Underwater Photography and Videography made easy

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Preparation before you go:

It doesn’t take that long to prepare your stuff and it will save you a whole heap of hassle.  Do it the day before, in the evening, before you have a drink!  Ask the dive organiser how you will be entering the water and if it will be suitable for bringing a camera.

First the camera:

Check that you have a charged battery and a memory card loaded with plenty of spare memory.  If you are taking video, remember that they can devour small SD cards. Remove the wrist strap from the camera.

Check that the lens is clean – if it’s not, get hold of some alcohol from the chemist and carefully clean it with a lint-free cloth, or failing that, a tissue.  DO NOT USE SOME PIECE OF CLOTHING THAT’S LYING AROUND – IT COULD HAVE SAND ON IT AND SCRATCH YOUR LENS. If you have one, put a spare battery on charge.

Tim Long

Next the Housing:

With clean hands, run your finger around the O-ring on the main seal to check it feels clean and there is no sand or grit. If you have to clean and grease the O-ring, now is the time.  Remove the O-ring with a credit/PADI card, use a cotton bud and the alcohol to clean the groove the O-ring sits in, then clean off and grease with silicon grease.  Place it back into its groove, with any malformation of the O-rings in their original position.  Then close the housing, to confirm it’s in place.

Load your camera into the housing.  Turn the camera on in the housing and run through the controls to make sure you are familiar with how the controls work on the housing.  The buttons are often moved around (some Canon housings reverse the way the zoom works).  While you run through the buttons, make sure you know how to get the camera to do a custom/manual white balance.

Attach a lanyard to the housing to hold the camera around your wrist – even better, get a force retractor.  I would not recommend one that screws into the bottom of the housing, as there is always a chance you could untwist it.  If you are taking strobes with you, make sure they are fully charged and that the camera will set them off when you take a shot.

Tim Long

Then clear the memory card and take a photo of your name, dive centre and contact details, so it’s the first picture on the camera.  If you are unfortunate enough to lose your camera and it’s found, a lot are, then you are giving the finder every opportunity to return it to you.

By doing this the night before, you minimise the chance of experiencing any problems with condensation forming inside the housing, or worse, inside the lens! If you load the camera into the housing just before you enter the water, you will be filling your housing with warm, humid air and virtually guaranteeing condensation problems.  If you have access to an air-conditioned environment, always try to open and seal your housing there.  Before you head off for your dive, check that your battery is fully charged and then turn the camera off, to keep it charged.  Don’t take a spare battery with you on the dive – once you leave your room don’t open the housing again.

The beach is not a good place for cameras, not only is there the salty, moisture laden air, but there is also your camera’s number one enemy – sand!  Think about how far up your legs you wash off sand after a simple walk down the beach.  The lens shutter is a lovely precision bit of tech, but it only takes one grain of sand to stop it opening and closing properly. It’s almost impossible to repair yourself, but hopefully, you will have your camera safely sealed in its housing.  Put the housed camera into a sand free bag.  Getting sand on your housing is not good either, it can get into the buttons, it will cause a leak in your housing’s button’s O-rings and these are not easily serviced.

Tim Long

Before you put your fins on and enter the water, get your camera, check it works and secure it to yourself or your BCD.  If it doesn’t work, don’t try to fix it, just put it aside, enjoy your dive and have a look when you get home.  If you try to fix it in a hurry, that is when things go wrong, trust me, I know… and I was not a happy bunny!

Try not to open your housing outside of a truly dry environment.  If the battery only lasts one dive, then dive without the camera on the second dive.  If you are on a live aboard then try to restrict yourself to opening your housing in your cabin.  Enjoy your dive!

Next time, help with ‘Lights and strobes’ and  ‘Video v Stills’. Please get in touch if you have any specific problems you need help with and I will do my best to assist.

 

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About Author

I first started underwater photography in 2003 with a Nikinos V film camera. In 2004 I went digital and started using compact cameras in housings. In 2011 having had enough of life sitting behind a desk I became a scuba instructor and housed my DSLR and trained and started working as an underwater videographer, eventually running my own business in Thailand. After smashing my head in on a motorbike without a helmet - please wear a helmet, you never know when a drugged up idiot will come around the corner on the wrong side of the road - I had a brief sojourn into working as an underwater photographer in the Canaries, before returning to the business in Thailand filming and teaching videography. I am currently having a break from the water caring fro my Mum in Northumbria, where I don't get in the water quite as often, but it does give me time to share a bit of what I've learned in over 1,000 dives with cameras in my hands.

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