Beneath the Sea 2011

Ikelite had their new fiber optic connector for their strobes. The small adaptor allows you trigger the strobes directly by fiber optic connections. Something else that I found out was that Ikelite allows the DS-125s also to be upgraded to DS-160s/161s. This is a bit of information that I had missed along the way. The last time I had checked, the option was not available to owners of DS-125s, like me. I will be getting around to doing that in the not so distant future.

Making the rounds through a dive show and visiting manufacturers would never be complete for me until I stop by the Aquatica Booth, since I use their housings and love them.

The new manufacturing techniques they have put into place the last few years have made their housings smaller and lighter and they continue to improve their housings with each iteration. One of their newer housings is their first foray into the real small market with their housing for the Sony NEX-5.

The updated macro port is lighter and more streamlined and the small, while the 4” port and 6” port are going to wind up in my kit someday due to their size. While speaking with Jean Bruneau, Dominique Serafini (the painter/illustrator who spent 20 years on the Calypso) stopped by and was helpful in showing some other uses of Aquatica products that I had not considered before.

Port as windshield.

Though the new cameras and housings are always provide the first “gotta see this…now” moment, there are many other things that are worthwhile investigating at the show. If you read through Wetpixel, there are always questions about modifications and little things that make our lives as shooters a bit easier. I am always impressed at how many members are the equivalent of underwater MacGyvers in coming up with really innovative items and solutions. And there were booths at BTS that were right up that alley.

Beneath The Surface is a new player in the arms and controls market. The people behind the company include Randy Kinzer, an engineer who has parts he literally designed on Mars: So he has a bit of knowledge on how to make things. Beneath The Surface has made practical solutions to being able to deal with rigs, including some sturdy (and light) cross arm set ups that easily clip on and off and help answer the age old question of “how do I hand this thing up to the boat without it getting bashed.” The smaller units, such as the one for the JVC video recorder, seemed well balanced and would be relatively stable for underwater use. And they even have set-ups so you can have a small video camera stacked on top of a point and shoot camera.

Another company that had interesting items was the California company XIT404. They caught my eye with some stunning metal prints in their booth. I started speaking with them and noticed names on their badges. It took me a moment to put it altogether, but it was Mike and Jody Elliot. Mike has made some great video pieces, like “Rasta Pasta”“, which I have seen in various places and Jody’s name is another I recognize from various contests and shoot-outs. They have developed some cool things based on their needs as shooters on both the video and still sides of things.

One item is a set of interlocking focus/zoom rings that for use in housings by various manufacturers. No tools required. Just slip on and add/subtract pieces as needed via a release and interlocking system. Right now the rings are available for the Canon 100mm (old and new), Canon 60mm, 50mm Sigma, 15mm Sigma, Tokina 10-17, the 1.4 and 2x Teleconvertor and also the Nikon 105VR, with more being planned.

Another interesting piece was the multi-ball adaptor to be able to easily get more than one mounting point to attach all the lights and other bits and pieces we never seem to have enough room for.

We also had a chance to discuss their new Gallery “From My View” which features Jody’s work on aluminum prints and Mike’s video. Based on what I had seen at the show, and seeing Mike’s work before, I know I will make it a point to stop on by the next time I am out West.

I had a Wetpixel shirt on, so it was no surprise I got a couple of “Wetpixel? Hey are you Eric?” comments. Once the initial disappointment faded following the question, I was able to have some good conversations.

Andy Bennis was there with Thousand Island Diving. He spoke about his foray into the SLR world and how Wetpixel helped him out. We also talked about how easy for me it would be to pop up there for some diving. A relatively short trip (5 hours) to many wrecks in water with good visibility. A good trip where I do not have to go through an airport and can pile all my gear in the back of the car without worrying about weight restrictions.

Beneath The Sea is about more than just photo and video. There are many booths set up for travel for pretty much any place and destination you can think of. There are also other dive related booths, from dive gear to historical societies; there are always some fascinating things to learn about.

One such booth was the diveheart booth. You probably have heard about them as they bring scuba diving to those with disabilities. Jim Elliot, the President of diveheart, had a good deal of material on the program, including some photos of some of the trips and people who have participated. It was inspiring to learn about what they do and how many people they have touched through diving. Nowadays we hear so much about the “bad” things in the world because they make for good press, and I feel we do not hear enough about the good things like diveheart.

There as also a booth that was set up like the inside of a store with an old fashion feel. Real cool looking t-shirts with a “broken in” look: Surface Interval t-shirts. (Andy is modeling one of them in the shot above.)

One of the shirts Surface Interval produces is the SUDS shirt (Soldiers Undertaking Disabled Scuba), which is an organization that uses scuba to help wounded soldiers. Surface Interval donates all proceeds from the shirt to the program. A real nice gesture from a new company making its way in a competitive arena.

I walked away from BTS already looking forward to next years show and with a shopping list. The new wave of small things is becoming too tempting. I had to take a LowePro day backpack with me for my 5D Mark II and some other items but found that with some of the gear on display I could have got a full rig, including lights and strobes and a MacBook Air in it. I now have one of the Sola’s. You didn’t really expect me to be able to walk through all of this and not pick up something did you?