With my newly aquired Nikonos V loaded with some Fuji Velvia, my good friend Agung and I had three dives on the USS Liberty wreck in Tulamben, Bali back in November 2010. Only minutes into our second dive whilst exploring the dark volcanic sea floor we were met by thousands of schooling jackfish. They formed a circle around us and continued to put on a show for us and we remained awe struck. At one stage, without realising my regulator had dropped out of my mouth, whilst I sat there wide eyed looking at this amazing event. I then remembered I had a camera and started snapping before remembering to breathe. I took several photos but also made a conscious decision to sit back and enjoy it and not spend all my time fiddling with my camera. I have seen bait balls and schooling fish on documentaries before, particularly on one of my favourites BBC’s “The Blue Planet”. I was always envious of how the photographers managed to not only find schooling fish but also get in the middle of them. Now here I was, experiencing it first hand!
Still in a awe induced stupour, we decided to surface and reload cameras quickly before finding the fish again. Once surfaced we realised that Agung’s video camera had seized up and he did not get any footage. When rewinding my film it also jammed up. We agreed that perhaps it was something that mother nature intended us to enjoy there and then without taking anything away from it except for our memories. I am not at all religious but this was truly a very special and spiritual moment for me.
With the aid of a semi-dark change room and my black t-shirt we carefully removed the jammed film from my camera and placed it in a canister. I then loaded a fresh roll of film in my camera, geared up and returned to the water.
Nervous about taking a taped up film canister in my luggage (particularly with Australia’s reputation of taking things into and out of Bali) I decided to leave the film with Agung. He tried to get the film developed in Indonesia but unfortunately he could not find a lab that could process E-6 slide film. When Agung returned to his job on cruise ships he took the film with him to the Caribbean with the hope of having the film processed when he visited New York. Unfortunately, he did not find the time to have it processed in New York. His ship then completed a trans-atlantic crossing to Europe, along with the roll of film. Several months later another cruise ship friend Michael was cruising on the same ship as Agung. Agung had kindly reloaded the film into a velvia roll and handed the film on to Michael who returned the film to me in Melbourne, Australia last week.
I dropped the film off at my local lab not expecting much from this well travelled roll that had most likely suffered from significant light leak and x-ray damage. I picked up the roll this morning and rushed home, held the negatives up against the light and was really happy to see some photos of the schooling jackfish. There was some minimal light damage but I was really happy to get anything out of the roll.
Now I just need to wait for some warmer weather or a holiday so I can keep practicing with my Nikonos.