Training my dog to walk like a person by Dewey Hammond

Sometimes my friends bicker about where Dragon will go if he outlives me, despite the fact that I have always said, "None of you are even in the running," that Dragon will live with HH; and, if HH doesn't want Dragon, he will live his own life, independently.

Independence comes with prerequisites, like being able to go to the corner store to buy snacks and wine, or to Beanstalk for treats and lattes. As part of his training, Dragon has been learning to walk upright like a person. His current best is about one minute on his hind legs.

Dragon with Mina during one of their super-serious training sessions at Beanstalk Cafe; Nob Hill, San Francisco.

Dragon with Mina during one of their super-serious training sessions at Beanstalk Cafe; Nob Hill, San Francisco.

Dragon with Mina during one of their super-serious training sessions at Beanstalk Cafe; Nob Hill, San Francisco.


Olympia, Washington by Dewey Hammond

While digging through my film photography negatives to select a few shots for my online galleries, I came across a few digital photos that I enjoy, despite not particularly enjoying digital photography anymore. Digital photography made me lazy, more like an editor than a photographer, which is why eventually I ditched all of my digital gear except for an iPhone, upgrading first to a Leica MP and then to a Rolleiflex Automat V MX-EVS. Or maybe it was the other way around. I forget. 

DSLRs and their double-digits frames-per-second capabilities make it too easy to capture what Henri Cartier-Bresson, the godfather of street photography and photojournalism, famously described as the decisive moment, that moment that is there but then in a flash is gone. The most famous example of the decisive moment in his body of work is perhaps, "Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare."

This photo of Kelly reminds me of that iconic work; although, to be clear, I am not comparing myself to HCB: I'm a much better photographer these days, but only because Cartier-Bresson is dead. For real, though, Cartier-Bresson inspired me to quit my job, buy a Leica, and travel the world. I'll forever be grateful to my favorite photographer for the influence he has had on my life. 

I shot this frame a few years back, with a Pentax K-x, probably on burst mode. I love the negative space between Kelly's left heel and the ground, along with the negative space between her jacket and the garage door; and, of course, that trademark Pacific Northwest precipitation.

Olympia, Washington; f/2.8, 1/160; c. 2011.

Olympia, Washington; f/2.8, 1/160; c. 2011.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare (1932).

Ice diving in Russia by Dewey Hammond

I stumbled upon this photograph, which I took a few years ago in Siberia while driving across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal. We came across some ice divers. The air temperature was probably negative 30° Celsius, perhaps colder. I'd never before had any exposure to diving, but one of the guys with whom I was traveling that day was a dive instructor in Thailand. After a stretch in the banya, and over some cheap Russian beers that evening, he told me a bit more about diving and why I should give it a shot. Shortly thereafter, I traveled to Indonesia so that I could get certified.

Lake Baikal, in the heart of Siberia, one of the most beautiful places I've visited, and certainly one of the coldest. 

A few things that I learned from my Divemaster training by Dewey Hammond

PADI's prerequisites for its Divemaster training are a bit thin. All you need is 40 dives to begin, and 60 dives by completion, along with the other requirements. I completed 100+ dives before beginning, another 100+ dives during my training, and after seven weeks I still feel as though I could've benefited from another week or two underwater, especially with regard to navigation. 

I learned to pay attention to my instructors, sure; but I also learned to do your own research. On more than one occasion I heard instructors, and a majority of them, provide information that both PADI and DAN either no longer recommend, or disagree with entirely (e.g. turning back the tank valve a quarter-turn, facing the SPG away from you when you turn it on). When I questioned some of the discrepancies, the general answer was that the advice couldn't hurt (specifically with regard to turning back the tank valve a quarter-turn); however, I'm of the opinion that unncessary information just distracts from the necessary information. Keep things simple and streamlined, not just with your equipment but with the information you provide.

I also learned that the best approach is to develop your own style. Take what you like from certain instructors, and ignore other things. For example, I found most dive briefings to be too thin, and lacking emphasis on personal responsibility underwater. There is a fine line between babysitting and broad planning, and a Divemaster's role is unquestionably the latter. 

Sadly, I also learned that not all dive professionals respect underwater life at all times. Too many times I saw dive professionals touching marine life. Now that my training is complete, I'll have more of an opportunity to be a role model and not just a student. I'll have a bit more of a voice, albeit not as much as an instructor, in most cases, which is why despite my lackluster enthusiasm for instruction I'll probably consider getting certified as an instructor, if for no other reason than standing within the dive community. Like most things in life, there is a hierarchy. 

I learned that the benefits of diving trim are incredible, and that after having gone to a backplate and wing, I'd never again dive regularly with a BCD. It's just not for me. 

I learned that there is no replacement for being prepared. Diving with a backplate and wing allows you to strap more gear onto your kit, which at times might raise eyebrows. Do you really need a knife, slate, whistle, flashlight, and emergency strobe on every dive? Of course not, but if you don't bring them on every dive, you won't have them when you need them. Instructors routinely asked to borrow my equipment underwater, because they themselves weren't prepared.

Finally, I learned that there is still so much that I don't know, and still so many experiences to be had. I've dealt with panicked divers underwater, and rescued a diver from a capsized boat (only days after completing my Rescue course), but despite having managed these things successfully, there are no guarantees in these situations. With each experience, you improve. The area where I feel I need the most improvement is navigation. Some of it is confidence with a compass, and some of it is just learning the reef, but I know for sure that I'm not where I could be, or even should be.

Diving with my DIve Rite backplate, wing, and harness. Took maybe 20 dives of fiddling to get the fit right.

Cutoff at Canter's by Dewey Hammond

Canter's is an infamous Jewish deli in Los Angeles. I went there recently and was cutoff. Not cutoff at the dive bar located inside the deli, but cutoff at the deli, for eating too much. It wasn't that it was all-you-can-eat and they were concerned about profits. The dude was just concerned for, I dunno, my well-being or whatever? My next goal is to get cutoff at an Italian woman's home. If I can get an Italian woman, preferably a grandmother, to tell me that I've eaten too much, then I know I've done my job.

Canter's in Fairfax, Los Angeles, near West Hollywood. 

Diving deep in search of hammerhead sharks by Dewey Hammond

While on the boat with Tom Tom, I overhead him say he was going to dive deep in search of hammerheads, off the wall at Blue Channel. The dive boat was light, so I weaseled out of my responsibilities and got the OK to tag along in search of hammerheads. 

Tom Tom brought an extra tank with an emergency regulator, in addition to his primary and secondary, something that I probably should have had as well, given that we were diving deep. I won't say how deep, but deep. We stayed close together and fortunately didn't run into any problems.

But we did run into a hammerhead shark: deep, off the wall, silhouetted in the blue. Hammerheads aren't especially rare while diving, if you know where to look, but they are rare in Roatán. I've been lucky enough to see two (in about 200 dives on the island) but I know some people, Tom included, who have done hundreds and hundreds of dives on the island without ever seeing a hammerhead shark. When we saw the shark, and Tom saw it first, I quite literally heard Tom scream with excitement underwater. Scared the fuck out of me. When you're diving hella deep, and you hear someone scream? Made my heart stop. But then I turned around and saw the hammerhead, and for the rest of the dive and the rest of the day we both had smiles on our face. I've never seen Tom Tom as happy as after that dive.

Post-dive celebratory Salvas with Tom Tom! I love, love, love seeing sharks in the wild.

Renegade diving with Danish Martin and Colorado John by Dewey Hammond

In 35 days on the island, I didn't really take any time for myself. I worked at the shop every single day, not because I had to be there daily but because I loved being there daily; however, I did take one morning for myself, to dive with Martin and John. I wanted a break from babysitting other divers. I wanted to dive with my friends and explore something unexplored. 

We hired a taxi to drop us off at this keyhole, and then wait for a couple of hours until we returned. None of us had ever been diving at this spot, so we had no idea what to expect. Within minutes of breaking through the surge, we found a wreck, and after swimming for another five minutes or so, we found the reef wall via a swim-through at about 50 feet. We dropped down 100 feet on the wall, maybe a bit deeper, and as we ascended to maybe 75 feet we stumbled upon a curious, free-swimming, green moray eel who seemed intent on following Martin closely. I love seeing green morays, but I'm never too thrilled when they follow me closely. 

When we came back over the top of the reef, I lost my way. I was convinced that we needed to swim north to find our entry point on the shore, but Martin insisted we swim south. We had agreed beforehand that Martin would lead the dive, so we listened to Martin, which worked out well because he was right and I was wrong. Plan your dive, and dive your plan. 

Diving a keyhole on the south side of Roatán, Bay Islands, Honduras.

Dragon, dive-shop security and super-serious swimmer by Dewey Hammond

One of the best decisions I've made as a traveler was to listen to my friend Krystal when she insisted that traveling to Honduras with Dragon wouldn't be that difficult. She was right: It's easy.

I loved Honduras before Dragon, but to be down there with my favorite lil monster makes it all the more better. He's got his spots at the dive shop: under the stairs, behind the scuba flag, next to the refrigerator probably because it's cooler, behind the counter next to Andy, sometimes underneath the computer chair, and of course half the time he's posted-up on somebody's lap.

Dragon, keeping an eye on the shop.

Dragon, being dragged to the end of the dock for one of his training sessions.