This is my second rinse tank instalment. You can read the first here. And luckily it coincides with some intensive underwater photography for me. I started with a week in Baa Atoll in the Maldives (leading a group of mainly British photographers), before heading on to Vancouver Island in Canada (with friends Mintz, McMeins, Rowlands and Morphy) and then finally Bali and Komodo in Indonesia (with another group of mainly British photographers). I’ll leave my Indonesian travels and kit travails for next month (with the apperance of a surprise special guest from Wetpixel).
As I wrote in August, my Maldives trip was to be my first for a decade or so without a Subal! With current luggage restrictions I only had space for the Nauticam D7000 on this trip. And it performed well. My main frustration is with the strobe connections. It comes with a pair of fibre optic connections and an optional electronic synch socket. But the electronic synch is on a single connector, which I find annoying. I wish Nauticam would offer the option of a Y plug here; so two strobes could be electronically synched with the housing.
I end up having to use a splitter cable, which is pretty cumbersome; although has been 100% reliable. The majority of strobes on the market now will work with fibre optic, but a few of the older models are still electronic only. However, some of these older strobes produce an excellent quality of light. And for those of us who care about light, it is nice to have the option to use them easily. Especially on a wide angle trip to the Maldives.
The irony of all of this moaning is that all my favourite manta pictures at Hanifaru were taken without strobes using a Magic filter! On that subject, the new rules at Hanifaru concern me a bit. I actually think the snorkelling only is a good idea; but I am really concerned with their plans to build a dock. The reason this amazing manta feed spectacle exists is because of a unique interaction of the tidal currents and the topography – allowing the bay to aggregation plankton and therefore mantas (and therefore divers). Changing the topography and therefore, perhaps, the current flow seems naïve.
While it was mantas during the day, I spent the night dives doing super macro and testing close up diopters for a forthcoming review I am doing with Adam H. You’ll be able to read about that elsewhere.
No sooner was I back from the Maldives then I headed off to Vancouver Island in Canada. I went from diving with 1kg of lead to a ridiculous 22kg to sink me in my Fourth Element thermals. I could have probably brought less insulation, but it was nice to never once even have to think of the cold underwater.
As I was flying trans-Atlantic I had a much more generous baggage allowance and ended up travelling with nearly 90kg of luggage! Including both Subal and Nauticam systems. The full frame Subal D700 would be doing the wide angle and the cropped sensor Nauticam D7000 would be doing the macro (and mini-dome wide angle) work. I took only Inon strobes (2x Z240s and 2x S2000s) and a range of lenses. For FX I used Nikon 16mm, 16-35mm and Sigma 15mm (using Zen 230 dome). For DX I used Tokina 10-17mm (Zen 100 dome), Nikon 60mm and 105mm AFS (Nauticam macro ports). I used Subsee +5 and FIT +5 diopters. Although these appear to have the same strength, the FIT looses much of its power underwater, although it remains very useful because of its excellent image quality.
I have had a couple of problems with Subal buttons snapping. This is my third to go (at a rate of less than one a year). All have been broken on land (twice in carry-on luggage) and all have been very easy to fix in the field. But I do think that the plastic is probably a little brittle and if you are a remote Subal traveller you may want to carry a spare. I fixed the issue in about 5 minutes while very jet lagged. Tested it in the bath and then took the Subal straight in with the steller sealions at Race Rocks. No problems. The sealions are huge (3m + and weighing more than 1 ton) but were quite chilled out for our dives.
This was also my first trip using the Inon S2000s for macro and I quickly fell in love with them. I bought them second-hand (ex-demo) from Reef Photo Video, although they didn’t come with magnets. So they are TTL only for now using the fibre optics. So my main creative options are moving them around or turning one off. Sometimes it can be nice to have less options.
It is a nice rig to use for macro and super macro and the compact business end is great to getting into tight spots. Anecdotally, I’d even suggest that critters find it less intimidating, but that may be in my mind! Both strobes are on TTL here. I am really pleased with is macro setup and it should get a good workout on my forthcoming Indonesia trip. I hope to pitch my next book project soon and I feel the portfolio could do with some additional macro images. So it has some important work coming up!
|Main System||Nikon D700 + Subal housing, Subal 45 degree viewfinder, Zen 230 dome, Subtronic Alpha strobes, Inon Z240 strobes. Light and Motion Sola 600.|
|Additional Systems||Nikon D7000 + Nauticam housing (housing shared with girlfriend), Nauticam 45 degree viewfinder. Same strobes as above.|