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#1 Kari Post

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 07:34 AM

Hi all. I've been a lurker on the Wetpixel forums for some time - just haven't made the jump to digital UW photography just yet.

I've always loved the water and have wanted to shoot underwater for a long time. I'm an experienced and capable topside shooter, where I shoot primarily with my 5D Mark II and 7D, although I sometimes use my Panasonic GF-1 and iPhone as well (I also used a G10 for a bike trip until I accidentally dropped it off of the roof of my car). My only underwater photography experience was using a Ewa-Marine bag with a Canon 1D Mark II N and 17-40mm for one snorkeling trip in Hawaii.

I'm very critical of my own photography, and have wanted to get a DSLR underwater setup because I worry that I won't be happy with just a point-and-shoot. I'm also interested in doing under-over shots, video, and shots using natural light in lakes and ponds, all of which would probably be much better done with a larger sensor and lens. However, this is a very costly investment for something I may not have access to very often. I live in New Hampshire and most of my underwater shooting would probably be in ponds and lakes, or on vacations. I don't see myself becoming strictly or mostly an underwater shooter and I'm not in the financial position to be making a large investment on something I would use infrequently.

So I find that I'm seeking the best compromise between something that will give me the quality and shooting flexibility and control I am seeking underwater, but also be a good investment.

1) One option I was considering would be a higher end point and shoot, such as a Canon S90 or S95 or G10, and an underwater housing to go with that. That way I'd have a point-and-shoot for use topside (since I don't currently own one), and would only invest minimally in an underwater housing and possibly a strobe. Are Canon's underwater housings any good? They seem inexpensive, but I don't know if they are any good, and also if it is possible to attach a strobe to them.

2) Another option would be a waterproof shockproof camera, such as a Canon D10 or Panasonic TS-10 or TS-3. These have the added advantage of operating pretty similarly in all conditions as well as being resistant to drops and temperature fluctuations, but don't shoot RAW, which is a huge drawback for me. Honestly, if they had RAW, I'd probably own one already, as it would be a great "loaner" camera for friends.

3) A third option is to splurge on an older model DSLR underwater kit, used off of the classified forum or ebay. I could probably get a camera, housing, dome, and maybe a strobe for under $1000. The problem is, will the older models be satisfactory? Plus I'll have an entire kit dedicated exclusively to UW shooting, which I haven't even done yet and may not do often. Also, video is a recent introduction to DSLRs, so I lose this capability in purchasing an older model.

4) The final option is to invest in a housing and dome for an existing camera I have, knowing I'll spend a lot of money on something I may rarely use. This will also leave me "stuck" with the camera body I get the housing for, unable to upgrade my topside camera for some time as new models come out. I'll also at most, be able to afford just a housing and port, and even that is financially almost impossible.

I guess my question is, what are your experiences? Are DSLR topside shooters going to find an underwater point-and-shoot to be limiting and frustrating to use?

I should add that, I'm a great swimmer, but I don't currently SCUBA. Most of what I plan to shoot with this setup right now is at or near the surface - breeding frogs and salamanders, under-overs of aquatic vegetation or aquatic birds, some sunfish and crayfish just a few feet below the surface. I do plan on getting SCUBA certified this summer though.

Looking forward to your replies!
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#2 newmanl

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 08:00 AM

Hi Kari,

I took a quick look at your website... amazing work. Very creative and artistic. Personally, I think you might feel limited or frustrated going to a P&S for your underwater work given the high standard to which you hold your topside photography. However, having said that, there are plenty of underwater photographers producing great work with cameras other than DSLRs. My suggestion would be find a housing for either your 5DII or the 7D, assuming you already have some, or most, of the lenses you'd need or want (maybe add a fisheye for wide work if you don't already have one). As for housings, since they are both current models of cameras (at least for now!), used housings may be hard to find, but I have seen them available - check the classifieds here if you haven't already. While a lesser/different system would allow you start, I think you might outgrow it quickly if you take up SCUBA this summer. Even new, Ikelite makes a perfectly functional and relatively affordable housing that would easily work for you well into your SCUBA career. The aluminum housing options get considerably more expensive, but they do have the benefit of much better (IMHO) ergonomics and some functionality that helps with the creative process (for example, my Aquatica housing is more flat on the bottom allowing me to get closer to the bottom for benthic macro shots than did my Ikelite housing).

Given that you already have a camera, or two, and lenses, an Ikelite housing and a port or two would likely serve you well, at least until you end up like the rest of us...

Hope that helps.

Lee

Edited by newmanl, 06 April 2012 - 08:01 AM.


#3 JKrumsick

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Posted 06 April 2012 - 01:57 PM

I believe Newmani makes some good points.

One thing I would like to point out is that strobes make all the difference. Some might argue against me on this but I think a P&S with strobes is much better than a DSLR without strobes. In the end, it's all about the light (as you are probably aware).

It will be tough to say under a grand and get strobes with a DSLR. You may be able to get away without strobes if you are doing shallow dives (25 feet or less)... but that limitation will frustrate you I am sure.

I completely empathize with you on the investment. The costs are high, the returns (monetarily) are low, and new bodies come out every year that are a LOT better than the previous generations.

To complicate your situation, have you considered mid level? I mean the EVIL (or micro 4/3rds as they are also known). I think bang for your buck, these are probably the best. Because you are trying to capture a lot of fleeting moments, the shutter lag of point and shoots is almost too much to bear. And I think this would help answer your question about topside dslr shooters being unsatisfied with P&S's. Yes, you will find the P&S's limiting as someone who shoots with a DSLR topside (was there ever any doubt).

It all comes down to your budget.

Hope that helps!

#4 derway

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 12:10 PM

There are so many levels of cams and costs available.

I have a pany ts2. The waterproof cams are not satisfactory. No controls. Not good enough image quality.

You must have a camera with RAW, great auto focus, and a good M mode, and good controls to adjust F stop and shutter speed underwater.

The canon P&S cameras you mention have at least 2 failings. They have among the worst Auto focus in the market, which is totally annoying to try to use underwater. And they force you to use manual flash, when using M mode exposure control.

The top P&S cams for underwater today are the oly xz1 and pany lx5 and for me the fuji x10. All offer raw, and good autofocus. The fuji is a joy to use above water, as a sweet range finder with manual zoom.

The cheaper oly micro 4/3 systems are very interesting, as oly provides very inexpensive underwater cases for them.

I've been using ikelite housings for 2 decades, starting with an n90s film SLR system. They are the best housing at any price in many ways. They always offer hard wired TTL control for their strobes, which is much preferable to using on camera flash, and optical TTL. Plus they let you see the seals after assembly, so you can tell if an oring is sticking out funny or anything like that.

Legendary support from ikelite.

Don't let the alu housing snobs talk you out of them. For anyone doing 4 weeks or less of uw photo per year, ikelite all the way!
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#5 PatW

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 01:11 PM

Kari,

I looked at some of your photos. The photos are very good. By the way, I have just moved from a point and shoot system (Canon G11 with an ike housing to a D7000 with an aluminum housing). I do not consider myself to be an expert.

Now, what photo system you get depends, in part, on what you want to do with it. Also, it depends in part on your experience in diving.

Taking photographs underwater is pretty challenging. I have heard it described as taking photos in a fog, in low light while it is raining and that does not even mention the complications of white balance. The thing is that if you are not pretty proficient at diving, taking photos might be task loading. So if you are a green diver, a good point and shoot might be the better starting point.

I had two frustrations with the G11. To do macro, you need a wet lens (which was not a frustration). The problem is the focus is not horribly precise. You can either use the rather clunky manual focus (probably the best way to go). The autofocus tends to be slow and it tends to search.

The other frustration was a limited wide angle. I found that to take photos of large subjects: coral heads, dive buddies, turtles, groupers, rays, sharks etc, I had shoot from too far away to allow really good photos. Some of the high end housings have supplementary ports that address that problem.

I have done a few dives at the Blue Heron Bridge (a shallow muck dive with a strong tidal flow). The nutrients that roll past the place make for very high production so there is an astonishing variety of small creatures. I found that shooting with a 60 mm macro lens with the D7000 was far easier than shooting with the G11. The focus is far more precise with the D7000. Plus, I was focusing through a view finder with nearly zero lag as opposed to using live view to focus in the G11. Now, some underwater photographers get very good results with the G11. But it is far more challenging to do so then with a DSLR.

I found shooting with an aluminum housing to be more precise and less bulky than the Ikelite housing. Please do not take this as a knock against Ikelite. They make a very functional housing that is relatively affordable. When equipment costs so much more, you would hope for improved functionality.

#6 bvanant

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 04:34 PM

The cheaper oly micro 4/3 systems are very interesting, as oly provides very inexpensive underwater cases for them.

I've been using ikelite housings for 2 decades, starting with an n90s film SLR system. They are the best housing at any price in many ways. They always offer hard wired TTL control for their strobes, which is much preferable to using on camera flash, and optical TTL. Plus they let you see the seals after assembly, so you can tell if an oring is sticking out funny or anything like that.

Legendary support from ikelite.

Don't let the alu housing snobs talk you out of them. For anyone doing 4 weeks or less of uw photo per year, ikelite all the way!


I guess I am one of the Al housing snobs. I think Ikelite makes great housings at their price point but the top end housing guys (Seacam, Subal, S&S, Nauticam) make housings that are far easier to use with all the controls in the right place and easily at hand. Of course Ike has a great service reputation but maybe that is because they need to do lots of service. I don't know much about Nauticam service since nothing has broken that needs service. Don't get me wrong, there are few photos that you can get with an Al housing that you can't get with the same camera and an Ike housing but your everyday shooting is IMHO much simpler with the more ergonomic housings. I do agree that if you are only doing 40 dives with a camera per year the investment in an expensive housing is probably too much but if you are doing 200 dives per year then I would recommend getting the housing that fits your style the best, not simply the cheapest one.

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#7 Stewart L. Sy

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 07:14 AM

Hi Kari

Nice to see you here as I usually just see you over at NSN. =). I won't weigh in too much about Acrylic vs Aluminum, as Bill said, you can't tell the difference between images shot with an Ikelite vs an Aluminum housing such as Aquatica, Nauticam, Sea & Sea, Seacam or Subal. You wallet will be less light if you go for an Ikelite while the journey to get the image might be easier with the Aluminum units.

As a very experienced DSLR shooter, nix options 1 & 2. Option 3 & 4 are your best bet, with no. 4 of course being the most expensive. I've seen 7D and D7000 housings for sale here on WP from time to time, even a 5dmk2 housing, just a matter of timing.

Another option to consider would be the NEX line from Sony. The benefits of the APS-C sensor (same one as in the D7000), Full 1080p recording capability, small size and lower price of admission (camera and housing wise) make it a viable combo. There are those who put down the NEX-5n for being awkward to use and change settings (especially in Manual Mode), but those comments usually aren't based on actually using the camera in the housing. I've shot over/unders with the 4" & 6" domes for the Fisheye Conversion and Kit Lens respectively. The main limitation right now is the short macro lens that is available (30mm) but there's hope on the horizon for that. Most UW images are shot with Super Wide or Fisheye lenses and the Sony handles those with ease (and reasonable cost). The housings with a port are not much bigger than a gripped 5dmk2 with the 24-105 lens. There is TTL strobe capability for when you want to have the capability (likely sooner than later).

AF is pretty good if you have decent light on your subject, that would be the same as any contrast based AF system. Shutter response is very quick. The ability to program the soft keys allows quick changes to ISO, Flash Compensation, Shoot mode, AF type etc.

Anyway, just thought you'd like another option.

cheers

Stu

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#8 Kari Post

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 08:15 PM

Thank you everyone SO MUCH for your insight. You've all made some excellent points and are definitely helping me narrow down my choices.

I currently have a Panasonic GF-1 (a micro 4/3 camera of a couple years ago) with the 14-45mm lens. It's my backpacking setup for when I lead group trips and carrying a DSLR with me is impractical. I'm not sure if it would be an ideal u/w compromise, as I'm not sure I want to invest in other lenses for it, but I'll keep an eye out for inexpensive housings just in case.

It seems like the DSLR route is the way to go and would give me the most creative freedom. I often check the Wetpixel forums, but I haven't seen a deal that caught my eye in a while, but will certainly keep looking. I think the DSLR route would give me the most shooting flexibility and room for growth. When I switched from Nikon to Canon back in 2007, I bought the best gear I could because I felt I wouldn't be disappointed and wouldn't regret my decision that way, and it ended up being a good move because I was really happy with my new equipment and learned to use it quickly.

As far as high ISO/strobes go, if I'm on a limited budget, do you think it makes more sense to get an older camera and housing with strobes, or a housing for a newer model camera that can handle high ISO noise well? I ask because I'll be shooting in New England freshwater primarily, and I wonder if strobes would even be effective in murky/cloudy water or just end up giving me a lot of backscatter and particulates in the water to deal with. I know strobes are super important, but I just feel that high ISO shooting with available light might be needed too.
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#9 JKrumsick

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 09:35 AM

Will you be shooting on Lake Winnepesake? (I think I spelled it wrong). When I was in Wolfeboro earlier this year I saw a diver shop on Main street and popped in to talk to them about the diving. I went to high school up there and used to row on that lake. I miss it a lot!

You make a good point about the stobes with the particulate matter... but IMHO you may be unsatisfied no matter what direction you go if you are shooting primarily in turbid water. Backscatter is a constant frustration, and while there are techniques to minimize, it is very difficult to get rid of completely (especially if the viz is really low). I think wide angle photography is almost not worth it if the vis is less than 20ft unless you have some interesting perspectives or circumstances (tannin from rivers, haloclines etc).

Again, this is my perspective and again, it is humble! I would really urge you to try and find someone who shoots where you do and see what they have to say about the matter.

There are a lot of housings out there for the 7D. This combined with the Tokina 10-17 is very popular with U/W shooters. In am close to selling my 7D, housing and all the fixin's (will probably sell mid to late summer).

#10 Kari Post

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 05:24 AM

Will you be shooting on Lake Winnepesake? (I think I spelled it wrong). When I was in Wolfeboro earlier this year I saw a diver shop on Main street and popped in to talk to them about the diving. I went to high school up there and used to row on that lake. I miss it a lot!

You make a good point about the stobes with the particulate matter... but IMHO you may be unsatisfied no matter what direction you go if you are shooting primarily in turbid water. Backscatter is a constant frustration, and while there are techniques to minimize, it is very difficult to get rid of completely (especially if the viz is really low). I think wide angle photography is almost not worth it if the vis is less than 20ft unless you have some interesting perspectives or circumstances (tannin from rivers, haloclines etc).

Again, this is my perspective and again, it is humble! I would really urge you to try and find someone who shoots where you do and see what they have to say about the matter.

There are a lot of housings out there for the 7D. This combined with the Tokina 10-17 is very popular with U/W shooters. In am close to selling my 7D, housing and all the fixin's (will probably sell mid to late summer).


I might get into Winnepesaukee but will probably spend more time at Squam (right next door) because my landlords have property up at Squam that I have easy access too, and its a bit less developed. There is a great swimming rock that attracts sunfish in the shallows which I thought would be a good place to practice. My hope is to explore different lakes throughout New England and the Adirondacks. Most of the projects I'm most interested in at the moment are freshwater, and I bet clarity will be a problem it a lot of areas. But maybe shooting in yuck water will be the challenge I take on that makes my work unique!

I imagine I'll end up in the dive shop you mention at some point though. I've already found an independent dive instructor for learning to SCUBA this summer, but will need to buy additional gear from somewhere.

Let me know if you end up selling. I already have the 7D, but would welcome a housing, ports, strobes, and maybe some new lenses. I'm looking around right now, but not in a terrible rush to buy at the moment and have a pretty full schedule until at least June anyway. Of course, I'm going off of a "just out of grad school/don't have a full time job but still have loans to pay off" budget, so my financial situation in late summer could be terrible...
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#11 Aquapaul

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 01:21 PM

I shot with a G10 for 3 years and really learned a lot with that camera. I now have a Nikon D7000 and really love the set up but must admit it was a ton easier to deal with the G10. True the focus was slow and frustrating but a cheap focus light helps a lot with that. The manual white balance capability of the G10/11 and 12 is pretty amazing when shooting ambient light. I don't think a G12 and Canon's housing would break the bank and would make for a pretty good back up camera. I say G12 because it is a lot less noisy then a G10. Brand new camera and housing under $800. Add lights later if you feel you need them and buy lights that will work with your next system when you do. But, when it comes to focusing on a fast moving fish in a murky environment forgetaboutit.
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#12 Cary Dean

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 01:58 AM

Everyones made some great remarks and very valid points on all accounts.
I guess I might add that I've been on trips with my DSLR system (Aluminum) :)
and I've been easily shown up on occasion by friends with compact systems
(even a compact in an Ike housing) because they've been less obtrusive than
I have been with my larger system, strobes, arms etc.
I think a higher end P&S system is a great way to get your feet wet at an
affordable price and see if it's something worth pursuing. You can use strobes
with them too.
Then get into a housing for your 7D if you catch the bug.
A full DSLR system is a complete PITA to travel with and adds additional
weight, bulk, things to think about while diving etc. They do allow much
greater creative freedom with the variety of lenses and lack of shutter lag.
I think most of us do it because we love it not because we're getting rich
from it (quite the opposite if I chose to not live in denial).
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#13 Magrone

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Posted 22 April 2012 - 05:29 PM

Based on your interests

interested in doing under-over shots, video, and shots using natural light in lakes and ponds

you want a DSLR. Over-unders will be much easier (or rather, necessary) with a dome port + a fisheye lens, or even a really wide rectilinear. For the best video+ ISO performing Canon at the most reasonable price I would suggest the Canon T2I in a SEA&SEA RDX acrylic housing. Same price as the IKELITE but IMO better ergonomics + designed for fiber optic TTL which is SO easy and with a little fine tuning, reliably accurate with Inon strobes. Look for used for sure. Wetpixel/Ebay are the best, Scubaboard sometimes has DSLR stuff. Reef Photo and video also carries a ton of used stuff and is updated quite often, but usually a little pricier than classified ads The upside of going with Ssea&Sea or Ikelite for that matter, is that you can find used bits often.

Also, if you have not done so already, definately post a "WANTED" ad with a specific set up in mind. Make sure it is specific IE "Looking for Canon t2i housing, Ikelite or Sea&Sea preferred" You may be pleasantly surprised at the responses to a specified listing. If it is general, IE "looking for an UW housing" you are less likely to get a response.

I am a very budget minded uw photographer and all I can say is check the classifieds daily. Under $1000 is not really realistic. Shoot for under $2000. Mainly because good strobes like
the Inon brand that I mentioned, hold their value very well.

To save money you could skip the strobes at first and see what you can get using ambient light, then upgrade when you find the right deal on a good pair of strobes. Patience and UW photography have an undeniable relationship :)

Edited by Magrone, 22 April 2012 - 05:53 PM.


#14 Moonflower

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 01:40 PM

Based on your interests you want a DSLR. Over-unders will be much easier (or rather, necessary) with a dome port + a fisheye lens, or even a really wide rectilinear. For the best video+ ISO performing Canon at the most reasonable price I would suggest the Canon T2I in a SEA&SEA RDX acrylic housing. Same price as the IKELITE but IMO better ergonomics + designed for fiber optic TTL which is SO easy and with a little fine tuning, reliably accurate with Inon strobes. Look for used for sure. Wetpixel/Ebay are the best, Scubaboard sometimes has DSLR stuff. Reef Photo and video also carries a ton of used stuff and is updated quite often, but usually a little pricier than classified ads The upside of going with Ssea&Sea or Ikelite for that matter, is that you can find used bits often.

Also, if you have not done so already, definately post a "WANTED" ad with a specific set up in mind. Make sure it is specific IE "Looking for Canon t2i housing, Ikelite or Sea&Sea preferred" You may be pleasantly surprised at the responses to a specified listing. If it is general, IE "looking for an UW housing" you are less likely to get a response.

I am a very budget minded uw photographer and all I can say is check the classifieds daily. Under $1000 is not really realistic. Shoot for under $2000. Mainly because good strobes like
the Inon brand that I mentioned, hold their value very well.

To save money you could skip the strobes at first and see what you can get using ambient light, then upgrade when you find the right deal on a good pair of strobes. Patience and UW photography have an undeniable relationship :P



#15 DamonA

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 09:34 PM

Kari,
Here's a site with more second hand housings and stuff that might be helpful to you- UwP

The DSLR is the obvious preference, but a small form factor is easier to dive with???

Owning both is the best option!

Fun diving,
Damon

#16 chuckdee

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 10:14 AM

There are so many levels of cams and costs available.

I have a pany ts2. The waterproof cams are not satisfactory. No controls. Not good enough image quality.

You must have a camera with RAW, great auto focus, and a good M mode, and good controls to adjust F stop and shutter speed underwater.

The canon P&S cameras you mention have at least 2 failings. They have among the worst Auto focus in the market, which is totally annoying to try to use underwater. And they force you to use manual flash, when using M mode exposure control.

The top P&S cams for underwater today are the oly xz1 and pany lx5 and for me the fuji x10. All offer raw, and good autofocus. The fuji is a joy to use above water, as a sweet range finder with manual zoom.

The cheaper oly micro 4/3 systems are very interesting, as oly provides very inexpensive underwater cases for them.

I've been using ikelite housings for 2 decades, starting with an n90s film SLR system. They are the best housing at any price in many ways. They always offer hard wired TTL control for their strobes, which is much preferable to using on camera flash, and optical TTL. Plus they let you see the seals after assembly, so you can tell if an oring is sticking out funny or anything like that.

Legendary support from ikelite.

Don't let the alu housing snobs talk you out of them. For anyone doing 4 weeks or less of uw photo per year, ikelite all the way!


How is the Canon 5DMII auto focusing underwater? I've heard ikelite is the way to go as well....

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#17 Kari Post

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Posted 21 July 2012 - 03:22 PM

Damon, thanks for the link to that other site!

And thanks everyone for the comments. I'm now SCUBA certified and I love it, although I do question why on earth I decided to pick up another expensive hobby. I couldn't be happy just making dandelion crowns or something, could I?
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#18 DamonA

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  • Interests:Photography, Scuba, Skin Diving, "Animal Lover" and Woodworking, Licensed Professional Joiner & Carpenter.
    Don't like contact sport at all or elite level professional sport.

Posted 21 July 2012 - 05:08 PM

Damon, thanks for the link to that other site!

And thanks everyone for the comments. I'm now SCUBA certified and I love it, although I do question why on earth I decided to pick up another expensive hobby. I couldn't be happy just making dandelion crowns or something, could I?


Kari, it's probably best saved for the nursing home in your second childhood!

Diving is a hefty intial outlay, but it's never been cheaper to buy gear- prices are getting more competitive with the world economic sustainablity rationalization going down now.

To buy a complete rec kit with a couple of tanks is now under $2500 usd, shore based diving, joining a club or having friends that own a boat can make diving a very viable recreational activity for the masses in first world countries. Its an activity which requires some patient and environmental respect, there is no instant gratification in it, it takes effort to access those "moments of euphorical happiness"(maybe just narcosis!) in a realm greater then the imagination of humankind(you see it being plagorised by moviemakers and book writers all the time...lol).

What it does for peoples environmental outlook is priceless and just might be the cavalry charge needed in the fight against human tunnel vision and money lusting compulsive disorders.

I wouldn't rush on to hold a camera underwater, lots of fun to be had just focussing on your own enjoyment in the new realm.......

Edited by DamonA, 21 July 2012 - 05:11 PM.


#19 Kari Post

Kari Post

    Lionfish

  • Member
  • PipPip
  • 66 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:New Hampshire, USA
  • Interests:nature, the outdoors, adventures of all kinds, backpacking, swimming, photography, writing, conservation, education

Posted 23 July 2012 - 03:38 PM

Yea, I'm definitely just enjoying it and still only have a few dives under my belt so need to continue to work on my buoyancy control, etc. I'm also always using borrowed gear, so investing in my own dive kit is a priority, and then once I have that I can learn the finer parts of diving and control... THEN comes the camera.

But in the meantime I am looking. I wouldn't mind shooting while snorkeling or skin diving to get used to taking photos underwater. But just doing SCUBA and exploring the world underneath the surface is a pleasure in itself.
Kari Post
www.karipost.com