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AD 2016 Q1

The dive site known as

The dive site known as E6 is rich with soft corals. These are all the more engaging with the beams of light that pierce through the perforations in the overhead environment at The Cathedral. The hard-coral formations in the shallows are often quite extraordinary, as I experienced in a series of photos from a 2012 expedition there. To spend a bit more time in Taveuni, we opted not to dive Nigali Pass on this trip. This was a very tough call, and it might have been the first time I’ve ever missed a shark dive on purpose. I revisited previous trip logs to recollect this iconic Fiji drift dive. The pass is a long channel that features almost certain encounters with horse-eye jacks and chevron barracuda. Once divers arrive, bait is strategically placed on the portion of the reef the crew calls “the bleachers.” Red sea bass swarm the bait so eagerly that I think it makes the gray reef sharks hang back a bit. But the sharks come within camera range — 3 to 5 feet away, typically. The site features a large, scenic patch of lettuce coral in very shallow water, which provides an interesting place to offgass at the end of the dive. This 10-day expedition featured many other dives of significance, one of which I hadn’t visited since the beginning of the digital era, which for me was 2001. I guess it is appropriate that the site is called E6, named for the chemical process used for developing certain transparency films, and last time I was there I was shooting Fujichrome Velvia in a Nikonos V. This time I was using a 50-megapixel Canon EOS 5DS, and happily I had far more exposures than the 36 that film had allotted. The ship’s dive log indicated that those who were on a quest to photograph marine life on this dive saw schooling jacks, gray reef sharks, Moorish idols, clown triggerfish and the ubiquitous regal angelfish. With my fisheye lens better suited to large reef scenics, I ignored the reef dwellers and concentrated on the immense soft-coral-decorated foreground, while shafts of light pierced The Cathedral. 74 | WINTER 2016

Here a narrow opening in the reef above allows sunlight to penetrate, giving an almost laserlike quality to the backgrounds. It was particularly satisfying that a dive site I’d first experienced using the photo technology of the past is still so good when revisited with the latest imaging tools of 2015. That is somehow emblematic of the Fiji dive experience. The minimal visitation and the maximal nutrients that continuously drift along these reefs provide some insulation from the passage of time. AD ALERTDIVER.COM | 75

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