Underwater Photography

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jason folt
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Underwater Photography

Post by jason folt » October 3rd, 2012, 11:17 am

Edit: 2/27/13

Instead of starting an all new thread, I decided to update the status of my journey and provide some tips for others who may go down this path. I am not reviewing my rig exactly, because rigs will change for everyone, but will provide basic tips and resources for others to use. If people want me to copy this to a new thread I can. My update/review will be posted below on this date.

Orignal Query

Anyone on here shoot a DLSR while diving? I am considering taking the plunge before leaving for a dive/wife trip to Bora Bora. I hope to use it much more frequently as my diving is hopefully going to ramp up, as well as on some turtle trips in northern Michigan rivers. I just wanted to talk a bit about ports and strobes before pulling the trigger. I don't have any close friends who are already into this to ping ideas off of.

Thanks,

Jason

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MHollanders
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by MHollanders » October 3rd, 2012, 3:10 pm

Contact Seth Patterson. He's a Flickr contact of mine and on Facebook.

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jason folt
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by jason folt » October 3rd, 2012, 10:01 pm

Thanks Matthijs. It looks like he is using an Ikelite rig, which is what my local dive shop deals with and what I have been looking at. I can't imagine diving anymore without a camera, but man it is a big step to take... We joke around about the cost of photog gear. UW stuff is on a whole different level. I feel like I am jumping off a cliff here.

Jason

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by Antonsrkn » October 3rd, 2012, 10:11 pm

I'm killing time on flickr and i happen to also be contacts with him, so I thought Id be helpful and provide a link.

Seth Pattersons photostream...
http://www.flickr.com/people/spatterd/

And I guess while im at it... Heres a few other links to some amazing underwater photographers who i bet it wouldnt be a bad idea to try talking to before spending a significant chunk of cash on something. Flickr really is an amazing resource.

This guy has to be my favorite underwater photographer on Flickr, he's got some amazing images, I recommend browsing through his stream. make sure to check out the few shots he has of a croc underwater.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/james_rd_scott/

This guys stream is pretty amazing also..
http://www.flickr.com/photos/funkyfoton/


I am also really curious about this, I can't afford an underwater housing at the moment but its been on the dreamlist for a while. Maybe once I finally finish university. I am curious how often do these housings fail? I can remember hearing multiple stories about water coming in and I doubt all of them can be traced back to improper use/maintenance, as I recall some of the people it happened to were folks like national geographic photographers and other pros. I realize there's always a risk of some sort of malfunction but just how high is it?

I dont know much but I do no that if you will be at any sort of depth and want photos with color besides shades of blue, you better invest in some strobes. I don't know alot of the details but I think 2 is better than one as it will help you avoid harsh shadows, allo you to use a greater aperture, be more conducive to wide-angle... But then I remember that theres all kinds of different methods connecting the strobes to the camera as well as placement and that different people swear by different methods. And that is where my meager knowledge exhausts itself. Good luck and keep us updated!

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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by matt ignoffo » October 4th, 2012, 11:42 am

Holy crap, that stuff is amazing. I recently bought a canon powershot d20 which is submersible - for photoing freshwater mussels. It is not a DSLR obviously, but is capable of above average quality underwater shots, supposedly good video too. Sure is awkward to try to manipulate a point and shoot when your used to a dslr though, particularly in challenging light.

Image

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Take care!

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MattSullivan
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by MattSullivan » October 4th, 2012, 2:06 pm

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected] ... 759215689/

heres the link to my flickr diving set. i use ikelite and the canon 7d and it works awesomely

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jason folt
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by jason folt » October 4th, 2012, 11:15 pm

Thanks guys!

Matt I - We have a little Panasonic underwater P/S that works well in a few feet of clear water, but I am ready to move on to the next level.

Matt S - Great flicker stream! Are you using the Ikelite strobes as well? I was looking into getting 1 DS160 and 1 DS51 with the housing. It looks like you pretty much are just doing macro work. I am cool with my Nikon 105, but am torn on what wide angle/fish eye to go with. I have heard great things from divers using the Tokina 8-17 but it would be nice to see shots and hear some others perspective. I already have the Sigma 10-20 but it doesn't seemed to be as loved by divers.

Jason

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MattSullivan
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by MattSullivan » October 5th, 2012, 4:51 am

Matt S - Great flicker stream! Are you using the Ikelite strobes as well? I was looking into getting 1 DS160 and 1 DS51 with the housing. It looks like you pretty much are just doing macro work. I am cool with my Nikon 105, but am torn on what wide angle/fish eye to go with. I have heard great things from divers using the Tokina 8-17 but it would be nice to see shots and hear some others perspective. I already have the Sigma 10-20 but it doesn't seemed to be as loved by divers.

thanks Jason! i do mostly macro but i'm actually looking for a wide angle right now too and probably going with the sigma 24mm macro. i use 1 ikelite ds51 and it works great for macro but im thinking of getting the ds160 or ds125 before my next trip but overall i love all the ikelite stuff and it has all worked perfectly

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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by chrish » October 5th, 2012, 12:05 pm

If you are only snorkeling or not planning on being more than 20 feet or so down, this is a good cheap alternative - viewtopic.php?f=15&t=12476

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jason folt
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by jason folt » October 5th, 2012, 6:27 pm

Thanks Chris. I saw that when you initially posted but I am looking for dedicated dive gear. I have been doing some heavy research and talking to people at the local dive shop, but it's nice to hear some more hands on experience from people I don't think are selling me something.

Jason

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chrish
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by chrish » October 7th, 2012, 8:08 am

Again, won't meet your needs, but there are some interesting discussions about snorkeling photography here - http://forum.nanfa.org/index.php/forum/ ... iscussion/

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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by jason folt » February 26th, 2013, 9:52 pm

I took a leap of faith and entered the world that is underwater photography. Before you get discouraged by my other comments, know that I have no regrets at all. I am enjoying the crap out of this and can't imagine diving without my rig!

Disclaimer: I did not look at point and shoot underwater options. I wanted a DSLR rig to dive with. To get yourself into a DSLR rig, you are in for an expensive ride. There are really not cheap options. Your rig can grow with you overtime, but there is still a big up front investment. I will not be able to cover everything but will hopefully provide a place to help you get started. It will be extremely frustrating, confusing, and daunting at first. Please don't give up yet!

If you are reading this here at FieldHerpForum, you are probably a herper primarily. I will make the assumption you already have a DSLR or have chosen a DSLR based on your interest in herp photography and that you have some lenses as well. If you are starting completely fresh, with a clean slate, you may want to take a slightly different approach.

I used resources such as:

http://www.wetpixel.com
http://www.uwphotographyguide.com
http://www.backscatter.com
http://www.reefphoto.com

There are many more, but I used these the most to read reviews, get opinions, lurk on forums and ultimately purchase my gear.

I also purchased, The Underwater Photographer, by Martin Edge. I can not tell you how helpful this book has been.

So what do you need? At the minimum, you will need a camera, lens, housing and port. You should have your camera at this point. Shooting underwater requires you to get very close to your subject in order to minimize the amount of particulate in the water column between your lens and the subject, as well as minimize the light fall off from your strobes (if you have them). Any lens you use must have a very small close focus distance. In other words, your telephoto and zoom lenses will be mostly worthless. Most people use a 60mm>100mm macro, and then a good wide angle lens. Your options for wide angle include a fisheye lens and/or a rectilinear lenses. I won't get into them in great detail, but fisheyes will distort straight lines of wrecks and very large animals, but mostly work very well underwater for everything else. Rectilinear lens can have loss of sharpness in the corners with your dome ports and often need to have another diopter attached to them. You will need those ports to attach to the front of your housing. All housing manufacturers make their own ports, but there are some other brands as well. Some housings even make port converters if you want to use different brands on different housings. If you have a macro, you will purchase a flat front port, and if you have a wide angle, you will purchase a dome port. Ports will vary in price depending on the size, glass vs acrylic, focus or zoom gears, extensions, etc.

There are number of DLSR underwater housing manufacturers that you can choose from. Many are not made in the US and so purchasing options are limited to specific dealers. The most common that I saw on my searches were:

Ikelite
Nauticam
Aquatica
Hugyfot
Sea and Sea
Subal

There are probably a few more. Even in the housings, they have a wide range of pricing options. The main distinguishing point is Ikelite makes clear polycarbonate rectangularish housings. They tend to be the least expensive of options. Many people use them and love them, so do not think of them as "cheap" or "poor quality". They basically use the same few sizes of polycarbonate rectangles and then alter the controls when a new camera comes out. People like them due to cost, the ability to see if a leak develops (they are clear), and slightly less weight. The downside is the controls may not be as easily accessible, they tend to run slightly larger, and at this time they do not offer fiberoptic strobe capabilities. These run significantly cheaper (1/2 the price) of the other options.

The other companies all take a block of metal and machine out the housing. Each housing model is very specifically designed for each camera model, and there are extremely intricate gears and levers to make everything easily accessible and work seamlessly. Obviously, this is accomplished in many different ways, and it is helpful to read reviews of users who have held and used the different camera models specific to your housing. They cost more due to the design, and materials involved, but they tend to be a little smaller and more easily used. These are not clear, but most incorporate a leak alarm or moisture alarm.

Alright, we have covered the extreme basics. You can put your camera and your lens in your housing and port and have a working rig. You start diving and notice that after descending a bit, none of your images have any color, especially the reds Now you need some strobes. There again are many brands of strobes - Ikelite, Inon, Sea and Sea, etc. I would choose a strobe that lets you use true TTL via your hotshoe, and fiberoptically if you choose, to provide you room to change, customize and grow. You can shoot macro successfully with 1 strobe, but will most likely need two for wideangle shots. You will end up paying more for your cables, arms, and connectors as well.

Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. If you are having trouble seeing through your viewfinder, they make magnifiers for you. If you want to focus in the dark, or low-light conditions, you will need a dedicated focus light. You may need weights or floats to make your rig neutrally buoyant. Most UW photographers also value redundancy. If you fly across the country to shoot in Komodo and a flash goes down, or a sync cord breaks, your trip will change drastically. Many travel with extra cameras, cords, strobes. Paranoia knows no bounds...

I had a Nikon D7000 already (still waiting for my D400...). It got rave reviews as an underwater camera, so I was off to a good start. I researched endlessly for months. Spoke with people via the internet, forums and our local dive shop. All along, I squirreled away money. I read numerous reviews of all the different housings first. Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to get your hands on anything other than Ikelite here in Detroit so I had to go with what I read. In the end, I opted for the Nauticam NA-D7000V because it had seemingly great reviews regarding the ergonomics, support, and features for the cost. It hopefully gave me plenty of room to grow and learn the system. Having now logged about 15 dives with it, I could not be happier.

This is almost everything...
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Here is my rig in its glory. I purchased the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye lens to go with it. The lens has an extremely close focus distance, great image quality, and the rare ability to zoom with a fisheye. It is only available for DX cameras, but is one of the most widely used UW lenses. I admittedly will rarely use it topside. For the lens, I needed my wide angle port, and I stuck with a Nauticam acrylic port.
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The guts facing out the front. Every button or function of my camera is accesible and easily usable underwater.
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And facing out the back.
Image

For macro, I had the Nikon 105vr, so I bought the Nauticam port to fit the lens. I purchased two Sea and Sea YS-D1 strobes, as they would let me use fiberoptic or true electronic TTL if I wanted with my Nauticam housing. I will most likely only shoot fiberoptically.
Image

And I am in business! I read the book, hung out at my diveshop, got in the pool, practiced caring for and changing O-rings, stocked up on Sanyo Enloops for strobes, increased my paranoia of dust and dog hair to scary levels and embarked to Bora Bora. I purchased a lanyard to attach my camera to a D-ring on the BC. I also spent hours planning and figuring out how to pack this for small planes, never letting it leave my sight or getting checked.

Just like herpers get bit, housings flood. You need to keep your paranoia high, but maintain a slight sense of humor for when badness happens. You probably are reading this and thinking, "Hell No!".

It is worth it!

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If you have any questions, feel free to PM me. I don't imagine this thread will get a ton of use, but I am happy to help out when it does.

Best of luck,

Jason

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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by Antonsrkn » February 26th, 2013, 10:59 pm

Whoa, I'm drooling a bit awesome set up and great photos so far, cant wait to see more.
To get yourself into a DSLR rig, you are at least looking at spending $3k for the bare minimum you will need.
I made it this far before I quit, but after being reminded of that depressing bit of info i'm going to sleep now haha. I will read the whole thing tomorrow as I badly want an underwater rig, but I keep spending my money on other things and that's a very hefty sum. But thanks in advance for putting this together for us!

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jason folt
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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by jason folt » February 26th, 2013, 11:12 pm

I went back and removed prices to avoid the huge sticker shock. I think if you are interested it is worth while to look into on your own. Anyone who is serious will find out the hard way when they start looking at rigs about the cost. As in all camera gear, it will always cost more than you plan.

That being said, there are a number of very good compact cameras, that they make dedicated housings for. You can get a P&S, with a housing and a strobe or two for far less money. I like the flexibility a DLSR gives me, and I didn't want to spend a still sizeable amount of money on a compact rig and then have to start all over again 1 or 2 years later when I regretted not shooting with a DSLR. There are a ton of picture out there taken with a compact system that blow mine out of the water. You don't have to go big if you just enjoy diving and want to capture memories. The big rigs are not for everyone.

You can also look into picking up used housings from places like www.wetpixel.com. You could probably shave off 1/2 the price on a lightly used housing. There really isn't a ton of electronic components, so as long as you get it serviced by the manufacturer and all the O-rings replaced/checked, you could save a boatload of cash.

The best thing about this is my wife is actually enjoying diving. She complains if I buy a new snake stick, or another "turtle" lens, but the UW camera and diving is "more normal". I am glad because it gives us something to do together that we both enjoy and I don't feel as guilty for always sneaking away on herp trips.

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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by justinm » February 27th, 2013, 2:54 pm

For now I'm sticking with the submersible P&S but I'm dreaming and drooling over your rig. Thanks for a very interesting write up. Amazing photo's you've done well for just starting out.

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Re: Underwater Photography

Post by jason folt » February 28th, 2013, 12:10 pm

There are tons more pictures of some interesting animals. I am working on a post for the main forum, but it is very herp deficient.

Jason

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