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The open circuit to closed transition...with a camera

Advice appreciated Rebreather

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#1 errbrr

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Posted 05 July 2013 - 07:28 PM

I bought my Canon 5DII and housing in late 2009, and I can count on my fingers the number of dives I've done without it since then. In September this year I'm going to do my MOD1 rEvo course, and I'm wondering how to manage the transition to closed circuit - should I put the camera down?

 

To put the question in perspective, I average about 100 dives a year with at least half of them in caves, and I'm OC trimix qualified. I'm used to the taskloading of navigating my way home while taking pictures, or doing multi-stage and scooter dives with one hand, while holding the camera in the other. On the other hand, I'm pretty keen on staying alive. I'm looking for the best strategy to get into camera plus rebreather dives. The options I see are:

 

1. Put the camera down until I have 100 (50? 200?) hours on the unit

2. Dive with the camera from the very beginning to take advantage of the instructor supervision on the course and learn to manage the whole lot together up front

3. Only combine camera with rebreather dives in the beginning where I have an instructor or experienced buddy keeping an eye on me

 

For those who are diving rebreathers with camera in hand, how do you find it? Were you experienced in both photography and your unit before you combined the two?

 

Second question for bonus points - is all this "No bubbles means you'll be able to kiss the fish" stuff true? Will I notice the difference in trying to get shots of skittish creatures?



#2 tdpriest

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 08:54 AM

It takes thousands of exposures to achieve quality in underwater photographs. I've resisted the idea of a rebreather as I have a "thing" about carbon dioxide and hypoxia: monitoring a device that makes you dopey as it's trying to kill you doesn't seem compatible with concentrating equally hard on a camera.

 

If you haven't mastered the camera, my advice is to choose the machine that's most important to you at the moment, and stick with it for 50-100 dives before even thinking of adding the other...



#3 davehicks

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 10:30 AM

I started diving a rebreather in 2007 with about 400 dives logged at that time.   I'd been shooting with a DSLR for about 3-4 years at that point.  I've done another 400 dives on the rebreather since.  I took my rebreather training course (Sport KISS mCCR) over a week long dive trip in Hornby Island BC.  The certification requires about 12 hours or so of in the water instruction.  By the end of the course I was comfortable enough to pick up my camera and add that to the mix.  I considered this to be an important step of the instruction and training because I don't ever plan to dive without the camera.  You also want to get a feeling for your trim and balance with the new gear. 

 

I opted for a mCCR unit as well, because this REQUIRES that you pay attention to your pO2 readouts.  It is supposedly easier to get distracted and not monitor a eCCR unit which most of the time can be expected to keep your gasses in balance.  That is until it craps out and kills you if you don't monitor it.  With a mCCR that is not an option and the training is all about developing the habits and practice of monitoring your gauges frequently and being extra careful on ascents. 

 

My suggestion is to follow your comfort level.  If you are not task loaded dealing with your dive equipment you can start to shoot again.

 

Final word of caution - if you are the sort of UW photographer that zones out and can't keep in sync with a buddy or other people don't get a rebreather.  You need to be able to split your focus and remember that your safety and surroundings are job #1, and capturing the action is definitely a secondary benefit.



#4 JimSwims

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 05:14 PM


.......... if you are the sort of UW photographer that zones out .............

 

 

Oh bugger, there goes that idea!   :sleep:


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#5 errbrr

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 05:18 PM

Thanks Dave, that's really helpful. Yes, I am going mCCR for the reasons you mention, although I note Focky's research shows equivalent fatality rates on mCCR vs eCCR. Zoning out is very unwise in an overhead environment where only one line leads out, so I never allowed myself to fall into that trap.

As for mastering the camera....doubt I ever will! But at 400 dives and over 50,000 underwater shots, I've got the hang of some of the functionality.

#6 jonny shaw

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 09:05 PM

Just use common sense and take it easy to start off with. CCR's are pretty straight forward you just need a bit of time to get used to it. I started shooting on CCR after only about 8hrs but most of those dives were then sub 18m for ages


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#7 browng

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Posted 07 July 2013 - 11:38 PM

I have been diving an Inspiration RB for about 10 years now and have been taking photographs since almost the start.

 

My instructor told me that when I started diving with an RB it would be like learning to dive all over again and that was certainly true. One of the changes is diving at constant depth to avoid filling and emptying the counterlungs as you move up and down. This is particularly difficult when diving with OC divers who bounce up and down like yo-yos.

 

My advice would be to do some intensive diving on your new RB and get into a rhythm of looking at your gauges regularly, understanding what the noise of O2 injections and just feeling comfortable.

 

As far as the benefits of an RB to UWPs, it certainly makes a difference approaching fish for portraits especially if they are skittish, no bubbles/noise on exhale makes a big difference. The biggest change I noticed was with sharks - I was in the Maldives with a group of OC divers and my buddy was on an RB. During the time which the OC divers had been around their bubbles had kept the sharks at bay - not much fun when I had a fisheye lens on the camera.  Once the OC had to return to the surface because of their air usage, we stayed on the reef and had a series of brilliant close encounters with the sharks.

 

The other benefits are potentially longer dives, less concern about air usage and hence breathing rates but most of all its great to know that when doing a safety stop at 5m I can have an oxygen rich mixture squeezing all that nitrogen out of my ageing body!

 

Travelling with the RB can be a challenge but I have taken mine regularly to the Maldives, just been to Grenada and I am off to Cayman in August. You just have to be selective with the airline you fly with to maximise hold luggage for RB and camera gear.

 

Enjoying diving with your RB, I do.

 

All the best

 

Gordon

 


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#8 John Bantin

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 04:40 AM

Although I am known to have a certain amount of experience with closed-circuit, I'd like to point out that sudden depth changes are best resisted so if you see a subject swimming above you, it's frustrating not to be able to get near it. For example, CCR is OK for static subjects like wrecks but not good at all when dolphin enter your field of vision.


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#9 eyu

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 05:07 AM

I totally agree that on a closed circuit system the lack of making bubbles will allow one to get close to fish and make photographic encounters better.

But there are deaths associated with closed systems mostly from shallow water blackouts (hypoxia) and some from oxygen toxicity seizures.  These are not infrequent case reports of experienced rebreather dives who die.  The incidence of rebreather deaths has gone up yearly since 2000 (DAN fatality surveillance data).


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#10 Gary.Makai

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 06:20 AM

I totally agree that on a closed circuit system the lack of making bubbles will allow one to get close to fish and make photographic encounters better.

But there are deaths associated with closed systems mostly from shallow water blackouts (hypoxia) and some from oxygen toxicity seizures.  These are not infrequent case reports of experienced rebreather dives who die.  The incidence of rebreather deaths has gone up yearly since 2000 (DAN fatality surveillance data).

Yes you can get closer, but have to watch your depth changes carefully as either oxygen or diluent is added to adjust the concentration of oxygen in the counterlung, this can result in  changes of bouyancy that have to be compensated for by losing air from the loop on ascent and adding gas to the loop on decent. I agree that it should be good for "static" subjects and challenging for more mobile ones. Reliable oxygen analyizers and CO2 monitors are needed to make this safer. It is fairly safe as long as you are obsessive and compulsive about setup and use, but malfunctions do and can occur. When in doubt....bail out.



#11 ErolE

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Posted 08 July 2013 - 07:48 AM

Hey Liz,

 

I started the same tranistion a couple of years ago and whilst a looooong way from being an expert I can only echo some of the above comments:

 

1) Make sure you get the right unit for you. Again with the awareness robbing nature of photography I prefer a completly manual mCCR. It simply doesn t allow me to zone out.

 

2) Also just use common sense and build back up to full trimix with a camera

 

3) Never get complacent. CCR doesn t allow it.

 

 

E


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#12 errbrr

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 01:54 AM

Interesting, I hadn't really considered depth changes in the context of the camera. I can see having to focus on constant depth photography until it becomes a mindset - whatever's at eye level, that's what you can photograph. Beyond the bubble-free bonus, helium is very expensive here (and in places like Truk Lagoon) and I'm looking forward to spending more of my 30m - 50m dives on stronger trimix when I get up to that bit. 

 

I will get my first taste of travelling with camera plus rEvo for the course in Bali. I have booked 60kg of checked luggage and hope that it's enough!

 

Thanks for the input everyone. There is a lot of CCR advice out there, and finding photographers who have moved to a CCR and understand not wanting to put the camera down for too long is very helpful.



#13 John Bantin

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 09:57 AM

Don't make the mistake of thinking you're invisible with CCR. You are still a big animal. It does allow you to hide behind a rock as I have done on five CCR trips to Cocos. However, if their are people in the water with you that don't understand that - forget it!


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#14 tdpriest

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Posted 09 July 2013 - 04:46 PM

I have been diving an Inspiration RB for about 10 years now and have been taking photographs since almost the start.

 

All the best

 

Gordon

 

 

But what Gordon omits to say is that some of those dives were with me, and although he looked lovely with his rebreather, I won the photographic prizes...

 

http://www.bsoup.org...012/results.php


Edited by tdpriest, 09 July 2013 - 08:27 PM.