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Scaling back gear for topside/diving mixed trip (Hawaii)


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#1 rtrski

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 06:28 AM

Looking for some outside guidance here, sanity check or just general discussions.

 

I am (still, after years) nothing better than a 'vacation' u/w photog.  Resigning myself to the fact that I probably never will be anything other, based in my frequency of trips, etc. (1 a year, lucky to get 30 dives a year  max).  This year's trip is planned for Hawaii, 2 weeks, 1 each Big Isle and Maui, probably a max of 6 diving days in that time.  If we stack shore dives onto the typical 2-boat dive trips, talking maybe 18-20 dives this trip (and I never take a camera first diving day minimum - self-imposed rule to reacclimate myself and concentrate on form and gear verification).  More realistically we may be talking only 12-16 dives.

 

I usually like shooting w/a reefscapes, but I understand Hawaii isn't known for great backdrops underwater.  It is however pretty spectacular above water, and we'll have more topside days than dive days (and topside time on dive days).  SWMBO has always been 'tolerant' of my desire for dive-dive-dive trips, but this one has been a compromise from the start...

 

I have setups for both wide angle (dual Inon z240s, 8-16mm lens, minidome, all the arms) and more recently macro (DS-51, custom ringflash with minimal arm needs, 105mm).  I also however have a star tracker, both fisheye and medium teles that it can load-bear, and would love to do some astrophotography from Mauna Kea or Haleakala.  I have 2 cameras, the A55 for the housing, the A99 which isn't housed.  No question I'm bringing the A99 for topside, as well as lenses that do it justice as well as those that go with the A55 for underwater.  So I've officially outgrown even my bigger-on-the-inside Gura Gear Bataflae 32L photo backpack, even if some of the arms, ports, and tripod go in the checked scuba bag.

 

I'm considering leaving behind my z240 strobes and most of my arm components, going rigged for either macro (DS51 only lighting, with or without ringflash) and if we do some spinner dolphin snorkeling having the 8-16mm and minidome but with natural light only.  Leaving behind 2 strobes, big buoyancy arms, at least 4 clamps, and an ike to inon cable in exchange for swapping in an extra lens (180mm), topside flash, and the startracker plate. 

 

I know underwater lighting is everything, but snorkeling with mammals I'm guessing means serious finning and medium distances, so natural light is really the only option.  Not sure we'd do the manta night dive, so won't miss the strobes there.  I"ve never focused on macro only before (or frankly hardly at all) but seems to me there would be fairly good opportunities w/ some of the Hawaii fauna to get my jones fed during what few dives we'll have.

 

Anyone think I'll hate myself leaving behind the w/a lighting for this destination?  Other compromises you'd make?  (I know - leave behind clothes for more camera gear and buy there :mocking:).  Anyone else been in this situation and what were your criteria to cull the load?


Edited by rtrski, 14 February 2014 - 06:32 AM.

Current rig: Sony SLT-alpha55 in Ikelite housing, Sigma 105mm f2.8 DC Macro w/ Ike 5505.58 flat port or Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM behind UWCamStuff custom 5" mini-dome. Dual INON z240 Type IVs triggered with DS51 for TTL mimicry, or DS51 alone with home-made ringflash assy for macro.

 

Topside, unhoused: Sony SLT-alpha99, Sigma 150-500mm + 1.4TC (Saving for Sony 70-400 G2), Sigma 15mm diagonal fish, Sony 24-70mm f2.8 CZ, Tamron 180mm f2.8 Macro...all the gear and nary a clue...


#2 troporobo

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 02:42 AM

I know what I would do, faced with a one-time trip to a fabulous location: take everything. It's impossible to predict all the opportunities in advance and if they arise, I'd want to be able to take advantage of them, and if they don't, lugging the extra gear is a small price to pay. 

 

The situation would be different if I was travelling long haul for a long time in a difficult location but for a relatively short domestic trip to a well appointed location it does not seem too burdensome to over prepare rather than potentially under perform. Compared to what the total trip costs, excess baggage charges can't be all that significant.

 

But that's my approach to travel, which is notoriously not light and nimble. I would not fault anyone who decides to go minimal and fully enjoy the experiences in the moment without needing to digitally capture every single one.


Edited by troporobo, 15 February 2014 - 02:42 AM.


#3 rtrski

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 08:32 AM

Thanks for the response.  That's definitely an option I'm considering as well, hence the vascillating nature of my original post.  I do worry that if I 'take everything' I spend a fair amount of time outside the dives fiddling with gear changeouts (swapping arms, sync cable, strobes, batteries, port and lens with zoom gear) vs. the usual more quick camera battery and card swaps.  For only 12 dives, I wonder if I might be better off just limiting my options and forcing myself to go one direction.  Not to mention the temptation to pack an entire backpack with everything from 500mm + 1.4TC down to 15mm fish for a hike...and since I'm neither a featherweight nor a spring chicken, the extra gear ends up cutting the hike itself short significantly...

 

On the other hand, when I have a manta flyby simutaneous to a turtle being cleaned by fish being cleaned by shrimp right behind the perfect spray of searods, and I'm only rigged for macro with a single small strobe - I'm going to cry.  But that could happen even if I brought all the right gear but was rigged differently that dive.

 

I've definitely caught the sky bug in the meantime.  Have intervalometer, sky tracker, etc.  We're staying at a rental on a coffee plantation that is fairly high up (~1200 feet) so planning to set up there for to stack shots to get startrails over the landscape, and reserve the actual tracking for the really high destinations.  (Will wait a day after diving to hit the high altitudes, of course.)  So for a change I'm almost as enthused about the topside photog this trip as the underwater, and a lot of the evening time might be time I'd have to choose between rig fiddling, even though I'll have 2 bodies with their own lenses.  (In the past topside shots always required removing the body from the housing, since I haven't carried a spare body for years).

 

Still torn....any others want to chime in and give me another nudge one way or the other?  I'm still the sole decider of my own destiny, so no blame will be applied if I regret my decision.


Edited by rtrski, 15 February 2014 - 08:42 AM.

Current rig: Sony SLT-alpha55 in Ikelite housing, Sigma 105mm f2.8 DC Macro w/ Ike 5505.58 flat port or Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM behind UWCamStuff custom 5" mini-dome. Dual INON z240 Type IVs triggered with DS51 for TTL mimicry, or DS51 alone with home-made ringflash assy for macro.

 

Topside, unhoused: Sony SLT-alpha99, Sigma 150-500mm + 1.4TC (Saving for Sony 70-400 G2), Sigma 15mm diagonal fish, Sony 24-70mm f2.8 CZ, Tamron 180mm f2.8 Macro...all the gear and nary a clue...


#4 troporobo

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 05:00 PM

I hear you.  There is a lot to be said for focusing on a smaller number of objectives and doing a better job on those instead of the spray and pray approach.

 

I'm really interested in your astro setup.  Could you point to the gear you use and some sample images?



#5 rtrski

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 03:16 PM

I have no sample images yet, just those I'd love to emulate. Currently planning to get my first attempt at using the tracker the next dark of the moon, in March, if I can find a suitably dark sky location worth shooting (Too soon in the year to really get much of the Milky Way, but there's a limestone waterfall not too far away, so stacking some shots to get the startrails behind the typically long exposure streaky water effect might be cool, even if I have to composite the sky and foreground from separate exposure layers.)  Also I'm told the gear I picked might be more 'cheap' than 'good' - but should be enough to get my feet wet so to speak, and find out if I catch the bug.

 

iOptron.com is the site for the Skytracker (part #3302, either B for black or W for white), basically the same thing as a telescope's motorized base but designed with DSLR's in mind (3kg or so max load).  The "better" unit often mentioned is the Vixen Polarie, but it costs considerably more once you add the polar sighting scope for higher accuracy.  Seems to be sold at Amazon, BHphoto, etc.  Then you'll need a ballhead (the tracker mounts to your tripod, then the ball head to the tracker to mount the camera).  For wide-field photography e.g. going for the Milky Way you want any wide angle lens like a 15mm fisheye or rectilinear up to 20mm or so, bigger aperture the better; for narrow seems like 200mm teles is about the max unless you step up to a much more serious tracker unit.  Cable release and/or intervalometer to help start shots without motion...

 

Site I've found so far with good info on catching the Milky Way, which is my immediate goal for a late spring / early summer trip to the heights in Hawaii:

http://andrewrhodesp...-the-milky-way/

 

...and a couple of shots by another photographer I'm using as sort of goals:

http://www.dpreview..../thread/3602290

 

Anyway, I'll already be bringing a tripod, the tracker (about the size of a thick paperback, plus the tripod mount base), ball head, 15mm, 180mm and FF bodys, all of which have NOT accompanied me on past trips....hence the need to decide whether to cut back.  I can always move the Ike housing itself to the dive bag, wrapped in a wetsuit...usually the port and handle/tray travel that way already, and the housing's old enough I'm a bit less worried about theft (plus HI airport destination doesn't seem quite as bad a theft risk - or am I fooling myself?)...but I still have a feeling I'm going to end up with more than my backpack can hold regardless. 

 

(Did I mention my temptation to bring the 150-500mm + 1.4TC as well???  The ubuiquitous peacocks and three-horned chameleons that are supposedly all over the tropical vegetation there... Sheesh...I'm impossible!!)


Current rig: Sony SLT-alpha55 in Ikelite housing, Sigma 105mm f2.8 DC Macro w/ Ike 5505.58 flat port or Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM behind UWCamStuff custom 5" mini-dome. Dual INON z240 Type IVs triggered with DS51 for TTL mimicry, or DS51 alone with home-made ringflash assy for macro.

 

Topside, unhoused: Sony SLT-alpha99, Sigma 150-500mm + 1.4TC (Saving for Sony 70-400 G2), Sigma 15mm diagonal fish, Sony 24-70mm f2.8 CZ, Tamron 180mm f2.8 Macro...all the gear and nary a clue...


#6 diver dave1

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 04:25 AM

If staying on the big island for a time, one of the great dives there is the night manta dive.  Its truly amazing.  When I did it, we had 12-13 manta's soaring all around and over your head.  They rubbed my head as they passed on many occassions.  You will want wide angle with both Z240's and a good spotting light for that dive.  Doing video is also great during that dive if you have the lighting.  A single Sola 600 plus the lights from the Z240's was enough for me.  We did a late aftn dive that led into that night dive.  Below is a link to a photo of that aftn dive.

For me, that dive was the highlight of the trip.  I would never go back to the big island without my tokina 10-17, strobes, spotting light, dome, etc.

Just my 2 cents...

 

http://www.shiningse...45974&k=JMd63Np

 

Here is one from the night diving.

http://www.shiningse...45184&k=7bcg2JN


Nauticam D7000, Inon Z-240's, 60 micro, 105 micro, Tokina 10-17

www.shiningseastudio.com


#7 rtrski

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 08:09 AM

DD: Sorry  I didn't see your reply before this.  Yeah, I'm kind of leaning toward bringing the whole kit n kaboodle after all.  My wife is gonna kill me.  Not sure we'll do the manta dive since she tried it once and apparently got a bad night after a huge storm, bad viz and nothing showed at all.  But I've been curious about it (or the blackwater dive, but I bet that would be very macro-friendly).

 

So...Ike housing moves to dive bag with the handle/tray, that opens some room in the carry-on camera backpack. Up to 3 strobes now vs. 2 from last trip...make wife carry one camera backpack (she wants to bring her new small lenovo Yoga 2 laptop anyway, she can put that, ipod, paperback in it) while I carry another full camera backpack....hoo boy.  I'm never getting outta the doghouse.


Current rig: Sony SLT-alpha55 in Ikelite housing, Sigma 105mm f2.8 DC Macro w/ Ike 5505.58 flat port or Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM behind UWCamStuff custom 5" mini-dome. Dual INON z240 Type IVs triggered with DS51 for TTL mimicry, or DS51 alone with home-made ringflash assy for macro.

 

Topside, unhoused: Sony SLT-alpha99, Sigma 150-500mm + 1.4TC (Saving for Sony 70-400 G2), Sigma 15mm diagonal fish, Sony 24-70mm f2.8 CZ, Tamron 180mm f2.8 Macro...all the gear and nary a clue...


#8 Aliens

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 05:48 PM

Hawaiin reef is very ordinary but I woudl take my strobes and maybe shorter arms



#9 rtrski

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Posted 19 May 2014 - 10:03 AM

Well, we're in the final packing phase for departure.  Since initially posting I've sold my 150-500mm and the 1.4x TC, so no temptation to bring those.  I did get some good nebula shots using a 180mm with the iOptron rig, as well as some nice test Milky Way wide-angle shots with the 15mm fish, so both will definitely be coming...that was fun.  I've also realized we'll be on the ground in time to set up the camera on a tripod for the night of 23 May and the possible new meteor shower. 

 

I also finished a 2nd generation 3d print of my ring flash adaptor for my DS51 and in tests it looks like it provides pretty good light down to f20 at ISO400, up close...  So...looks right now like I'm going to take a chance and leave the z240's home, plus most of the arm components.  I'll still bring the 8-16mm and minidome for it in case I think I might want to go for some natural light wide-angle a dive or two, but mostly focus on macro with the 105mm and the ring assembly.  That gives me the room for much of the other gear (but not all).

 

Wife might find a couple items in her dive bag, but hopefully I will not spill over into 2 camera backpack carry-ons.


Current rig: Sony SLT-alpha55 in Ikelite housing, Sigma 105mm f2.8 DC Macro w/ Ike 5505.58 flat port or Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM behind UWCamStuff custom 5" mini-dome. Dual INON z240 Type IVs triggered with DS51 for TTL mimicry, or DS51 alone with home-made ringflash assy for macro.

 

Topside, unhoused: Sony SLT-alpha99, Sigma 150-500mm + 1.4TC (Saving for Sony 70-400 G2), Sigma 15mm diagonal fish, Sony 24-70mm f2.8 CZ, Tamron 180mm f2.8 Macro...all the gear and nary a clue...