffee-table publication was designed to be a long-lasting keepsake, rather than a disposable collection of paper sheets.
As a result, we already have almost five years of back issues available in the current format, and more than 70 from the two decades before that. There's so much content it will take a while to get through it all, so why not dig out all your old copies and re-read some of the best articles from the underwater world, accompanied by some of the most fantastic underwater imagery available.
If all of your old copies got lost in the last house move or were maybe accidentally chucked out by the cleaner, or - shock horror - you didn't subscribe in time, or at all, well then, you can get all of them - yes, that's ALL of the magazines we have ever produced since 1995, plus all of our daily content and monthly digests, in digital format for PCs, Macs and smart devices, for just £9.99. Anywhere in the world. Instantly.