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Alert Diver is the dive industry’s leading publication. Featuring DAN’s core content of dive safety, research, education and medical information, each issue is a must-read reference, archived and shared by passionate scuba enthusiasts. In addition, Alert Diver showcases fascinating dive destinations and marine environmental topics through images from the world’s greatest underwater photographers and stories from the most experienced and eloquent dive journalists in the business.

FROM THE SAFETY STOP

FROM THE SAFETY STOP PUBLISHER’S NOTE These two photos were taken nearly simultaneously, both with full-frame fisheye lenses. For the photo on the left, the camera’s dome port was within 4 inches of the crocodile’s teeth. For the photo on the right, the shooter was 4 feet away from the action, which significantly altered the perspective. STEPHEN FRINK DENA MINTZ PERSPECTIVE DISTORTION FEAR AND LOATHING IN SOCIAL MEDIA By Stephen Frink I was recently in Cuba (see “Jardines de la Reina: Cuba’s pristine paradise” on Page 68) leading a photo tour on a liveaboard. Since it was summer and school was not in session, my daughter, Alexa, was able to join me. It was a great opportunity for us to spend some quality time together doing what we love: scuba diving and being around interesting marine animals. One of the things I looked forward to was an encounter with crocodiles in the mangroves that I’d seen photographed by others. Dive operators have been conducting such encounters for two decades, and they have learned that divers can interact safely and reliably with some of the subadult American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus). The whole process was pretty interesting. We would travel to a spot commonly visited by crocs, and the guide would call out, “Niño, Niño!” The crocodile he had in mind was obviously habituated to encounters with snorkelers and rewarded with raw chicken for good behavior. This is not to say the interaction is guaranteed though — one day we got skunked. But the second morning was quite productive. Niño came swimming out to us, and we got in the water with snorkels. I had a large housed camera and strobe that I could put between the croc and me. My daughter had her GoPro on a selfie stick that she could use to fend off any approaches that were too close for comfort. Throughout the 40-minute encounter we were never alarmed; in fact, we were excited about our good fortune to have been there at high tide (for optimal water clarity) and about the crocodile’s willingness to get close. The fact that this all happened in a gorgeous mangrove and seagrass environment made it all the more special — such places are typically far more turbid. No one should extrapolate from our good luck with this particular crocodile that the more aggressive species in Australia or Africa are approachable. While this particular encounter was mellow and benign, snorkelers in Raja Ampat, for instance, have been killed by crocodiles inhabiting the blue water mangroves. Photographer Dena Mintz captured the photo above of me at work with my camera; because both the croc and I were on roughly the same plane, the size reference is pretty authentic. But as I maneuvered around the front of the croc and got closer to its open mouth with my extreme wide-angle lens, an optical phenomenon called “perspective distortion” occurred. The object in the foreground (the open mouth of the crocodile) appeared unnaturally massive and intimidating relative to Alexa swimming in the background. Shooters with experience in wide-angle photography know about this and can recognize it in photos, but the image provoked strong reactions from some members of the public. I distribute my images through a variety of stock photography agents, and one works with mass media in the UK and Australia. The crocodile shots went viral. I’d like to think it’s because they turned out so well, but in reading the comments I could see it was mostly because so many people thought it was very irresponsible for a father to expose his daughter to such danger. Here are some examples of the comments (from grindtv.com/wildlife/ daughter-swims-dangerously-close-crocodile-fathertakes-photos-video): 14 | FALL 2016

“It doesn’t matter that the daughter is an adult. For the father to encourage her to swim with a croc was a stupid, stupid thing to do. You can show that the croc’s environment is shrinking without endangering a human. What an idiot!” “Personally, I think the photographer/dad is a bit daft, myself. Go figure … crocodiles eat people for goodness’ sake!” “The risks people will take — even putting their own family in harm’s way — just for a moment of attention. Hope he doesn’t make a habit of it. Seems a very foolish thing to do.” “Very irresponsible and selfish behavior. I am a father of a girl, too (same age as this one), and I would never think of risking her safety like this. Amazing what people do for five minutes of fame!” One comment was less inflammatory: “I’m sick and tired of armchair people using photos and social media as the sole means of assessing an event. Quite frankly, it’s no one else’s business but Stephen’s and his daughter’s. Unless you have an equal amount of experience with diving and sea creatures, you have no basis to be critical.” The whole experience was enlightening. For a moment I felt a little of what Jennifer Anniston must feel every time she goes to the grocery store and sees tabloid headlines speculating that she might be pregnant. I didn’t engage with any of the commenters. Clearly their experiences were different from mine, and my words weren’t going to bridge the experiential divide. This also gave me some insight into the vast gulf in understanding between a general public who will never see the world though our face masks and those of us who know the ocean, its creatures and the realities of life underwater. They may never understand the importance of sharks to our oceans and therefore not comprehend what a massive problem shark finning is. They may never see coral bleaching and thus never understand the implications of climate change. And they may not be able to differentiate marine life that is safe to approach from marine life that’s hazardous. I wish we could help them understand. But most people will never commit to learning about the ocean firsthand as scuba divers and seeing what we see, so consensus will continue to be difficult. AD JIM GARBER STEPHEN FRINK WHAT’S NEW ON ALERTDIVER.COM SEEING LIKE SEIFERT Learn how Douglas David Seifert mastered photography (Page 92), then see more of his excellent imagery in a bonus photo gallery. CARE AND COLLABORATION Leigh Bishop explains how to prepare for a deep wreck expedition on Page 46. Go online to watch a trailer for the film made during his expedition to the Britannic in 2016. BACK IN THE GARDEN Read about Stephen Frink’s trip to Cuba (Page 68), then watch his daughter’s video of the experience and view a bonus photo gallery. LOVING LOOE KEY After reading about Florida’s Looe Key (Page 36), check out the online photo gallery to discover more of what awaits divers there. ALL THIS AND MUCH MORE AWAITS AT ALERTDIVER.COM DOUGLAS SEIFERT LEIGH BISHOP ALERTDIVER.COM | 15