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New UW shooter - looking for setup options input


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#1 eg2011

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 08:24 AM

Hello to Everyone,

First of all, this forum is such a fantastic resource! I'm so glad that I found it and really appreciate all the work that everyone puts into it! Also, sorry if this question seems overly basic to all of you - I'm very new to this.

I've recently been asked to be the photographer for a week-long coral reef course. I have a huge amount of experience with photography in general, but I have never photographed beneath water before. My relevant (maybe?) gear setup is: 1dm2n, 7d, 17-40mm, 150mm macro, plus a smattering of old nikon equipment such as D70, D200, 18-70mm, 105mm macro, etc. I have an external flash for each setup.

Anyhow, the organizers of the program would like me to primarily photograph the students as they study the coral reefs. They would also like as many fish and wildlife shots to go along with the people images as possible, but as I said, the primary target is the students. I've also mentioned that the fish/wildlife images will be very difficult, and they've just told me to try my best.
This entire trip will be snorkel only... Water will nearly always be less than 15 ft. deep above the reefs.

So, on to the gear options:

1. The leader of the program has a very basic underwater setup that he is willing to let me use. It is as follows:
Camera: Sony Cyber-shot DSC W290
Housing: Sony Marine Pack MPK-WEB
Light: Bonica G8V15. 1500 Lumen high power underwater LED video light.

2. I've also been told that if I can put together a "wish list", the leader can propose to the program director that the equipment on the wish list be purchased. He has said that this is totally up in the air, but it's worth a shot. Finally, he also suggested that equipment could be rented, if possible. He has suggested that I put together 2 potential options to propose: a mid-level option that would be better than what he has but still not too expensive, and a high-level option that would be the totally ideal setup (without going too crazy on the costs).

I've spoken with 2 very experienced UW photographers, and they have suggested that a DSLR setup might be far too difficult for me to handle given the fact that this is my first experience with UW photography and given the fact that this is a snorkel only trip.

Any suggestions / advice would be super super helpful. Also, if you think that the leader's setup that he already has (option #1) is sufficient and that no extra gear need be purchased, please let me know.

Thank you so much!! I really appreciate any input that you might have!

Best,
EG

Edited by eg2011, 25 May 2012 - 08:25 AM.


#2 Timmoranuk

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:25 AM

Hi EG,

FWIW my advice would be you just use the housing and camera. If you can obtain a wide angle adapter that would be great as you will be able to reduce the distance (water column) between you and your subject. I recommend that you consider using a Magic Filter rather than the video light - you can find out all about using these here :http://www.magic-filters.com/

Hope this helps, Tim
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#3 Undertow

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Posted 25 May 2012 - 10:43 AM

Believe you me, topside photography experience means almost nothing UW. Even a pro's first time shooting UW will produce junk by their standard. Light just works differently.

It depends on the goal for the project. If you just need some snapshots to document the event, just use the p&s. I wouldn't go all out on a serious dslr rig for just this project.

Now your biggest advantage is the fact that its snorkeling in less than 15ft of water. You can shoot ambient light with (or without) filters much easier than trying to go the strobe route. So if you did want to house one of your cameras, you'd use the widest lens you have, add magic filters and just fire away. Balancing artificial light with natural UW is an immense challenge, requiring a lot of practice and skill to figure out. If shallow water & ambient only is an option, absolutely do that.

Looks like your best super wide option is the canon with the 17-40mm but I'd never house a 1dmk2, the housing would be massive and weigh a ton. If you have any nikon super wides, like the 12-24mm or a fisheye, do that with the D200 & magic filters. The cheapest quality housing is ikelite. Cheers,

Chris
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#4 adventurechik

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 03:21 AM

Hi EG,

I had the same dilemma when I was helping the Reef Environmental Education Foundation years ago and I still remember it being completely mind boggling even back in 2004.

So, I would highly recommend a nice easy point and shoot camera. Either Canon's S95 or S100 are absolutely fabulous choices.

There is an underwater setting which I use frequently, you can find it in the White Balance menu just next to the Custom White Balance button - it has the lovely Fish Symbol. This will help to replace red which you lose quickly in 15 ft and will be absolutely adequate to get fabulous shots with ease. No need for filters or strobes. All you will need to do is keep your ISO setting on either 80 for a super still subject, or choose 100 or maybe 160 for a faster moving one.

Hope that this helps. I would prefer the S100 over the S95 for what you are going to do purely because it has a slightly wider angle of view, which is essential for fitting in all of those wonderful reefs and fish that you are going to see.

Have a brilliant time and if you need any more help or advice, just let me know.

Here is a picture I took last year just using a Canon S95 in it's housing, no lenses or strobes, just the underwater mode helped to bring out this Mimic Octopus' colours :lol:Canon_S95_Underwater_Mode_by_Maria_Munn.jpg

Good luck.

maria

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#5 tdpriest

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 07:55 AM

Hi EG,...

... here is a picture I took last year just using a Canon S95 in it's housing...


Ahhh, Maria: what about the years of practice?

Tim

:lol:

#6 adventurechik

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Posted 17 June 2012 - 08:03 AM

Hey Tim,

How are you ... hope that you are having a lovely day ...

Practice, not really, I took some nice pics too when I started with my little Cybershot helping the Shark Trust in 2002 with a little UR Pro filter .... it's a lot easier now that the shutter button is so much faster to grab that moment when it is in front of you ...

Look forward to seeing your pics too and hope to see you soon at EMUP or BSoUP.

All the best,

maria :)