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Strobe arm adjustment while u/w help needed


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#1 DocTock

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 08:56 AM

I’m not a complete newbie at underwater photo (on my second year with a Nauticam housed Nikon D90 SLR and with 4 years’ experience with a housed Oly 5050 P&S), nor a “newish” diver (>100 dives), but my last dive trip was my first trip with external strobes and I had tons of trouble adjusting the UCLS arms.

The arms were either too loose and flopping all over, or so tight I could not adjust at all. My buoyancy is pretty even, but I found that when I hovered, I could not get the “right” angle on the camera to get the strobes in the place where I wanted. In one trip I effectively ended up almost tearing through some of the o-rings on the end balls! I spent so much time dealing with the strobes, that I found I needed to set at f8 & 1/125 full time due to strobe task-loading.

I started each dive with the arms/ strobes crossed over the camera and tightened enough to not flop all over when the camera was handed to me from the boat.
In the water, as everyone was readying to dive, I tried general positioning the arms for the lens mounted (over the lens “ape-hanger” style for macro, on each side for wide angle). Then on the descent, trying to finesse the position.
Again, a constant problem with too-loose=wouldn't stay where I wanted / too-tight=impossible to move / struggling to get in right position as camera turned in the 3-D world underwater.

At first, I tried 2 arm segments per side (one segment was the Inon Mega-float M), but the floats were horribly complicating, so from the second dive on I just used single 8” arms. This was not too bad for macro, but terrible for wide angle. Some of my macro shots would/ could have been better, had I been able to quickly adjust the arm position.

I’m headed to another dive in 2 weeks, and would love some help/ pointers!!!

If it works out, I will be exchanging the float segments for standard 5” UCLS arms – adding to the potential geometric nightmare.



If it’s ok with the moderators, I’m going to cross-post this in the Lights, Strobes, and Lighting Technique Forum to try to catch anyone who doesn’t come to the Beginner section.
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#2 TomR1

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 01:13 PM

You may have the UCLS clamps backward. Put the spring on the ball side

#3 okuma

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 05:42 PM

You are going about it correctly.
TomR1 has a good suggestion.
Also if your arms are very old, replace the 'O' rings.
You should be able to very easily set the clamp tension to hold position and aslo be adjustable. Don't try to make then too tight as you may damage the bases as a result of a 'lever arm' advantage.
Next time out, drop to the bottom, set your rig on the bottom and then set up your strobes. A strip of 'non skid rubber' used on the bottom of bathing tubs will protect your housing bottom from scratching while in set up mode.
Once you get on to it, then go to 2 arms/side.
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#4 DocTock

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Posted 20 June 2011 - 08:59 AM

You may have the UCLS clamps backward. Put the spring on the ball side

Thanks, but I'm not that narcotized.



okuma -
Arms are brand new and none of the sites in Borneo had clear spots for "dropping to the bottom" - nice idea though - perhaps in Cayman next week I will have a chance to try that technique.



Lots of looks at this thread without any "real world experience" being added - is this a common problem/ learning task?
So far the "best" suggestion has come from Reef Photo - "find the sweet spot" (between flop and rigid) on the clamps. Unfortunately I'm not quite certain where that spot is/ may be!
In addition, I was searching for advice for how to adjust the strobes when hovering/ at the point where the perfect "x" is in your viewfinder. Part of the issue is trying to get the strobes in position in a 3-D environment.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

#5 errbrr

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 08:00 PM

I found strobe positioning really difficult when I started with a dSLR - not so much about knowing where to put them, but about not being able to get them to stay where I wanted.

I take my neoprene dome port cover underwater with me, which means I could hold the camera between my knees and use both hands to get the strobes arms in approximately the right position. Your buoyancy and trim skills need to be good for this, because you can't fin while you mess around. I would then go back to a normal camera hold, activate the aiming lights on both strobes, get within a metre of the bottom, and use the lights to make smaller adjustments to angles.

With a bit of experience it was easier to get the joints in good positions for the smaller adjustments. I think the arms themselves may have loosened/tightened slightly as well....either way, I find them more co-operative now than they used to be.

#6 TomR1

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 09:07 PM

My solution is to have 2 arms of the same length on each side. I then position the arms straight up and down so that the strobes are in the same plane as the port both horizonally and vertically. Next get the strobe arms/clamps/strobs roughly neutrally bouyant. There are various ways to do this. I use Stix arms or, depending on the UCLS arms, floats on the UCLS arms.

In this position the arms should stay put and you should be able to extend them quite a bit without difficulty.

#7 DocTock

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 05:40 AM

Well into my second dive trip and the arms are getting slightly easier to use & position.
The idea to drop to the bottom and adjust has proven to be very effective.

Still very difficult & still having trouble with strobes moving slightly on me.
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#8 rwe

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Posted 01 July 2011 - 12:05 PM

As someone who only dives 2 or 3 weeks a year, I too found the ball and clamp strobe arm system very cumbersome; especially when I tried to add a second strobe. To make it easier to adjust the strobes, I made strobe arms from Loc-Line modular pipe and fittings. They can be obtained online from many suppliers but tend to be cheaper at some of the aquarium supply stores. I got two 9" pieces for about $9 from this supplier but they appear to gone up slightly: http://www.aquacave....?CategoryID=200. Attached are a few photos. Not that pretty but much easier to adjust strobe position (and anyway, you can't get much uglier than a duct taped Olympus PT-023). I put a piece of PVC pipe inside the first 4 joints to make a rigid handle. While in the water, the modular piping is fine by itself, but it is not rigid enough on the boat for good handling. To make it more rigid, I taped together two short pieces of 1/4" polyethylene tubing which you can get at any hardware store and put it inside the tubing (see second picture). This made it handle better on the boat but still allows easy flexibility in the water.

Attached Images

  • IMG_1267aaa.jpg
  • IMG_1268aaa.jpg

Sony NEX-5N,10Bar Housing, Olympus C-8080, PT-023 (broken port tabs, of course), Inon 240, flickr site: <a href="http://www.flickr.co...os/8459071@N08/"

#9 snowdog61

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Posted 09 July 2011 - 11:06 AM

Never thought of using the PE tubing - great idea

#10 DocTock

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Posted 10 July 2011 - 08:09 AM

As someone who only dives 2 or 3 weeks a year, I too found the ball and clamp strobe arm system very cumbersome; especially when I tried to add a second strobe. To make it easier to adjust the strobes, I made strobe arms from Loc-Line modular pipe and fittings. They can be obtained online from many suppliers but tend to be cheaper at some of the aquarium supply stores. I got two 9" pieces for about $9 from this supplier but they appear to gone up slightly: http://www.aquacave....?CategoryID=200. Attached are a few photos. Not that pretty but much easier to adjust strobe position (and anyway, you can't get much uglier than a duct taped Olympus PT-023). I put a piece of PVC pipe inside the first 4 joints to make a rigid handle. While in the water, the modular piping is fine by itself, but it is not rigid enough on the boat for good handling. To make it more rigid, I taped together two short pieces of 1/4" polyethylene tubing which you can get at any hardware store and put it inside the tubing (see second picture). This made it handle better on the boat but still allows easy flexibility in the water.


I am very interested in trying the loc-line arms (especially for macro) but what holds me back is the additional investment in attachments to the strobe and handle.
It's not that "bad" to get the handle to loc-line part, but how did you incorporate the ball on the strobe into the loc-line? As shown, does the strobe flop at the end of the loc-line?

Also, when in use underwater for wide angle, how "spread" wide laterally can you get the arm to go without drooping?

Great idea, btw to put the flex-tubing into the arm!
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

#11 rwe

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 02:21 PM

I am very interested in trying the loc-line arms (especially for macro) but what holds me back is the additional investment in attachments to the strobe and handle.
It's not that "bad" to get the handle to loc-line part, but how did you incorporate the ball on the strobe into the loc-line? As shown, does the strobe flop at the end of the loc-line?

Also, when in use underwater for wide angle, how "spread" wide laterally can you get the arm to go without drooping?

Great idea, btw to put the flex-tubing into the arm!


A few more details:
  • The total length of my arm is 16" not counting the Inon ball adapter piece. The first 4" are rigid which I use as a handle. I also tell the boat person to grab by the handle before I get in the water (and point out the duct taped port). So there are 12" that are flexible. If the flexible part were significantly longer then may need to add an additional poly tube inside to increase rigidity.
  • It will stay in any position you put it under water.
  • Above water with the two poly tubes inside it is fairly rigid but if extended (not curved) will 'flop' at an angle of about 30-40 degrees and drops to 60-80 degrees or sometimes more when wet. Movement increases somewhat when wet. To hand up to the boat, I bend the strobe over the housing and hand up so the 'handle' is the most obvious place to grab.
  • I used a loc-line male adapter to attach to bracket, http://www.aquacave....dapter-444.html . My bracket is DIY also and is cut from a piece of highly tempered aluminum alloy that I had available. I simply cut a hole in the bracket and attached with a PVC connection piece from the local hardware store. Need to use the high density PVC connectors here since the normal ones have treads too coarse. I took the loc-line adapter to the store and tried various ones until I found one that worked for my setup. You should also be able to use a brass or stainless nut.
  • If you remove the o-ring from the Inon ball adapter, then the ball will fit in the loc-line. It is a very tight fit. I had to put the Inon ball adapter in a vise and work with a single loc-line piece with a lot of slow effort and quite a few failures before it went on. In hindsight, it would probably be easier if the loc-line piece were heated with a hair dryer or heat gun. I had intended to eventually drill and tap the connection and add a stainless screw in case the plastic split, but have never gone back and done this and it has been on about 35-40 dives with no problems.
A few more pictures below showing the ball joint and rigidity. I took some others with the strobe in different positions but the site won't let be upload more than 2. I could add as additional responses, if it would help.

Attached Images

  • P7115738.JPG
  • P7115729.JPG

Sony NEX-5N,10Bar Housing, Olympus C-8080, PT-023 (broken port tabs, of course), Inon 240, flickr site: <a href="http://www.flickr.co...os/8459071@N08/"

#12 rwe

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Posted 22 July 2011 - 12:25 PM

I should have also mentioned that you need to drill a hole in a few of the loc-line pieces so that the water will drain faster. I left bottom open and the holes mainly let air in during draining.
Sony NEX-5N,10Bar Housing, Olympus C-8080, PT-023 (broken port tabs, of course), Inon 240, flickr site: <a href="http://www.flickr.co...os/8459071@N08/"

#13 rwe

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 06:08 AM

I just got back from a trip to Pompano Beach, FL and I need to report a significant defect in my Loc-Line strobe arm design.

During the trip the Inon ball came out of the Loc-Line twice; once underwater and once above water. It was easy to pop back in but this is a dangerous situation which needs to be corrected. After 18 months with the ball in the Loc-Line, the plastic has stretched and now allows the the strobe to be fairly easily removed/re-installed in the Loc-Line piece. However, it also means that the strobe can be lost or damaged when it unexpectedly comes loose. Luckily, my strobe appears to be OK although it fell on the sidewalk on one occasion. I plan on drilling and tapping the Inon ball so that I can use a screw to attach the ball adapter to the Loc-Line piece. As noted previously, I had planned this previously but had not done it because the connection was so tight. I also plan on drilling and taping a second hole on the bottom of the ball and using a stainless wire cable run down the inside of the Loc-Line to attach the entire arm and strobe to the bracket to be sure that the strobe can not fall off again.
Sony NEX-5N,10Bar Housing, Olympus C-8080, PT-023 (broken port tabs, of course), Inon 240, flickr site: <a href="http://www.flickr.co...os/8459071@N08/"

#14 DocTock

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 06:33 AM

I just got back from a trip to Pompano Beach, FL and I need to report a significant defect in my Loc-Line strobe arm design.

During the trip the Inon ball came out of the Loc-Line twice; once underwater and once above water. It was easy to pop back in but this is a dangerous situation which needs to be corrected. After 18 months with the ball in the Loc-Line, the plastic has stretched and now allows the the strobe to be fairly easily removed/re-installed in the Loc-Line piece. However, it also means that the strobe can be lost or damaged when it unexpectedly comes loose. Luckily, my strobe appears to be OK although it fell on the sidewalk on one occasion. I plan on drilling and tapping the Inon ball so that I can use a screw to attach the ball adapter to the Loc-Line piece. As noted previously, I had planned this previously but had not done it because the connection was so tight. I also plan on drilling and taping a second hole on the bottom of the ball and using a stainless wire cable run down the inside of the Loc-Line to attach the entire arm and strobe to the bracket to be sure that the strobe can not fall off again.



Thank you for the update (and the warning)!
I'm just getting a set of Loc-line arms ready for an upcoming trip to Roatan.
From adjustments above water, it seems to me like 20" arms will allow for the kind of strobe placements I'm hoping to achieve.
I've already drilled the drainage holes - the drilled segments are placed at top & bottom of the stack - do you need any drilled ones in the middle to "equalize"?
I'm having the most trouble creating the safety line to keep everything together - I got some 45# SS leader-line, but I think nylon coated would be better as SS + Al in a saltwater environment leads to rapid corrosion. Also, I was sold ferrules that are too large - frustrating!!!
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

#15 rwe

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 07:00 AM

Thank you for the update (and the warning)!
I'm just getting a set of Loc-line arms ready for an upcoming trip to Roatan.
From adjustments above water, it seems to me like 20" arms will allow for the kind of strobe placements I'm hoping to achieve.
I've already drilled the drainage holes - the drilled segments are placed at top & bottom of the stack - do you need any drilled ones in the middle to "equalize"?
I'm having the most trouble creating the safety line to keep everything together - I got some 45# SS leader-line, but I think nylon coated would be better as SS + Al in a saltwater environment leads to rapid corrosion. Also, I was sold ferrules that are too large - frustrating!!!


I only have holes in 2 of the Loc-Line segment pieces but the bottom is totally open in my attachment to the bracket. If the bottom is closed, you may need more holes.

Good luck on your attachment. Since I have not done this yet, I can't give much advice. The galvanic couple corrosion issue is a function of surface areas and distance. If the wire surface area is small and/or the aluminum is painted, it may not be an issue. Plastic coated wire would reduce the SS surface area. An alternative might be to use polyethylene or nylon cord if it is a problem. Under tension, nylon stretches much more than the poly but the tension here will be small.

At 20" length, you will likely want to first 5-6" to be solid (non-bending) to use as a handle.
Sony NEX-5N,10Bar Housing, Olympus C-8080, PT-023 (broken port tabs, of course), Inon 240, flickr site: <a href="http://www.flickr.co...os/8459071@N08/"