CHAPTER 3: THE HOUSING CRISIS
When thinking about any large purchase, I’ve a tendency to “buy the good one first” rather than buying a lesser version only to upgrade later. Regardless of the expense of the initial item, it’s increased by having bought a “gap version” in the interim.
In this case, rather than buy a lesser camera in a modest housing which would need to be upgraded later, I decided to spend what was necessary to match my needs. Ideally, my skills could grow into the abilities of the rig and the rig would not limit (within reason) what I could do. I didn’t want to “under-buy,” but over-buying didn’t make sense either. (By the way, never do a “cost-per-dive” analysis unless you dive A LOT.) I was gonna “go big” right from the start.
It seemed a tad foolish to buy a housing without trying it first. “Test-diving” is mandatory for reasons that don’t become evident until you do. Are the controls usable? Is the housing buoyant enough to rocket to the surface and punch a hole in the bottom of the dive boat, or heavy enough to substitute for a weight belt? Can you be careful enough with a polycarbonate dome, or are you better suited to glass? Can you afford the glass?
At the Bonaire Digital Shootout, I was fortunate enough to be teaching a session (focused primarily on what you do with the resulting photos in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom) when the gang from Backscatter flew in with loaner gear. This was a brilliant maneuver on their part since we were all essentially trapped on an island unable escape the tractor-beam-like pull of new toys. They wisely recognized we were powerless to say no. I think we actually WANTED them to sell us gear. There are entire books on the subject of retail psychology, how some buyers need just the tiniest nudge to make the purchase. Try on any piece of clothing and if you emerge from the dressing room to see yourself in a larger mirror, the sales person will inevitably compliment you on it. Likewise, to get someone to test-drive a car, hand them the keys. (Once upon a time, they would casually toss the keys on the hood.) Just holding an item begins the psychology of ownership. Hence, loaning us a new housing was a brilliant mind-play.
Being well-aware of my own retail weaknesses, I had the Backscatter gang “house-up” a camera I’d been thinking of buying anyway for a test dive. Aside from the fact that the zoom gear had bumped the lens into manual focus, everything else about the unit resonated. I was sold. Russ, Jim, and Berkeley must have surely sensed that fact when, upon returning the housing, my fingers held on for just a split second too long. I swear Jim smiled slightly as he turned away clearly sensing blood in the water.
Rather than a feeding frenzy or even a retail purchase, the process felt more like an adoption with less paperwork. When I returned home from the trip, I sent an email to the gang a Backscatter asking them for a quote on the same kind of rig I used in Bonaire. After a series of “proposals” back and forth, tweaking and adjusting to match my skill level and wallet, I decided on a setup; a 40D in a Sea & Sea housing, a flat macro port, a wide-angle dome port, two lenses, and a single Inon strobe. (Two strobes seemed like overkill since I have yet to routinely shoot well with only one.) 7 easy pieces with assertive, though not alarming, numbers next to each.
However, on page 2 of the proposal, was listed the rest of the “stuff”: arms, joints, elbows, cables, interlocking pieces, adaptors, modifiers, extenders, rings, clips, attachments, covers, cases, spares of various types, creams, gels, ointments, wipes, towels, oh my.
I shot past my budget like a jet engine on a skateboard. I thought the grand total was the serial number that started with an S. “No, that’s not an S, that’s a dollar sign.” Staring down the barrel of the REAL grand total, peeing yourself just a tiny bit seems to be a natural part of the process.
I drove down to Monterey on a gorgeous day to pick up “the baby.” Parking was suspiciously convenient and I strolled along the waterfront to the Backscatter store. Russ had gathered the various boxes and began to put the rig together, explaining the pieces and their purpose as he went. Most of it was self-explanatory though a few things benefited from his demonstrations.
Less-than-ideal o-ring positioning - not advised!
With all the pieces together, the first shot was taken from inside the housing.
These are not the fish I remember from Bonaire…
So far so good. A few more tests, and all seemed to be working normally. I chose a Pelican case to hold it all (not to mention get the stuff out to my car), and wheeled it over to the cash register. Out came the credit card in a now-trembling hand and, with a quick swipe and a signature, it was all mine.
It was time to take it home and introduce it to water…
by Daniel Brown
Dome Port Diaries
The Adventures of a Newbie Housing Owner