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Old March 31st, 2005, 12:38 PM   #1
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Underwater shooting tips?

Going to be shooting underwater for the first time soon. I'll be using a GL2 in a Ikelite housing and snorkle gear at a remote site in Mexico.

Plan to put the camera and some dessicant in the housing while still in an air conditioned space (lower humidity).

Bringing spare O-Rings and lub for the housing.

Wondering if anyone else with underwater shooting experience has any suggestions on technique, (I'm testing it out in a pool later today). What is the best way to adjust the housing to be neturally bouyant? Considering using stick on weights from a tire store.

I'll be shooting Sea Turtles in two locations. One just off the beach and the other a couple of miles out to sea.

Thanks in advance!
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Old April 1st, 2005, 09:49 AM   #2
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Reach out for Rick Bravo. He's an underwater video expert with extensive experience with the Miami Dade PD Video Services Unit.
Interesting, if true. And interesting anyway.
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Old April 1st, 2005, 10:39 AM   #3
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Had an o-ring "blow out" on me once using an Ikelite housing. It was a stills camera, top of the range Olympus. Bye bye cam! Never tried it again, sold the housing. Don't know why it happened. The o-ring was OK, probably badly seated, my own fault. Take a LOT of care closing the housing!

Apart from that just a few loose ones:
Can you see the LCD screen while the cam is in the housing? Framing is hard using a diving mask: your eye is far away from the viewfinder.
Light: using only snorkel stuff, you won't go very deep. But even a few feet deep, everything will turn blueish.
Get close to the subject if possible, use wide angle. Unless visibility is excellent, the closer you are the clearer the image will be.
Trimming the housing: I remember it being neutrally buoyant. Full of water it suddenly wanted to sink ;-)
Don't forget your own safety, have someone take care of you while you work: currents, animals etc can be dangerous.
Have a great time, sounds good, those turtles!
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Old April 1st, 2005, 11:17 AM   #4
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Thanks for the inputs.

Swam with the cam yesterday in a pool. It's going to be a lot of work keeping up with the turtles while trying to frame a shot, use the controls and oh ya, breathe!

Down side to this housing is that you cannot use the LCD. It does have a magnifier behind the viewfinder that helps some but as was mentioned, it's tough to see through a mask when you and the housing are moving. I'll probably be doing a lot of staying wide and just pointing the housing.

I was surprised to find the housing is negativly bouyant. Would have thought the design would be for a slightly positive housing so if you should let go, the worst that can happen is it'll bob to the surface. Could be because I'm using the largest battery available for the cam. Since it's only slightly neg in fresh water, I'm hoping that in Salt it will be neutral or positive. If not, I plan on attaching (somehow) something that will keep it positive.

Still need to work out white balance. The housing came with a "UR/PRO" filter. Using it with preset was worse than without. Could be due to the fact I was in a indoor pool lit by flouresents. I'll need to experiment more in the actual setting I'll be shooting.
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Old April 1st, 2005, 11:25 AM   #5
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Hi Rob,
I've shot quite a bit in the Cozemel island area of Mexico.

Biggest thing I can recommend is maintaining neutral bouyancy. I think a pool checkout is a great idea. Try it first without the camera to insure a water tight seal. You should be able to dial in just the right amount of weight to make the unit as close to neutral as possible. A good lanyard will help too.

With the water clarity you find in Mexico's waters, it's amazing. Not sure what kind of rig you have, or camera, etc. I had an Ikelite housing that worked great. It also had an opticle glass on the back to magnify the viewfinder. A small LCD viewfinder would have been ideal. You should have a red filter to color-correct for underwater. It's nice if the filter is switchable on/off for shooting on the surface and then transitioning under. You shouldn't need any lights unless you go deeper than around 80 feet, or enter caves, or go under reefs.

Its been a few years since I've done it, and there's a lot of new gear out there to get better shots with.

Good luck!

Jeff Patnaude
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Old April 2nd, 2005, 11:38 PM   #6
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Use the daylight preset for white balance.

The color correction filter should be usable between 20 and 50 feet. Any shallower and the image will look too red. Any deeper and it'll add an odd tinge to the color. And anything below 60 feet is predominantly blue.

If you want a nice underwater light, check out Underwater Kinetics Light Cannon. It's an HID light that's slightly blue but can be corrected to match daylight. Great for daylight fill at depths below 60 feet to help bring out some color. Equivalent to 25 watts of light. Price isn't bad considering it's an HID light: About $180.

I've used Ikelite housings for u/w stills and video. Be sure that you close the snaps simultaneously or else you might experience that o-ring blowout problem. If there are more than two snaps, then close opposing snaps simultaneously.

Speaking of O-rings, keep them clean. No sand grit or even hair must be allowed to get onto them or into the groove in which they're seated. And go light on the silicone grease. You should barely be able to feel the silicone lube and definitely not see any of it on or around the o-ring.

Use the wide angle adapter if it comes with one. Visibility becomes a problem quickly, even in relatively clear water. The wider lens lets you get closer. Hopefully it also comes with a dome port.

I'm looking forward to getting an underwater setup soon. Hope yours works out well. Have fun!
Dean Sensui
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Old January 6th, 2006, 07:43 AM   #7
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Forgive me my ignorance. I am just a tourist in this section. Would there be any benefit in packing a few cellulose dishwashing sponges in the case with the camera to mop up any spill that gets in for long enough to get the cam back to the surface and out of harms way?
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Old January 9th, 2006, 02:06 AM   #8
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"Would there be any benefit in packing a few cellulose dishwashing sponges in the case with the camera to mop up any spill that gets in for long enough to get the cam back to the surface and out of harms way?"

It might work if it's a small leak and it's caught early at shallow depths.

But if you're 80 feet down and you spring a leak, the amount of water that will come streaming in will exceed the sponge's ability to protect anything in the housing. And you don't want to ascend fast enough to save the camera, at the risk of injuring yourself.

Some people have been known to put Alka Seltzer tablets in the housing. The theory is that any water coming in will cause the tablets to fizz and generate enough gas pressure to slow down the leak or stop it completely. I've never done this and haven't ever tested it. Maybe it's something for the Myth Busters to check out?
Dean Sensui
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Old January 11th, 2006, 08:33 AM   #9
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Hi all. Welcome to the new year. Just been reading the underwater posts so though I would throw abit in since that's what I do.

I'm on to my 5th underwater housing in over 12 years with a couple thousand dives and have never had a major flood, although a couple minor ones that were my fault though. Always check the main oring when ever you open it for whatever reason. Take it off inspect an clean plus look at the sealing surfaces. This is the reason I had some minor leaks. A housing will have more chance of a leak in shallow water (like snorkeling) than at depth due to the oring sealing beter the deeper you go, untill you go very deep at least.

Once a year do all the o rings on the housing.

Manual white balance is the go and it's very important to have control of shutter, exposure and manual focus to get the best shots. Most cameras will shoot abit hot on auto hence you need to manually crank it down abit. Turn on the zeba bars to give you a guide till you get to know what the camera can do.

URPRO fitlers are the way to go although the new FX1 will white balance even at 25 meters without any filter. Using a filter, will cause you to loose a couple f stops. I was getting f8 - zero db and 50 shutter at that depth as well.

Wide angle is the way to go, wider the better.

HID lights are the way to go as well although bright lights scare the fish away, natural colour is best if you can get a good slightly warm white balance.

Perfect bouyancy control and being at one in the water and with the animals, not worring about anything apart from the subject, hence why I film by myself so I don't have to worry about another diver and the fact that they will get rather bored while I sit in one spot and film a nudibranch for 50 mins. Hey if I can snorkel to 32 meters then I can come up from a normal dive easy, infact I sometimes take my dive gear off and let it rise to the surface then slowly assend, its good to know ones limits. Deeper dives I will have a friend though. Having said that, I don't encourage people to go off diving by themselves. I have done over 3000 dives (lost count now) and have PADI and SSI instructor ratings although I don't teach anymore. Over 1000 students and resort divers was enough for me, not to mention all the certs I guided around.

More soon
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Old January 11th, 2006, 03:55 PM   #10
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What housing and camera setup are you currently running? Whos housings do you recommend and whos would you avoid?

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Old January 14th, 2006, 11:33 AM   #11
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Hello Chris
I use a HDV FX1 in a Amphibico Phenom housing.
3CCD PD100 in a Amphbico Navigator 900 housing.
Nikon D70 in a Sea&Sea housing.
Lights are twin HID's 3 hour burn time.

Amphibico and Gates make very good housings and so do Light and Motion.
There are cheaper ones out there but you get what you pay for and they might not let you have access to many controls on the camera. I won't metion any brands. I have seen plastic ones crack. Don't let them talk you into auto controls work great etc you need manual to get the best shots.

On another note, Im a PC guy but for all you Mac dudes out there, here is a QT7 H.264 underwater clip for you to view shot with the HDV FX1.
Its 30 megs and runs for 1.30 mins.

For the Windows PC people, here is the same clip encoded to the same mbps and res but to a wmv clip. 30 megs.

Interesting to see the difference in quality as well. It looks like H.264 gives a slightly sharper image than the wmv. WMV files are quicker to make though.

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Old July 15th, 2008, 05:18 AM   #12
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Hi, sorry for digging up an old thread but I noticed the question about sponges etc and that if you were to get a leak at depth the sponges would be nearly useless, which is true.

I use an XM2 in a Gates housing that has tampons inside! Yes that's right, they're more absorbant that sponges! Also I have attached a mini DSMB to the bottom of the housing, this is great as if the housing ever springs a leak and the alarm goes off, all I need to do is spin the housing over, crack the mini cylinder and send the whole thing to the surface in a rather short space of time, minimizing the chances of any serious damage. Then slowly surface to keep myself safe whilst keeping an eye on the camera. In a very strong current there is always the possibility of the housing floating away, but I always tell the skipper what the plan is so he can go grab the camera for me if he sees it and I lose it.

Anyway that's my 0.02.

Take care.
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Old July 15th, 2008, 06:12 AM   #13
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I have shoot underwater with a pd170 many times. Mostly down about 15 feet. Keep the camera as still as possible when shooting underwater. I shoot 45 minutes of video letting the current carry me and push me around. it was going about 2 knots. when we watched the footage we nearly got seasick. everybody was holding on to the chairs moving side to side. It seemed as if we were still in the water. we watched it on a 30 inch mac screen. if close to the surface near shore, you will get a lot of reflection from the sun if the water is moving a lot. makes it very distracting.

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Old August 19th, 2008, 01:07 AM   #14
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Stay still

Yes - this is also my experience. Remember to hold the camera still for some shots - dont swim around all the time. And remember to count to ten or twenty. Almost all my shots are to short - I dont know what happends with the time underwater, but I loose the feel of it.
And take care for the waves when near the surface - its almost impossible to hold the camera (and yourself) still there.
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Old August 19th, 2008, 01:23 AM   #15
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The thing is that the refractive index of water to air means that you lose a vast amount of your wide-angle coverage once you submerge, so you'll need a wide-angle converter on the camera to claw some of it back.

I always use a powerful single element partial zoom-through for space reasons inside the housing. The barrel distortion is all but invisible until you surface and see the boat, horizon or pool side.

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