Web photos by David Benz
Underwater images copyright 2000, Michael Lawrence


Michael Lawrence's life has been a twisting, turning path of wildly divergent careers. He was "a musician for more than 25 years, playing jazz guitar, doing studio and orchestral work, stage shows, arranging and conducting and doing anything else I could to turn jazz pennies into real dollars."

In 1980, Michael did a gig on a cruise ship. Soon after, he learned to dive. "I knew as soon as I stuck my face in the water that it would change my life," he says. Now the camera is his instrument and dive travelers are his audience. He started writing for Skin Diver in 1990 and to date has written more than 150 articles for the magazine.

Michael is also the author of Lonely Planet Diving and Snorkeling Guide to Dominica and is currently working on a new Dive Guide to the Bahamas.

  • February 1, 2000...Day 1


    Michael arrives in the Bahamas.
    Ya know, I really love this scuba photojournalist gig, but there is one serious downside to the whole deal. In order to do it you have to travel, and today was a bear. I got up at 4:00 am to make an early plane, humped my small mountain of camera and scuba gear through four airports, complete with layovers from hell, and finally arrived in Freeport around 5:00 pm. I am sitting here contemplating the aforesaid mountain of gear and thinking about the two hours of camera prep facing me.

    Oh, by the way, the reason it took so long to get here is my recent move from sunny South Florida to the snows and cold of Indiana. I just got married and, well, to make a long story short and simple, you know what love and a great woman can do to a man.

    The upside is this: A soothing rum punch was waiting (the elixir of the islands) and the smell of conch chowder was in the air. David Benz (my partner-in-crime) and I were told that we would be forced to dive with dolphins, swim with sharks, consume mountains of cracked conch, explore blue holes, and, oh yeah, did I mention the rum punch? What do these people expect of us? It's torture I tell you, pure torture!

    Welcome to Dave and Mike's Excellent Adventure. Over the next week we will be checking in each day telling you what's cool and what's new. We will also be uploading digital topside images of what's happening here in the Bahamas. After I get home and develop my film, we will plug in some of the coolest underwater images. Stay tuned for details.

  • February 2, 2000...Freeport - Day 2


    Freeport's scenic coastline.
    I don't know about you, but I never tire of the company of dolphins. They are magnificent, playful, thought-provoking and just plain fun to be around. Our first dive of the day

    Michael photographs
    the dolphins at
    Sanctuary Bay.
    was spent with the dolphins at UNEXSO's Dive Experience. The only open ocean release dolphin program in the Bahamas (and one of only two in the Caribbean) gives non-swimmers, divers and snorkelers a chance to go one-on-one, hand-to-fin as it were, with Bottlenose Dolphins--400 pounds of pure entertainment.

     
    The trainer with her dolphins.
    Our first stop was the dolphin's spacious home base, Sanctuary Bay. This gave us the opportunity to check out the entire group and allowed the dolphins to get familiar with us.

     
    David Benz plays with two of UNEXSO's dolphins.
    The trainers were working with the dolphins, teaching them various behaviors. They were leaping, swimming, playing, chasing fish and communicating with us in their clicks and clacks. After formulating a photographic game plan, it was on the boat and out the canal to the ocean, with three of the most dependable dolphins in the lead.

    Once in the water, it was obvious our game plan was going to the dogs...well, to the dolphins at least. The dolphins definitely have a mind of their own. So, we decided to forego the plan and just let it happen. This was the best decision possible!

    Two female dolphins vie for David's attention.
    They came up and laid next to David, while he stroked them and rubbed their snouts (technically it is a rostrum--I can't get away from the man's best friend analogy). They swam together in circles while I desperately changed f-stops and distance settings in search of that perfect image. The dive culminated with David laying in the sand with two of the dolphins, each of them nuzzling him in turn. Oh, I forgot to mention they were both females--go figure.


    Ollie Ferguson
    The UNEXSO Dive Experience is one of many dolphin encounters in the Bahamas. Atlantis (on Paradise Island, Nassau) offers a swim and snorkel program in an enclosed pen. I have also swum with Atlantic Spotted Dolphins off Bimini,

    Michael on the dive boat.
    as well as from live-aboards at White Sand Ridge north of Grand Bahama and off Orange Cay at the southern end of the Bimini chain.

    That's it from here for now. See you tomorrow.



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