Do you fancy the lifestyle of a dive instructor, but don’t want to teach ? Do you enjoy photography ? Or maybe you are already a Divemaster or Instructor and would like to try something different ? Then maybe the life of a photo pro on a dive boat could be for you…
When it comes to working in the dive industry, most people don’t look past the roles of being a Divemaster or an Instructor for an opening to the dive lifestyle. However, there are many other opportunities available, one of which is working as a photographer on the dive boats…
At Lanta Diver, we operate three dive boats – two larger boats and a speedboat for Hin Daeng/Hin Muang – and we have photographers on the larger boats to take photos of the guests enjoying their day snorkelling or diving with the Lanta marine life.
The photographers’ days begin by getting to the boat in the morning, and starting to prepare their equipment for the day – both their dive equipment, and their camera kit. Once the divers are settled on the boat, and have finished their breakfasts, the photographers will usually have a walk around the boat and introduce themselves to the divers/snorkelers, and let them know what their role is on the boat, and gauge their interest in purchasing photos at the end of the day. The next step is to chat with the Divemasters and Instructors about their plans for their groups – routes on the dive sites, and when would be a good time to take some photos of their group. After this, the photographers can start to plan their dives to maximise their chances of getting photographs of all the interested divers and snorkelers, and maybe also take a few photos of the groups setting up their equipment.
In between dives, the photographers will start editing their photos a little, and then chat with the dive staff again about their plans for the second dive, trying to make sure they have all the groups covered over the two or three dives that day. Once the day’s diving/snorkelling is finished, it’s time for a little more editing, and arranging the processed photos, with a few photos of the marine life encountered during the day, to start showing the groups. Once ready to show their day’s work, they will politely ask the groups if they would like to view the slideshow of the photos, and inform them of the prices and how they will get the photos to them.
The Lanta Diver photographers are very experienced in their field, and love their work. They are also happy to share their secrets with you, and have designed a special course for anyone interested in working as a photo pro on dive boats – including classroom, pool, and boat sessions. It is preferred that you are already a dive pro before taking this course, but not compulsory, but you must be an experienced and competent diver with excellent buoyancy skills – the Self-Reliant Diver certification is also recommended. You can also add this course onto your PADI Divemaster course at Lanta Diver, if you are interested..
If you would like to know more about the training, send Nick a quick email, and he will be happy to answer your questions…
Also have a look at Nick’s website to see some of his stunning images !
The no-mask swim skill from Confined Water Dive #4 of the PADI Open Water Course is a skill that often appears during the PADI IDC and the Instructor Exams (IE). There are a few different ways to teach this skill, and the main differences are regarding the organisation of the skill – how to set it up and conduct it underwater. The mechanics of the skill are relatively simple, yet students may be a little anxious before attempting this skill for the first time.
The performance requirements for this skill state a certain distance must be covered during the swim to successfully complete the skill. The first thing to think about when organising this skill then, is to ensure the full 15 metres will be covered. If you are teaching in a pool, then this is very easy to do once you know the dimensions of the pool. However, if you are teaching in confined open water, from a beach, then you may need to measure the distance using a reel or tape measure. A tape measure is obviously already marked out with the distances, but if you are using a reel, you may need to add some distance markers yourself.
I prefer to use a reel, as it is more convenient because it is already a part of my dive equipment, and is easier to stow when not in use. Along the length of my 40m line, I have used a permanent marker to add a mark every 5 metres – as below:
These markings are not just useful for the no-mask swim skill, but for many other skills and dives within the PADI system (e.g. Navigation Adventure Dive, wreck penetration).
Once we are happy that we have a means of ensuring the full 15 metres will be completed, we can think about the other aspects of the organisation of this skill. First, let’s see what PADI’s Guide To Teaching suggests:
The final sentence in the above excerpt from the Guide To Teaching is an important factor to consider when deciding how to organise this skill. I find it more beneficial for the students if they work in buddy teams and take turns guiding each other over the 15 metres, rather than the instructor guiding the students. This strengthens the understanding of the buddy team, makes the skill more realistic as training for the event of a lost mask during a dive, and is extra practice at swimming whilst neutrally buoyant.
During the briefing for this skill, I will let the students know that I will demonstrate the skill with the Divemaster first, and that the students will then perform the skill as buddy teams, switching roles after one buddy team member has completed the skill satisfactorily. The student with their mask in place can guide the student without the mask by swimming alongside, and holding the other student’s first stage with one hand, and their wrist out in front of them with the other hand. Having physical contact with the buddy’s wrist during the skill helps the students stay relaxed, especially if they will close their eyes during the practice. I will also inform them that I will be swimming alongside the buddy team, on the side of the diver without a mask. If I only have one student, then I would take the role of guide as the student performed the skill.
I will also tell the students during the briefing that when they are happy with their neutral buoyancy, they can then flood and remove their mask to perform the skill, and that they should then pass the mask to me. I then hold onto each student’s mask whilst they swim the distance. It is not a requirement to take the masks from the students, but I find it helps with the realism and conduct of the skill. In real life, if they lost a mask, it would not be in their hands. Also, if the instructor has the mask, the student cannot replace the mask too early, before the full 15 metres has been covered. This method also removes the issues of students dropping their masks during the exercise. During an IDC or an IE, this method of teaching has then eliminated two of the problems that a Course Director or PADI Examiner can assign during this skill – your anticipation and actions have prevented problems.
Once I am happy that the student has mastered the skill, and completed the full 15 metres comfortably, then I can signal this to them with a tap on the shoulder, and I can place the mask back in the student’s hand – ready to be replaced and cleared to complete the skill. The same two students would then switch roles, and complete the skill again…
If you have any questions regarding this skill, or any others, please feel free to email and ask us for our advice. Also, if you are looking to complete a PADI Divemaster or IDC programme, please email and ask for further information about our courses in beautiful Koh Lanta, Thailand – firstname.lastname@example.org
Most instructors, or PADI IDC candidates, have few worries regarding teaching the regulator recovery skill. They have performed it many times, and most people would consider it to be one of the ‘easier’ skills to teach. However, with the shift in teaching methodology more towards neutral buoyancy teaching, we just have to be a little careful of meeting the stated performance requirements for this skill when teaching in confined water:
To teach this skill correctly in confined water, we must ensure that the regulator has been recovered from ‘behind the shoulder‘. With the old-style teaching, when the students were on their knees, this was quite easy to achieve with either the sweep method or the reach method of recovery. However, nowadays, when teaching the skill in a more horizontal position, we have to be careful that the recovery was deemed to be ‘from behind the shoulder‘. In a horizontal ‘diving position’, the regulator will naturally fall below the shoulder, and if we just use the sweep method of recovery, our students will not meet the performance requirement.
In this horizontal position – on fin-tips or in mid-water – we must use the reach method of recovery, so that the hand reaches behind the shoulder to recover the regulator. We can also teach the sweep method, so the students learn more and will know two different techniques for recovering their regulator, but the reach method is needed to meet the course performance requirements in confined water.
To teach this method in Confined Water Dive #1, we must first help the students attain neutral buoyancy and a horizontal position. One way of doing this is to add little bits of air to their BCDs as you coax them into the correct breathing pattern for diving (read more about this in a previous blog – here). Once in this horizontal/neutral state, we then continue with the skills from CW#1, including the regulator recovery skill.
During an Open Water Course, I would still teach the sweep method of recovery first, as it is perhaps a little easier. With the confidence gained from this, we can then move on to the reach method of recovery too, and then we will meet the confined water performance requirements. Later on in Confined Water Dive #5, we can then re-practise both methods during the mini-dive, whilst swimming around the pool neutrally buoyant.
When we then move to open water, our students can choose to recover the regulator by either method, as PADI Standards do not stipulate that the regulator must be recovered from behind the shoulder in open water (only in confined water). Personally, I prefer to have the students complete this skill on Open Water Dive #1 whilst swimming along, as they did in Confined Water Dive #5.
Teaching this skill in this manner will help your students be better, more confident divers. By employing this teaching technique, we have not only met the PADI performance requirements, but we have also taught two different recovery methods, and focused on maintaining and improving the buoyancy of our entry-level students – make neutral buoyancy a habit, rather than a skill..
During our PADI IDCs on Koh Lanta, Thailand, we focus on neutral buoyancy teaching, and teaching our students to be good instructors, not just to pass an exam. If you are looking to become a PADI Instructor soon, send us an email if you have any further questions about teaching neutrally buoyant skills. Likewise, if you are already a PADI MSDT, you could join us for your PADI IDC Staff Course and also get an insight into joining the ranks of instructors who teach skills whilst neutrally buoyant…
One of my favourite PADI Specialties to teach is the Digital Underwater Photography Specialty. It can be great fun, but also usually you get to see a big improvement in your students’ photography skills.
The course requires two open water dives, the first of which can be conducted in confined water. Completing this first dive, and the first knowledge review, would also allow you to certify your students to DUP Level 1. I prefer to teach the full Specialty – two knowledge reviews and two open water dives – and certify my students as DUP Level 2 Divers. I also conduct a confined water dive. I aim to schedule this course over two full days:
Day 1: Classroom session in the morning and confined water session in the afternoon
Day 2: Two open water dives
On the first day, I spend the morning in the classroom. We review the students’ knowledge reviews, and get to know the camera they will be using on land first – both in and out of the housing. During the knowledge development session I make sure my students understand all the main concepts – shutter speed, aperture, white balance, depth of field, ISO, scene modes – and make sure they know how to make these adjustments on their camera both in and out of the housing.
In the afternoon of the first day we hit the pool and put everything we learned in the classroom into practise in this relaxed setting, where we can take our time and practise changing our camera settings, and getting good shots. I take a few objects into the pool so the students can practise focus, white balance, and depth of field. I try to find some everyday objects with a few different colours – including red – too to help practise adjusting white balance, and to see how the different scene modes show the different colours. Whilst in the pool, I also emphasise, and practise, taking photos with good buoyancy control, and without touching the bottom.
On the second day of the course, we head to open water to put everything in to practise with some cool marine life too. I also take the coloured objects to the ocean to practise white balance adjustments at different depths during the first dive too.
We also spend time finding some cool creatures that are conducive to practising photography. I focus on creatures that don’t move very far, or very quickly, like nudibranchs, morays, lionfish, clownfish etc., so the students can practise the PADI S.E.A. method…
At Go Pro In Paradise we are trying to push more and more towards neutrally buoyant skills during our PADI IDC programmes at PADI CDC Lanta Diver on Koh Lanta, Thailand. We are trying to stay off the knees, and teaching more on fin-tips or in mid-water. The dive environment is becoming ever more fragile, and we need to train the future generation of divers to be even more environmentally aware, and with even better buoyancy skills than in the past. There is no need to spend any time on the knees during diver training – we should promote proper weighting and positioning in the water right from the first moment new divers get their heads under the water.
It starts with Confined Water Dive #1 of the Open Water Course. During our IDCs, the first time we take our IDC Candidates in the pool we conduct a CW Dive #1 workshop, and teach our candidates the importance of not over-weighting their future students, and how to get them neutrally buoyant before proceeding with the rest of the skills in CW Dive #1. We achieve this by teaching the ‘Breathing Underwater’ skill as an introduction to the fin pivot (as described in a previous post). All other skills in confined water can then be performed on fin-tips.
We also then conduct a neutrally buoyant skill circuit, with all skills demonstrated on fin-tips – staying off the knees.
After this skill circuit, we then conduct a Confined Water Dive #5 workshop, where we teach our IDC candidates how to help their Open Water students to make the transition from performing skills on their fin-tips to now performing them mid-water whilst swimming around the pool neutrally buoyant. We also highlight the importance of correct weighting and the value of practising swimming in shallow water without touching the bottom or breaking the surface – demonstrating good trim and horizontal body position.
For the rest of the IDC, we then expect our candidates to perform all their teaching presentations in this manner. Hopefully we can do our bit to inspire the next generation of PADI dive instructors to teach better buoyancy, trim, and environmental awareness in their future Open Water Courses…
As a new instructor, the Navigation Adventure Dive can seem a little daunting – there’s lots to do, but we also want to save some time to swim around and explore the dive site too. It’s a dive we conduct often – it is a compulsory core dive on the Advanced Open Water Course. We obviously need to make sure all our students meet performance requirements, but we also want to work efficiently to allow that time for exploring the dive site and practising actual diving !
The first thing to consider when planning a Navigation Adventure Dive is when and where you will conduct this dive. I would never plan to conduct this dive as the first dive of an Advanced Open Water Course, I would prefer to see my divers in the water first. Ideally, I like to conduct Peak Performance Buoyancy as the first dive of an AOWC, and certainly before the Navigation Dive. Another thing to bear in mind is depth and site selection. It’s preferable to conduct the Navigation Dive on a shallow site, with relatively open sandy areas. Also, a site with little or no current is ideal. Aiming for a shallower site is another reason not to plan this as the first dive of the course. I prefer to plan my Navigation Dives as either second or third dives of the course – it’s also not a nice dive to finish the course with for the students.
Now let’s have a look at the performance requirements – what the students must achieve…
Okay, so we need to get ourselves organised before we tackle those performance requirements. We need to get our instructional equipment together first. Our students should each have a compass, as per PADI standards, for every Adventure Dive. But for me, we also need a reel/spool – that’s how I measure the 30 metres for skill #2, and I also then use it as a baseline, and a way of measuring performance requirements, for the other skills. I have a reel and a spool, and I have marked them both off for distances every five metres. I also made sure when I bought my reel and my spool that I selected ones with orange lines, rather than the more common white. The orange line is much easier to see (when using a dSMB, or conducting wreck penetration, as well as when laying it on the floor for Navigation skills). I then marked my lines every five metres as below:
Once I have laid this line out, carefully avoiding damaging any aquatic life, I am ready to start the skills with my students. If there is a slight current, I will try to set the line perpendicular to it. Skill #1 will be combined with all the other skills and monitored throughout the dive. Skill #2 is pretty straight forward, but the trick is to avoid this turning into a race along the line. I am very careful how I brief this skill – I brief that the 30m swim should be at a normal dive pace, and that I will set the speed by swimming in front of the students, emphasising that they should not overtake me. I instruct the students to count their own kick cycles, and I time the swim. The number of kicks and time can then be noted on the Adventure Dive Data Carrier slates. I perform this skill twice – once in each direction to ascertain an average. This is especially important if there is a slight current.
The next skill is the natural navigation swim, returning within 15m from the start point. This is a skill that needs to be briefed well too. We need to emphasise what features to look for in the reef formations/topography, and also to point out that often things will look different when returning in the opposite direction. I brief my students to look back at a reference point as they pass it to get an idea of how it will look on the return leg. I also brief the importance of slow relaxed swimming – the normal dive pace – and tell them how many kick cycles I would like them to complete before turning around. I start this skill from the centre point of my 30m baseline – the 15 metre mark. I now have 15 metres of line either side of the start, so I can very easily see if the students have met the performance requirement, which is to return within 15 metres of their start point.
Skill #4 is then combined with skill #5. Correct positioning/handling of a compass to swim a reciprocal heading. I also remind the students they can also incorporate some natural navigation techniques as used in the previous skill into this exercise – especially if there is a little current. For the skill #4 element of this reciprocal heading swim, I do emphasise that the compass must be level, and that the lubber line must be pointing in the desired direction of travel, but I do not insist they hold the compass in the manner pictured below during the entire exercise – because nobody dives like this, ever – it just needs to be held correctly when checking the heading/direction !
Rather than insist on the above position, I brief students to use natural navigation in conjunction with the compass – keeping the compass level, point it ahead, and pick out a natural feature in line with the lubber line, then when they reach that feature, they can again hold the compass level with the lubber line in the correct direction and pick another natural feature – this is a more natural, ‘realistic’ way to navigate with a compass. This is also a much better technique if there is any current – if people just stare at the compass in a current they may not notice they are being pushed off course. Also bear in mind that nowadays people may be using a digital compass on their dive computer, so you might need to cover how to calibrate and use that version of a compass. Again, we need to cover how many kick cycles before turning in the briefing. I also start this skill from the same 15 metre mark on my baseline, so I can check that they meet the performance requirement of returning to within six metres of the starting point – I have a mark on my baseline five metres either side of the starting point…
With both skill #3 and skill #4, if conditions are good enough, and my divers are also competent enough, I can send two buddy teams off simultaneously if I have four students. I assign one member of each buddy team the task of navigating with the compass (setting the heading by pointing the lubber line in the correct direction and rotating the bezel so the north arrow is between the two index markers), whilst the other will be counting their own kick cycles and tapping the shoulder of the buddy to signal time to turn around. To turn around, the buddy member with the compass just needs to turn their body until the south arrow is in between the two index markers.
Before I allow a buddy team to begin the swim, I position myself directly in front of them, blocking their path, until I am happy they have set the compass correctly, then I move to the side and let them begin. Once buddy team #1 has started, I position myself directly in front of the second buddy team until I am happy their compass is also set correctly before I allow then to swim. Once the second buddy team have started, quite often the first buddy team is arriving back, and I can have them swap roles and repeat the skill. This helps me work more efficiently and have time to explore the dive site once all skills are completed:
Once everybody has performed each role for the reciprocal heading compass swim, the final skill is the square pattern. For this, I also get the two buddy teams swimming in different directions at the same time (conditions and competency allowing) to work efficiently:
Again, I start from the 15 metre mark of my line and use the marks on my line to gauge whether they have met the performance requirements of returning to within eight metres of the starting point. I prefer to use the Suunto SK8 compasses for this dive too, as they have all four cardinal points on the face, and not just a north arrow. This makes this square pattern, and the search patterns in the Rescue Diver and Search & Recovery Specialty, much easier too. Again, for the first heading, the students need to point the lubber line in the right direction and turn the bezel until the two index markers are over the north arrow. Now, when they come to make the first 90 degree turn, for a turn to the right, they do not need to touch the bezel, they just need to turn the body until the east arrow is between the two index markers, and on the next turn, the south arrow between the two markers. For a left turn, they would turn the body until the west arrow is between the index markers.
I ask the students to set the first side of the square to follow the direction of my baseline (as in the picture above). This means their final leg of the square will be back towards the line, so again I can see how close to the start point they finish. And once more, when the buddy teams return, I get them to swap roles and repeat the skill. The conditions will determine length of each side of the square – if the conditions are good enough, I will have the students use the same amount of kick-cycles as it took them to complete the 30 metre swim earlier (This is PADI’s recommended size for the square), but if conditions are less favourable, I may shorten this to suit (as in the example picture above).
Another key to making this dive run smoothly and efficiently underwater is to practise these skills on land before the dive. I like to do this with a towel over the students’ heads, so all they can see is the compass, and to learn to trust it (and me!).
And that is basically how I try to run the Navigation Adventure Dive. As I mentioned above, sometimes conditions or student skill level means I need to adapt my approach a little. But this is the Advanced Course, and the students, as certified divers, should be good enough to swim a short distance away from the instructor, and allowing them that little extra freedom will also help them become more confident divers…
If you have any questions about how I run my Navigation Adventure Dives, or would like to take an Underwater Navigator Specialty Instructor Training Course to see it first hand, please feel free to email and ask for more information…
The PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) is an intensive programme, usually lasting around twelve days. There is a lot of new information and knowledge to take in during this time-frame, and your course will be a lot easier if you are not also trying to re-learn things that you should already know as a PADI Divemaster.
Your IDC training will be much more relaxed, and the IE will be much easier, if you are comfortable with dive theory and a few other things before you arrive. You will spend time during the IDC going through this, and completing more dive theory exams, but there will also be a lot more information for you to take in, and most nights you will have teaching presentations to prepare after a full day in the classroom. I like to give my candidates a set of dive theory exams on the first day of the IDC, and I would expect everyone to be able to pass with a minimum score of 75% in each of the five subjects – Physics, Physiology, Equipment, Dive Skills & The Environment, and The RDP & Decompression Theory.
When people book a PADI IDC with Go Pro In Paradise, we send a link to our students with materials to study before arriving – dive theory study notes, practise exams, knot tying videos, RDP revision questions etc.. A few of these study tools are also available to download from the Go Pro In Paradise website. We also have a few videos to help understand the dive theory on our YouTube channel.
As a Divemaster, you should also be comfortable with the following knots:
It will also be beneficial if you are also familiar with the ‘reef knot’, or ‘square knot’, – as this is sometimes the result of a sheet bend going wrong, and you need to be able to recognise this error.
The more comfortable you are with all this information before you arrive, the more you will be able to focus and the new information and spending your evenings preparing your teaching presentations for the next day. If you also need to spend your evenings trying to figure out how to calculate minimum surface intervals, or trying to remember the difference between convection and conduction, then you will be a lot more stressed during your training.
When you book an IDC with us, we will start helping you prepare straight away. We don’t just wait until you arrive and then try to cover all this during twelve days. Our IDCs are nice and relaxed when the students have revised the information that we send them at the time of booking.