You can see your dive master pointing something at the sand up ahead. And then he turns around, and he wants to pee? (Not asking for your deco time either, you pesky tec divers) Huh! In the back of your mind you think that he is narked already and just continue with your dive nonchalantly.
What you missed on that dive was a huge field of very shy garden eels. Garden eels have thin (approx. only an inch wide) bodies and they stick their head out of the sand into the current. The moment they sense a troll coming near, they go back into their holes and all you can see is a bullet riddled sea bed. If it is a day with an exceptional visibility, then only can you hope to see them, but never up close. You have a better chance of sneaking up to sharks than these guys. Rebreather divers may not agree here though, but we are not arguing.
Well, after we have established that you can’t go close near them, so how do you capture them on film? There is mostly two techniques, which we have used to capture them. One involves getting an exceptionally long monopod, and after sticking that into everyone’s face on the boat ride and the dive after, you can try to stay outside the range of the scare area of the eels and get some awesome footage. This method is very useful for people who are very paranoid about not losing their gear over getting that perfect shot. We understand!!
Now the riskier and more rewarding way is to use a tripod, albeit a very small one – gorilla pods, maybe? You scout the place up first and identify the perfect vantage point (footage of garden eels is always more awesome when taken from the sea bed level). You position your tripod, switch on your cam and TIE A REEL ON TO IT. Be careful to let it free, otherwise you might end up tugging your rig along the bed. We have even made makeshift tripods and bases with sand and rocks on the sea bed and stuck bright markers and flashing less on our cams to find them.
Now you move back, at least a good 5-10 metres and guard the area like a titan triggerfish, careful not to let any trolls enter the scaring zone. After about 5, 10 minutes or whatever suits you, go and try to get back your camera. We have always found them but almost always had a stomach churning moment when we were not able to find it for an instant.
All you can do how is get back to the DC, clean up your cam, plug in the memory stick and shout, ‘check out these awesome garden eels’. There is absolutely no chance of getting a bad footage with these little buggers in the frame. And obviously your dive trip memories became a little more awesome.
Cheers, and do share with us if you use some other techniques to film them and we would love to see your pics and films of them!!