Now I’m a reasonable diver, but a rubbish underwater photographer. Even I was stunned by the quality of the photos that I was managing to take after just one session.
Add light! Keep the camera still! Check what your strobe is pointing at by using a pencil-like torchlight, because under water objects look closer than they are. Work different angles and exposures to provide choices for your shot.
It’s easy to say, but terribly easy to forget. Especially when you’re eyeballing a teeny-tiny porcelain crab, or trying to get a shot of the mermaid statue without brushing against the fire coral.
Grand Cayman is an island that offers entertainment 24/7. But as we say in the UK, a grand don’t come for free! It’s certainly not a cheap place to visit, although the mostly North American visitors see it as great value.
That’s because if you have the energy and the inclination, you can pack a year’s worth of activity into a week-long stay.
Let’s put it this way, if you came here with a bored teenager and let them loose with a credit card, you simply wouldn’t see them for dust. They’d be jet-skiing, snorkelling, sailing, diving, sun-bathing, restaurant-hopping, sunset-gazing… basically, non-stop fun.
They’d likely be asleep for the entire journey home, wearing a massive, tired smile, an inappropriately bright “I Love Cayman” T-shirt and clutching a half-eaten slice of pizza from the night before. Or perhaps that was just me.
For getting around on Grand Cayman you can easily hire a car at the airport, but it’s not a huge island. Dive-centres are close to hotels, and those that aren’t will come and collect you.
It’s also very easy to grab a taxi or make use of the much cheaper minibuses that ply their trade at numerous stops up and down the Seven Mile Beach road (mostly used by hotel staff).
The capital, George Town, is generally a quiet place until a cruise ship arrives, and then it can become tricky to find parking.
LITTLE CAYMAN is a short hop away on a small plane. It offers peace and loveliness, and stupendously amazing dives on Bloody Bay Wall. Grand Cayman might have seven miles long, but on Little Cayman you have seven miles down…
About 10m below me, a moray eel is slinking in and out of the coral like a piece of free-flowing silk.
Following a short distant behind it are two large grouper. They’re acting a bit like sniffer-dogs, exploring the places the moray has visited, hoping to pick up a fleeing fish or a discarded morsel.
I’m transfixed. I’ve never been able to observe this behaviour before. Here, the fabulous visibility and dizzyingly sheer drop-off allow you this type of intimate glimpse into life on the reef.
Gazing down into the infinite blue depths, all around you, above you and below you the fish are bustling about their business on a vibrant reef-wall.
You could dive the same spot all year round and never be bored with it.
Christmas tree worm photo from the masterclass.
Staying at the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman is very different to the Grand Cayman experience. The comparative quietness is almost overwhelming.
You walk along the boards across the sand to the door of your beach bungalow. The view is picture-postcard perfect and the beach is beautifully, peacefully, empty! No jet-skis, just palm trees.
In the evening, the sunset fills the entire sky with amazing pink and orange colours, and then the stars take over the darkness. Who needs TV when you can just turn your gaze upwards? It’s a little piece of heaven.
Southern Cross seems to be run by expat Brits and Kiwis – essentially people who have come here to dive. So the focus is clear, and the vibe is calm and laid-back.
Everyone arriving here is treated as an adult rather than a customer. You’re responsible for running your own tab at the bar. You make sure you arrive at the jetty on time to catch the boat for the morning dive.
The Central Caribbean Marine Institute is also based on Little Cayman. It runs courses and internships, and gives regular packed-out talks in the evenings at Southern Cross.
These are highly recommended for any diver who is interested in the marine environment, and certainly go down very nicely with your post-dive beer or glass of wine.