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St Thomas with a D3S; if picking 1, go wide or micro?


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#1 GeorgeH

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 01:54 PM

I'm a new diver with an Aquatica housing for my Nikon D3S that I have been admiring in my office while I develop the skills to finally take it in the water. I'm thrilled to have added a D4 to my kit and would have waited to get a D4 housing if I knew my diving skills would take as long to develop but I am keeping a D3S and it is no slouch.

I'm heading out to St. Thomas and am considering taking my D3S underwater since I have a dive master there I know and trust to take me on some conservative dives. If I only want to take one configuration, what should I take? 15mm fisheye or 60mm micro are what I am considering but I also have a 105 and the 14-24. I don't plan on attempting anything challenging and just want to get a feel for managing the body in the water so results aren't all that critical. I'm thinking the micro so I don't have to pack the big dome but if St. Thomas is more suited to wide angle images, I can go that way.

Thank you.




#2 Marjo

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 02:57 PM

To protect both yourself and the reef, I would highly recommend first developing good buoyancy skills before adding a DSLR camera rig to the mix. The images will not be satisfying either until your in-water skills are second nature and comfort level is such that your focus can stay on the photography knowing that you instinctively will "do the right thing" as neded. Never trust that you can delegate your own safety, or that of the marine environment, to another person such as a Dive Master. He or she cannot prevent you from kicking sponges and corals, stirring up sand, getting entangled etc even on an easy dive.

#3 GeorgeH

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 04:50 PM

To protect both yourself and the reef, I would highly recommend first developing good buoyancy skills before adding a DSLR camera rig to the mix. The images will not be satisfying either until your in-water skills are second nature and comfort level is such that your focus can stay on the photography knowing that you instinctively will "do the right thing" as neded. Never trust that you can delegate your own safety, or that of the marine environment, to another person such as a Dive Master. He or she cannot prevent you from kicking sponges and corals, stirring up sand, getting entangled etc even on an easy dive.


Valid points and I predicted this response but was also hoping to get a reply to my question. Buoyancy skills are what I have been working on for the last 7 months and I feel I'm getting to that point but will ask someone to observe and confirm in St. Thomas before I proceed. I have made the choice not to take my camera underwater so far while I have been working on the skills you mention. Not that I feel obligated to justify on a forum but I do have respect for the ocean, coral and my personal safety.

My current diving is cold water with a drysuit. I can manage horizontal descents and keep my fins off the bottom. Pool sessions have been no problem with the housing. On a dive Sunday I descended and was hovering about 4 feet off the bottom while my dive buddy crashed feet first into the sea floor, fumbled about a bit on his knees, and proceeded to start kicking, feet down, leaving a large cloud all around us. I don't plan on being that guy and am objective enough to forego the photography if I am not able to handle the housing as well as I did in pool sessions.

Thanks for your concern and I have followed that advice for over half a year and I am clear headed enough to know not to continue if my buoyancy control is the least bit questionable. I'll just hand the body off and enjoy the dive, practice for a few more months, and try it again later.



#4 Steve Williams

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Posted 02 May 2012 - 05:17 PM

Hard choice to just pick one lens George. The dome might be a little easier to handle just because it will be lighter with the big air bubble in the dome. The 60mm is probably the easiest to shoot and will give the option to capture some nice fish images as well as close up macro. It will be the easiest to light also. If you make me pick just one guess I'd have to go with the 60mm.
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#5 john70490

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 01:55 AM

I agree with Steve. THe 60mm is a very flexible lens. It will allow you to fotograph everything from nudibranchs to medium-sized fish, octopuses, morays etc.

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#6 Drew

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 02:13 AM

I'm a new diver with an Aquatica housing for my Nikon D3S that I have been admiring in my office while I develop the skills to finally take it in the water. I'm thrilled to have added a D4 to my kit and would have waited to get a D4 housing if I knew my diving skills would take as long to develop but I am keeping a D3S and it is no slouch.[/font][/size]
I'm heading out to St. Thomas and am considering taking my D3S underwater since I have a dive master there I know and trust to take me on some conservative dives. If I only want to take one configuration, what should I take? 15mm fisheye or 60mm micro are what I am considering but I also have a 105 and the 14-24. I don't plan on attempting anything challenging and just want to get a feel for managing the body in the water so results aren't all that critical. I'm thinking the micro so I don't have to pack the big dome but if St. Thomas is more suited to wide angle images, I can go that way.

Thank you.


George, what I remember of St Thomas (it's been a few years) are the wrecks, some in open water diver depth. I suggest you do bring the fisheye and the 14-24 so you can enjoy the wrecks. Bring along the 60 and flat port and once you are more comfortable in the water, switch to macro. You may find that the 60 requires you to get closer to the subject and thus skittish fish will be difficult subjects. One thing you will learn as you delve into this activity, the days of no check-in luggage are over! :)
Marjo's advice is sound. UW photography isn't very difficult, but it's definitely not for everyone. That said, you seem relatively collected and are asking the right questions, so just go out, be conscious of what's happening. When being in the water becomes second nature, enjoy the photography aspect.

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#7 diverdon

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 03:59 AM

I have a dive master there I know and trust to take me on some conservative dives.


George, never trust a local dive master with your safety. If you miss shots that is fine, but only give the camera the amount of attention that you can spare from your dive. After 1500 dives with a camera I still have never used a teather. Some day if I have an emergency in the water my 10k rig becomes just another ditch-able weight. If you do not have your own dive buddy, the important thing is to make sure that they understand that you do not want to spend your dive taking care of someone else. If this dive master is willing to be your buddy, and help you find subjects and lead you from one to the next while suggesting compositions, that could work out well.

There are a lot of people much smarter than I on Wetpixel, but I look at underwater photography like driving while using the cell phone, You have to keep your eye on the road and you have to be willing to hang up or even drop the phone if things start to go wrong. You have to know how much attention you can spare from your driving to your conversation. If the wife calls and wants you to pick up a quart of milk on the way home that's fine. If your accountant calls and needs to go over your taxes line by line, you can not do that while driving safely. Like wise you will see things that you will know will make great photographs but you will lack the skill to execute them with the amount of attention you have available. If you can turn this into a source of inspiration rather than frustration then you could have a lot of fun with this hobby.

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If the boat driver is not experienced with photographers who have gear similar to your, try to make sure that he understands how to pick up and set down your camera when you hand it to him from the water. At your safety stop, make sure that all your strobe arms are locked down tight so they do not flop against the boat when you hand the camera out of the water.

Edited by diverdon, 04 May 2012 - 04:04 AM.

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#8 divegypsy

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 06:48 AM

George

Everyone has to start sometime. From your description doing training in a drysuit and handling that OK, I would say its time for you to go for it and start taking your camera. And go with confidence. I haven't been anywhere in the Caribbean since 1984, due to over-regulation and lack of biodiversity. My first thought was to say,"Don't go wide or macro. Go elsewhere!" But since it seems St Thomas is your destination, I would agree with Drew that one of your wide lenses, fisheye or 14-24mm, would allow you to take pictures of the wrecks St Thomas is famous for. And reef scenes. And do this easily. Many on Wetpixel have said they are not really happy with the 14-24mm lens at 14mm when shooting at wider apertures (f2.8-f5.6). Keep in mind that your D3S can shoot excellent quality images at the higher ISO's like 800 and 1600. And higher. These higher ISO's will allow you to use an aperture like f8 or f11 on the 14-24 and still have a good shutter speed for flash sync, like 1/125th~1/250th, which will allow you to reduce blurring of the swimming fish. The 14-24 at its narrower 24mm coverage should be good for groups of fish. If I could take only one lens, I'd go with the 14-24mm as my first choice. And add the fisheye as second lens if space allows. And a macro lens third.

Have a good trip. And have fun!

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#9 GeorgeH

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 04:56 AM

I am in St. Thomas as I type this and am just checking in so thanks to all for responding. Some great advice here. Love the cell phone analogy.

I ended up taking the 60mm macro and packed a pair of Ikelite strobes that I hadnít tested because I couldnít connect the sync cord to the bulkhead at the pool but didnít try that long since it was crowded and would have been a nuisance in the pool anyway. Having never seen either, I came to the realization after awhile my housing shipped with a Nikonos instead of an Ikelite bulkhead so I shot natural light.

Since this is my Wifeís vacation and not a dive vacation, I only scheduled one dive. I went with a divemaster, just the two of us, on a shore dive in fairly shallow water. The housing felt pretty negatively buoyant so I attached a single arm segment on each handle and slipped a few small sections of a noodle from the pool to them and that helped lighten the load and balance the housing very nicely.

The diving part was so much simpler in the warmer water in a 3mm vs. a drysuit with heavy undergarments. I am hooked like I knew I would be. I am getting the bulkhead corrected and looking forward to adding flash, even more necessary in dark Puget Sound water.

Thanks again to all. I plan on progressing slowly and will get some more dives and training in before I attempt too much with a camera but I was very pleased with my ability to handle the housing.

I donít have much to edit with while Iím here so canít be sure how they turned out but here is a token example of my first UW outing.

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#10 john70490

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:58 PM

Great shot!

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#11 GeorgeH

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 01:55 PM

My images from this shoot shows 1/8000ss in the exif data. Could this be a software bug or did I miss something in my settings?

With an incorrect flash bulkhead, I needed to improvise and shoot ambient light. The housing does need some corrections for identified issues; AF/ON control didn't work and the flash bulkhead was Nikonos, not the requested Ikelite. Could the housing be forcing the shutter speed as well?

I decided to shoot aperture priority with a 60mm macro, selected auto ISO, max 6400, f8, min 200ss.

The exif data reads 1/8000ss for all the images. That can't be right. Why might the exif be incorrect?

Thanks.