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What dive qualification?

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#1 Alex_Mustard


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 10:33 AM

I'd be interested in hearing a wide variety of opinions on this one:

What dive qualification do you have?

What level do you feel is sufficient/appropriate for underwater photography?


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#2 Lionfish43


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 10:46 AM

I'm not sure if qualifications/certifications are an good indicator of dive competence. Personally, I only have an open water certification from PADI. Yet I've been diving for 37 years with somewhere between 1500 and 2000 dives. Does the fact that I only have an open water certification mean that I'm unqualified
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#3 timoma


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 10:47 AM


I've got PADI AI and DSAT RecTec and I'm finally going to get Trimix certified this winter.

I regularly dive with a guy who has I think CMAS * and something like 600-700 dives. Our boat is frequented by a PADI DM with less than 100 dives.

Maybe it's not so much about the plastic... :blink:

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#4 LChan


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 10:51 AM

I started taking pictures on my 15th dive (11 after getting my open water cert). I started with a housed D100 and dual DS-125. It certainly helped me get my buoyancy perfect. It helped me get good at diving very quickly. I just don't think I would recommend most people doing what I did. I think having the newness of a new skill, new equipment (BCD, dive computer, etc.), and add on a housed dSLR, probably wasn't the wisest of decisions. I survived, the reef survived.

I currently am AOW. Purely so that I can use the card to go on "advanced" dives in Hawaii and other places. I think the whole certification process is hokey and just another way for PADI to make more $$.

With that said, I tell people probably the best time for them to start taking pictures is when they feel comfortable their life support equipment (BCD, computer, reg, etc...) , and with their buoyancy skills. Diving is not only for our enjoyment, but also we need to preserve for the wildlife as well as for other people to see.
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#5 drsteve


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 10:56 AM

I agree that it isn't about the certification; it is about experience. I tell people that they shouldn't even consider carrying a camera until the diving is second nature. Otherwise the task loading of having to deal with this thing in their hand can impare safety. Besides, if you are still fiddling with your gear, you are going to get awful images anyway. I usually council people not to consider carying a P+S camera until they have 50 dives under their belt, and not to consider a DSLR until they have a 100; more if they are diving in cold water. Not that anyone listens to me...

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#6 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 11:02 AM

Hi Alex,

I don't think there is necessarily a good correlation between the qualification/certification of a diver and the quality of that person's diving skills. So, in a sense, the lowest qualification/certification that you need to rent equipment from a dive operator is what you need. However, you do need to be a good diver to handle the diving and UWphotography without either one negatively affecting the other.

I have just a basic PADI OW certification and so far have done all my dives in the Caribbean with a dive guide and stayed away from challenging dives. However, going shore diving without a dive guide/group to worry about is very attractive and I think will greatly help my UWphotography skills. To go out diving with just another buddy or to get into murky/cold water diving I would like to first build up more experience. Underwater navigation and rescue diver training would be at the top of my list. Since UWphotography buddies typically aren't your best guardian angels, a course in safe solo-diving would be good too.

In the end what matters most is that you can handle the dive environment you are getting into with a level of comfort and confidence that you can focus on the UWphotography without putting yourself, others, or the reef in danger. Depending on how challenging you want to make it you may need more or less training.


PS Just wanted to add that I agree with Larry Chan about the PADI training. Maybe I had a particularly bad instructor for the theory/pool part but it was completely inadequate in my opinion. Luckily I had had a very solid training in cold water diving in the Netherlands during the mid-80's, from our universitie's scuba club. It did not result in a piece of plastic but it sure made me a better diver.
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#7 Giles


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 11:34 AM

Alex knowing you .. this is a double edged question... be interesting to know if you have a reason for this discussion or if it is just for discussion sake.

As with most census here I believe that it is down to the individual.

I know divers that have been diving for 75 years and were certified before the non militaryworld knew you could breath underwater. They had shocking bouyancy yet took a camera and video camera in the water with them and hence trashed everything they came near. I banned one of them from my boat once, but thats another story.
Oh the other hand I have taken 10 year olds diving with their dads who I have in the middle of the dive taken the (basic point and shoot camera) from the dad and given it to the kid as he was far mor capable of dealing with the two things.

Those are extremes, but are good examples of why you can't put an answer to this question just opinions. I would like to hear what Andi has to say on this one as he worked closely with the new digital photo course. I would like to know if it addresses this.

I personally gave up all PADI instructor qualifications 3 years ago as I stopped believing in their usefullness and had seen too many bad instructors teach students badly creating a bad generation. I didn't want to be a part of that any more. Not that I ever offcially certified anyone, but hey ho. I would be on 11 years this november as an instructor if I had maintained it.

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#8 Paul Kay

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 11:39 AM

The dive qualification is irrelevant - I know divers with only the most basic paperwork who are extremely good divers (in one case with nearly 40 years experience). It is experience which is needed and I'm a bad example having had a camera with me on my 11th dive!

In my opinion, I'd say that you are ready for a camera when the 'faf' factor involved in diving has reduced and you actually realised it was 'faf'!

In the Uk the only qualifications (and proceedures) you really need to worry about are those required if you work (for profit) underwater in the UK.

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#9 AndyBarker


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 11:58 AM

Interesting forum,

I agree with the points about what qualifications you require or not to make you

competent to use any kind of camera. I also agree with the points about being

comfortable with all aspects of diving & the use of all your equipment, when I

purchase a new piece of kit I will not take my rig with me until I am completly

happy with it. (thats just my way I want to dive for along yet :blink: )

On a recent Red Sea dive trip hanging around in about 8meters of water

(with a group of snappers & fish :) ) I witnessed divers being helped

to the surface in distressed state, is this due to the currents, conditions,

or not enough training & experiance, so for me & any buddy who is with me


Andy :D ;) :ninja:

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#10 bvanant


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 12:53 PM

There is experience and there is another type of experience. We once dove with a PADI divemaster who had something like 150 dives but none of them in the ocean, all in the blue hole in New Mexico. Her first salt water dive was in the Coral Sea and she was not a happy camper at all, particularly in finding the big boat. Competent diver, probably a good helper for instructors, lots of logged dives but nothing in the real world of currents, waves and such. That being said, I think as everyone else does that experience not plastic badges count, but if everyone had to go through the LA county training (http://www.lascuba.com/) there would be lots less worry for the diveboat guys. I may be biased, but I also think cold water training is more "useful" (not the right word but I don't know what is) at creating experience but as I say I might be biased.


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#11 PeterCatchpole


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 01:04 PM

Interesting question and for one would be interested in knowing the reason for asking.

I'm a PADI Staff Instructor, if that actually means anything to another to form an opinion on my diving skills.

Experience, ability and qualification are key aspects to be taken into account and the word DEPENDS.

PADI OW certification would be the minimum or the BSAC, SSI etc equivalent . Added to this, would be the individuals ability in conducting themselves appropriately for the diving and conditions anticipated.

Even so this is not infallible, I dare say many of us have seen well qualified divers struggle in conditions which shouldn't have posed a problem to them. Or divers in an environment which is outside of their training or experience, getting into difficulties.

I guess the overriding consideration is ability, but you wouldn't want a paying guest in difficulties at 30m and only certified as an open water diver, now would you.
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#12 Alex_Mustard


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 01:12 PM

Great to see so many responses. Keep them coming. I ask this question because I think it is one that comes up from time to time and thought it would be a good one to put in The Best Of Wetpixel, once the discussion is finished.

Wetpixel has lots of readers who are aspiring photographers as well as those who already ruin their diving with a camera.


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#13 FlyingKiwi


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 01:15 PM

I'd been freediving for well over 10 years, doing underwater photography for 8 or 9 years and night freediving with a camera for 3 or 4 years when I learned to scuba dive in the Philippines this last March.

Naturally there was no thought of dragging a camera around while I was being trained, but I was disappointed that I wasn't able to take the camera on my first post-certification dive, which happened to be a night dive. Of course I completely understand and respect the divemaster's decision not to allow me to take the camera, since from his perspective I would have been dealing with three variables - scuba, night conditions and a camera. Without knowing my experience level and degree of comfortable, it makes perfect sense to minimize the number of variables and hence the risk.

However, since I was already comfortable with two of them I didn't find it a big stretch to handle the third, and in fact I had the camera with me on the remaining 10 or so dives I did, including 3 more night dives.

Of course it's pretty rare to have someone like myself coming from free-diving photography to scuba-diving photography, but I still feel it's a valid experience, and a reasonable thing to do from the perspective of risk.


#14 Elli and Ted

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 02:56 PM

What dive qualification do you have?

AO and 90 dives in two years, ten dives with a camera and believe qualifications are important but it all depends on where and who teaches you, at the moment I am doing the Rescue course and to be honest its worth every penny.

What level do you feel is sufficient/appropriate for underwater photography?

about 50% of our "training"diving is done in our local lake were the vis can be between 10cm -10mtr and can be very cold. With such miserable conditions as these were you have to keep your Lamp on the compass and computer without loosing your buddy, buoyancy (no yoyoing) and direction is as good alevel youll get. The other 50% is in the oceans and seas with currents, waves and everything else that goes with. Whats more important than taking photos is keep a good eye on your buddy. :D

:blink: Ted

#15 kriptap


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 03:11 PM

I think that saying experience is what's necessary, is a two way thing. Just last week I had a diver who went off like a maniac to get a photo of an Eagle Ray, when he got back to the group he was breathing so hard that I could see the tank flex with each breath (just joking on the flex, don't need any PM 's) any way the point it sometimes the experienced diver can do silly things while the newer diver probably would not have done what he had. (Oh and no he never got the shot) I think the most important thing is first the diver has an awareness of the reef and how fragile it is and that the reef comes first not the photo, if you can't get the shot without molesting the reef then leave it. Next buoyancy is extremely important, you need good buoyancy to get good images and this is the one that many diver just don't posses and should practice first. Unfortunately divers come day after day who have not dove since last year, the first few days they warm up and just when they are getting good again, it's time to go home. So we let people who are new and experienced bring cameras on the dive everyday, but if they are seen doing something wrong, like touching the coral then we tell them. I would like to add that most divers we get are great, they care about the reef and it shows.

#16 mtnman


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 03:55 PM

One word buoyancy,bouyancy,bouyancy!! OOps that's 3-well you get the picture.

#17 fdog


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 05:25 PM

Weeellll...if pressed, I'd suggest that in a perfect worls, photographers should have DIR-F.....

Mind you, I absolutely am not a Kool-aid drinker. It's just a place where all the handy skills are written down.

There's a difference between legislation (certs) and ability. I don't see how you can limit photographers to a certification, or for that matter, an ability level except for peer pressure and culture.

As for the level of cert question (I assume you are getting a feel for the community), Instructor, trimix, Surface Supplied Bell/Sat.

All the best, James

#18 frogfish


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 06:06 PM

Lots of good points made here. II definitely feel that, in the age of PADI, dive certifications in themselves mean very little. Just having a PADI basic open water card doesn't really qualify anyone even to dive, as far as I'm concerned. But I also know a lot of very experienced, highly skilled divers who have no qualification beyond basic open water.

Max Gibbs, one of the world's great authorities on fish id's, a very good underwater photographer for many years now, who normally does 500+ dives (mostly on liveaboards) a year (when he's not writing another fish book), finally had to get Larry Smith to give him a PADI "Advanced Diver" card (I think they call it something else now) because petty-minded American and Australian divemasters/cruise directors on some liveaboards - people with fewer total lifetime dives than Max normally does in a year) were insisting that he wasn't qualified to go below 24 meters with only a basic open water diver card. That's nuts.

And I've also run into people with PADI divemaster cards with less than 100 dives under the belts, who had terrible buoyancy control and in-water skills. The PADI organization has a lot to answer for. There is no good answer to Alex's question, and the main reason (in my view) is that PADI has rendered certification levels meaningless. And, in an extension of Gresham's Law (bad money drives out good), PADI's driving standards down has effectively forced the other certification organizations to dilute, dumb-down and make their own courses easier.

Mine? CMAS *; PADI AOW, Rescue Diver, Nitrox; IANTD Deep Air.

I'd very much like to take the DIR course if it's ever offered within 1000 miles of where I am.

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#19 MikeVeitch


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 08:32 PM


james (fdog) you read Scubaboard too much....!!!

Probably 2/3rds of the people on WP have no idea what DIR is... (i know i had no clue until i saw it on SB... )

As for me...

I am non teaching status padi and tdi/sdi instructor...

The only certification i think photographers need...

Advanced BUOYANCY....

but thats a skill, not a cert... :blink:

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#20 Tom_Kline


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Posted 15 August 2006 - 08:55 PM

Diving ability should be second nature so that one can focus on their photography. Buoyancy, gas management etc., etc., should be mastered first.

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