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Concern for the reef because of Tripods????


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#1 NWDiver

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 01:47 PM

Wondering what others think about the seaming increase in the availability of Tripods and their potential for damage to the reefs???? I noticed one vendor stating "good macro requires a tripod." I admit I own a pair of Gorilla pods for my attempts to shoot off camera strobes. Will also admit wanted to try them in Wakatobi and they asked I do not. If honest when diving I looked at a couple of spots where I would have liked trying them but reality is there was no "bare" spot, they would have been on or against something living.

I know this is another "personal responsibility, I can judge when and when not to use them" thread. But my gut feeling is these are items ripe for abuse/misuse...

Edited by NWDiver, 28 December 2010 - 01:48 PM.


#2 liquidguru

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 02:19 PM

I think the damage done by photographers and videographers fins as they steady themselves for their shot vastly outweighs any potential damage done by tripods.

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#3 NWDiver

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 06:09 PM

I agree, reluctantly. For me part of the joy of underwater photography is the challenge of getting a photo while respecting the reef. No more than one finger on bare rock. If I can't get the shot I float away. So saying a tripod is better than mauling the reef still does not feel right to me.

#4 Bent C

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 11:17 PM

I think it depends on the place where it is intended to be used. In Lembeh, on sand, I belive that tripods are fine to use. On a reef, I firmly believe that it should be heavily discouraged or rather banned. Of course there will be places on reefs where tripods can be used without causing any damage, but Liquidgurus comment on the fin damage issue makes a good case for banning tripods on reefs. If photographers generally are so careless that they damage the reef with their fins when taking pictures, it seems that it would be hard to make a case for photographers in general really taking the responsibility for using tripods safely, and tripods would then just be another thing used to trash the reef. In essence, we are not talking about tripods doing less damage than physically mauling the reef, we are most likely talking about mauling as well as adding the extra tripodcaused damage to the fin caused damage. However, the above argument could of course be totally wrong if a good case could be made that the use of tripods actually decreases the fin caused damage more than tripod use increases damage. Anyone???
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#5 ileiman

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 12:43 AM

On tropical coral reefs I personally see no real compelling need to use tripods, nor the need to touch anything anywhere.
All you need is good buoyancy (ability to maintain your position in water) and propulsion (ability to move yourself with fins in the water) skills, and you should balance your camera rig to be neutrally buoyant. And definitely, keep your strobes to yourself on strobe arms.

Once you have learned to manage your buoyancy, you can hang perfectly still in water and not move while taking your shot. Once you have learned to use your fins, you can move to any position you want, and do so without touching nor damaging anything with your fins either. And you really can learn to do all of this without touching nor damaging anything, and you certainly don't need any tripod. Controlling buoyancy and using fins are the most basic scuba diving skills, and things you should learn first before starting to do something else underwater, like photography. While you can never learn to move as gracefully as a lionfish or a dolphin, you can however get pretty close.
Taking photographs is no excuse to damage the reef environment, and no excuse for not learning to dive properly.

The really big advantage that an underwater photographer has compared to a topside photographer, is the fact that you can just float in the water perfectly still, even in the weirdest places and positions. It is sad if you don't learn to take full advantage of this asset.

In a strong current it is of course impossible to stay still in one place, but in that case no tripod is going to help you either. You should also accept the fact that in a strong current there are severe limits on what kind of pictures you can take. After all, when you are photographing on topside you don't go out in a storm pretending it's a calm and clear day either - you need to accept the natural conditions as they are.

Finally, you should also consider your personal safety and that of your diving buddy's. Carrying a tripod and a number or loose items (like strobes on separate tripods) will increase your risk of getting into all kinds of trouble underwater, and will make it very difficult for you to assist anyone else in trouble. Putting too much attention in taking a photograph will remove your attention from other important issues concerning your own or other divers' safety.
Just carrying a big camera with arm attached strobes is a big concern for diving safety, and you should think ahead and train yourself how to deal with emergency situations when carrying a camera.
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#6 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 01:19 AM

Off camera strobes are best used inside wrecks and inside caves. Where you can place them on rock, sand or metal (or the car's seats!).

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There is actually less to use them for on reefs. Once you have backlit one coral - you have kind of done it. But if you must use them on reefs - I am sure that you can find a suitable subject with an area of bare rock or sand nearby. This means you can't try them on everything you find - but must search for the right opportunity.

For use for macro (with snoots) - most of the time you will be on the sand. So it is of little consequence.

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#7 liquidguru

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 06:27 AM

I watch a lot of photographers (and videographers). Unfortunately many of them profess to have excellent buoyancy skills and are beyond any suggestions that perhaps they are over-weighted. Now, there is nothing wrong with being overweighted, as we wear BCDs and you can add air to them to become neutral. But, and this is my problem with over-weighted divers taking images, they generally like to be heavy so that they can create a firm 'tripod' made of their elbows, knees and fins on the reef or sand.

While Alex is correct that for macro, this is generally not a problem as there is just sand under them but this should not be taken for granted. Many times there are small pipefish, nudis or crustaceans unseen by the photographer. Even if there is nothing there, the biggest problem I see is that after the photo has been taken of the subject in front of them, the photographer then turns around 180 degrees and kicks his erstwhile subject with his fins as he (or she) moves away. I make a point of saying this during my dive orientation for guests, as yet is still happens again and again.

This may be getting a little away from the subject, so to get back on it I would rather see a tripod used, with three small points on the substrate, whatever it is, rather than divers laying on the reef.

I'm sorry to say that the vast majority of divers/photographers/videographers have appalling buoyancy and are over-weighted. The problem we have as dive managers is that we do not want to upset our guests, tell them off and make them feel bad, but it is very difficult. Of course I agree with ileiman about the importance of buoyancy, but that all goes out of the window when there is a bit of surge and there is a subject in front of them..down go the fins, out goes any air from the BCD and total focus is getting that 'shot'.

Those who know me, know that I'm pretty relaxed. I just woke up this morning, ready for another lovely day at work in Lembeh, but also knowing that I spend quite a bit of my dives lifting photographers fins gently off the sponge behind them while they are taking photos. When I saw the post about the potential damage caused by a tripod, I couldn't stop myself writing about a bigger problem, that of the divers themselves. A tripod used responsibly causes no problems. A diver diving responsibly causes no problems.

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#8 Steve Williams

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 08:08 AM

On tropical coral reefs I personally see no real compelling need to use tripods, nor the need to touch anything anywhere.


I think the vendor NWdiver was speaking of was refering to using a tripod to shoot macro video. I know I can't hold my 7D steady enough to get stable macro footage using the 100mm without some sort of support. One just has to be very careful about selecting the situation and location for the position of the tripod. I've tried ULCS arms and a gorilla pod. Just like shooting hand held there are situations where you just can't get to the critter without damaging the reef and should keep looking.

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#9 NWDiver

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Posted 29 December 2010 - 04:17 PM

No offense to Steve or anyone else but part of the issue is "judgment". Of course we all trust our own judgment but I am not so sure about the rest of you... Just like most feel they have good buoyancy I would be interested in hearing Pro Dive guides, working at resorts what percentage of people they judge to have good to excellent buoyancy. I would also be very interested in hearing what percentage they would have no problem taking down a tripod and dslr rig on their home reef, where they make their living???

Edited by NWDiver, 29 December 2010 - 04:18 PM.