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Buoyancy and UW Photography


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#1 NitroLiq

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Posted 07 August 2002 - 08:20 AM

Howdy Folks,

Well here we go...my first post. As a novice diver, I'm really interested in pursuing UW photography (and perhaps video) in the future. I have a few questions though regarding physical aspects of shooting underwater.

1. As the rule for UW photography seems to be "get as close as you can, then closer still," how do you maintain your buoyancy in any kind of current so as not to bump the reef?

2. How much do the camera housings and strobes offset your regular weight settings? I'm thinking about the IKE housing with125 strobe for a G2. How much weight needs to be added to compensate?

3. This is just a curiousity on my part... when you take a macro shot of a moray or something like that, how do you get close enough without him snapping out and biting? Maybe I'm misinterpreting what I've read...Is it just a matter of staying a few feet away and zooming in?

These were just some questions flitting around my head while I'm supposed to be working.

Glad I found wetpixel...it's a great site!

#2 jack r

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Posted 08 August 2002 - 08:38 AM

1) The key to bouyancy is practice. Controled breathing and proper weighting. In you can snap a picture with one hand you can look for a dead spot on the reef and place one finger there for balance and support. Mostly that will come from experiance.

2) I dont know how much weight you have to ad with your camera. I can tell you that if it is negatively bouyant (if it sinks) you will need to take weight off not add.

3) it is always best to get as close as possible instead of using the zoom for many reasons such as backscatter and lighting. You need to know your subjects and approach them very slowly and calmly. Try not to create too much water pressure in front of you and do blow too many bubbles.

I have been very very close to moreys and have never had on try to bite me.

#3 alien-bob

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Posted 09 August 2002 - 02:36 PM

This is a topic I've been intending asking about.

Jack-r, what's a little "not" between friends, especially for something as ephemeral as bubbles :-)

My CP5000 ike housing is just very slightly negative when it's empty. Add a camera and it sinks fairly well, add the DS125 strobe and arms and the whole shebang is significantly negative. I would guess I could take 2-3 lbs off my belt to compensate, but my preference has been to keep the weight on and add more BC air as I'm usually a little light by the end of a dive anyway.

Last trip (first with camera) I was in "touch absolutely nothing" mode. One of the dive guides watched me trying to hang upside down to take a close up w/o touching anything. More clown than clownfish. He gave me some advice on the boat and next dive. His recommendation, "having taken thousands of UW pictures" --endquote-- was to dump most of the air from my BC, going very negative and allowing me to literally lay on the bottom, and to brace my elbows against rocks, sand, whatever.

I must admit I wasn't really comfortable with that, and for the rest of the trip I tried various compromises, mostly involving staying neutral but finding something non-sensitive to hang onto with one hand to take the shot, or going slightly negative and kneeling or fin pirouetting on sand or gravel.

I can definately see major concerns with coral - I've been told that in some places (red sea) dive operators can get busted if they allow clients to touch the reef. I certainly applaud that, and feel equally strongly about bashing into anenomies, gorgonians, and anything else "substantial."

But what about laying down on sand or gravel? So long as there are no nests or holes etc is that OK? What about rocks? Bare or barnacled? How about weed/algae covered? The LaPaz wecks (lapas03 and fan-min) have only been there a few years and are covered with 1-2 inches of assorted growth already. Certainly if I'm out in the woods I'm not shy about tramping through the grass, or even doing a little gardening to get foreground stalks out of the way to get a decent shot of a mushroom, so given the rate that stuff has built up on fan-min would it be OK to (gently) rest on a weed-covered rock?

Before I started carrying the camera, it all seemed very simple as there was no need to touch anything. Now it seems more complex, with touching stuff becomeing a huge boon at times, and as I'm not sure which substrates are "damageable" and which are "robust" I'm not sure what is acceptable.

As I see it at the moment, so long as there are no holes, nests, etc it seems OK to kneel or lie on sand or gravel if necessary. Likewise it seems OK to perch on rocks, pilings, etc if they are bare or covered with well-stuck-on shellfish (limpets, barnacles, etc) or non-frondose weed and algae--this stuff gets grazed by fish constantly and occupies that niche through fast growth and damage resistance? It also seems that finger-pivoting or pinching on to "dead areas" (or even onto live areas that you can be confident are built to stand it, large mussels for example) does no real damage. Any contact should be carefully considered and minimized, but some of this seems OK (and in many ways seems less damaging than some dive operator's practices of anchoring on reefs and wrecks and grabbing hold of any interesting critter to show the clients).

I hope this doesn't start any major fights and flame wars, as I'm sure people will have different comfort levels and rationalizations, but where does everyone else stand on this?

#4 jack r

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Posted 09 August 2002 - 03:25 PM

I have seen my share of underwater photographers. Some are new and cant control their bouyancy some are experts and realize that proper bouyancy is essential for good photography. There is a big difference between taking a snapshot and creating a beautiful photograph. I have also seen some who only care about the photo and nothing about the reef or the environmet much less safety. I too have came too close to my limits or went too low on air for a great shot. I wont do it anymore.

As far as laying on a sandy bottom it depends where you are. I have laid on the bottom in one spot for 45 minutes taking photos of sailfish blennys in Honduras. Some sandy area are full of life on the bottom You just have to judge your surronds and decide what your priorities are. Is it the environment or the photo?

If you are carrying a camera that is 2-3 pounds negative I would take that wieght off. I just got the exact same setup you have alien-bob but have not gotten it wet yet. The strobe is backordered for another few days. ANd I have 2 sore ears from diving alot this week. Opening week of lobster season here!

I normally dive with 6 pounds with a 3.2mil full lenght wetsuit. I am 185 pounds and have a fair amount of fat on my body. When I take my Nik V I shed 2 pounds.

It is my opinion that first comes safety and then comes preservation and then comes the photo. I also have to throw fun into the mix as well. For me, since I do not take pictures for a means of income it must always be fun. I dont think that killing the reef is fun. And is pisses me off to see people disrespect it.

I have a 3 year old daughter who is already a great swimmer and breaths off my regulator in the pool. I am very concerned that she wont be able to see the same beauty I have seen all over the world.

By the way alien-bob, since you have the same set up as I am about to have, do you have a photos that I can see? Or any insight you can share would be great.

#5 alien-bob

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Posted 09 August 2002 - 04:13 PM

Jack,

Thoughtful responses re: what we can touch. Thanks. Common sense seems, as always, to be the thing. Very curious to see what other reponses that message prompts.

I just put a note in the gallery forum just a few minutes before I typed my thoughts in the buoyancy thread. I have some pics online (sorry, just on Yahoo). 2 albums at:

http://photos.yahoo..../scubalien2001/

As I said in the galleries forum, comments good, bad, or evil are very welcome. There are also some notes in that post about what I ended up using for some of the settings (mostly based on a thread in the housings forum "CP 5000 settings" or similar that I'm sure you've seen). Take a look at my pics and I'll be happy to chit-chat about details and further thoughts I've had.

Bob.

#6 NitroLiq

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Posted 09 August 2002 - 05:23 PM

Hey lots of New Yorkers here! You guys really touched on the reason for my orig. post. What came to mind as I was writing was one of my cert. dives in the Philippines. I was diving next to a wrecked cessna plane which is now a fish-feeding station. To the right there is a reef wall, to the left, nothing but the deep blue. Now, I can control my buoyancy fairly well but in tight spots I'm not so sure. We were feeding the fish here and as they swarmed around us I found myself spun off balance and trying to right myself back up. With this on my mind, I was thinking about control and UW photography. You get in close to get that macro shot, then find yourself drifting in too close so how can you back paddle away in time.

Bob, you nailed it perfectly with the being in that "touch absolutely nothing" mode. It's all about reef conservation. I tend to just enjoy everything from a distance at this point. If I were to take a stab at photography, I think I would try for more wide angle on a sandy bottem (ala Bahamas) away from the reef. They say that macro is easier for a beginner but I would think you'd have to have super buoynacy control. Maybe not so much in water that has little current but in a place with strong currents.

I've read a few articles and most UW photographers seem to start with the same thing - Don't even pick up a camera until you can control your buoyancy very, very well. Scuba diving is technical enough as it is keeping track of your gauges and all that, without the added pressure of worrying about setting camera attributes, white-balancing, making sure your strobes are angled properly, etc. It's good advice, I think.

#7 cmdasia

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Posted 09 August 2002 - 07:40 PM

Well this is all very politically correct - but let us be ridiculously honest - Macro and Current do not mix.

We have all done and will all continue to do it - we will endeavour not to "damage" and choose our touch downs thoughfully and carefully - but Saints we are not.:D

#8 jack r

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Posted 09 August 2002 - 07:52 PM

That may be true and current and macro may not mix. In a strong current it is very hard to shoot anything sometimes. You have to do a "fly by" Shooting macro is very tough, but if you are grabbing the reef and killing it to take a shot of one macro subject how many macro critters are you killing?

Political correctness is not the issue here at all. Common sense, the respect for life and the reason it got you to underwater to take pictures in the first place is exactly what you are compromising.

We are not saints an we have all done damage to the reef. I have crashed into it and hit by accident but never deliberatly killed it for the sake of a photo. Divers do enough damage just by accident. Add that to the polution, el nino, cutting down the rainforest and creating runoff and you have a real problem. I know that divers are probably the least trouble of the list but there are more and more of us all of the time.

If you ever dive in the florida keys you will see exactly what I am talking about.

#9 alien-bob

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Posted 10 August 2002 - 06:44 AM

NitroLiq,
I did a pretty major trip yesterday, posted to wetpixel from both New York and Houston as well as an undisclosed location which was home in Salt Lake City, Utah. I suspect I'm posting from Thailand today in this thread. Great trips (or maybe it's a bug in the software?) :-)

#10 NitroLiq

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Posted 10 August 2002 - 03:21 PM

Hahahah...yeah I realized that when I read the other posts. You guys really get around! :D

#11 snoack

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Posted 12 August 2002 - 01:54 AM

Since i started to take pictures i always tried to be extremely careful, not touching anything except small bare spots on the reef to stabilize with one finger.
The funny thing is that a friend of mine (a marine biologist) told me that touching does not always meen damage. His explanation was that fish, turtles, ... also move through the reef and they also touch corals ...
Maybe James could tell us his opinion ?

He also told me that many uw photographers (not the ignorant and selfish ones) try very hard not to touch anything with their hands, arms and body but they usually forget their legs and fins. They also produce a lot of water movement while they try to come close and to get away from their motive after the shots are taken.

I used to make the same mistake myself until i got a demonstration i'll never forget:
I tried to take a picture of a nudi that was moving on a piece of coral under an overhang on a wall. The was a slight current pushing me along the wall. As usual i checked my buoyancy and set the camera in a safe distance before i approached the nudi and looked for a safe spot for my finger. I stabilized and took some pictures and then decided to push myself backwards because the current was moving my body and my fins started to get too close to the wall. I had miscalculated the situation and suddenly felt one of my fins slightly touching the wall. I kept it still and i tried to stabilize with one finger again. Unfortunately i moved my hand to quick and created a surge that lifted the poor nudi and sent her tumbling down the wall.
Sounds stupid ? It probably was, because the slight touch of my fin probably caused no damage but my hectical movement afterward did.
Lessons learned:
1. Keep calm when you realize that you accidentally touched something. As long as it is only a slight touch and go, chances are high that to damage is done.
2. No fast movements of any parts of your body and equipment until you are in a safe distance to the reef.

BTW: On sandy bottom i'm looking for an uninhibited spot, go down, deflate my jacket (important, if youre still buoyant you will move too much and cause a sand storm), take my pictures and slowly inflate my jacket until i start to lift again.

Sabine

#12 james

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Posted 12 August 2002 - 05:41 AM

Most corals have a very thin layer of tissue covering a calcareous skeleton. If you touch the coral, there is a good chance of piercing the tissue and opening the coral for infection. Tropical seawater is a veritable soup of bacteria.

Hope that makes sense,
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#13 Jim Clark

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Posted 14 August 2002 - 05:09 AM

everyone else has said it already, but the most important thing to get right it buoyancy control. I wouldn't even think about taking a camer underwater on a reef without making sure you are pretty damn close to perfect with your control, i.e. hovering feet up, upsidedown etc without hitting stuff otherwise you can do serious damage to the reef and even risk damaging yourself just to get what you think could be the perfect shot!!!

#14 alien-bob

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 09:59 AM

Kasey posted a link to the Bonaire shootout in the housings forum. I was browsing around there while I was supposed to be working and noticed the rules for the contest. They have a list of things they consider unacceptable:

http://www.theshooto...rg/contest.html

Quoted from there (without permission)

We are adopting the Conservation Rules established by EPIC®. Marine life should never be stressed or endangered for the sake of a photo. Entries exhibiting the following behavior will be disqualified.

1.       Divers visibly damaging the environment (e.g. gear dragging or kicking up sand).

2.       Animals with signs of stress (e.g. puffed puffers, inking octopus).

3.       Animals moved to an unnatural environment or risky location.

4.       Animals being fed (especially artificial food from divers).

5.       Marine life being touched (e.g. coral polyps, seahorse tails).

6.       Divers exhibiting poor buoyancy control.

Dive operators at Bonaire have always been conservation-minded. They respect the marine life. Photographers should too. Imagery showing even inadvertent damage gives divers a bad name; as such it should never be shown. Conservation rules will apply and the judgesí decision will be final.


They refer to these rules being established by "EPIC" - anyone know what EPIC is?

#15 jack r

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Posted 20 August 2002 - 10:12 AM

Bob,
That is why bonaire is still so nice. Besides diving is really the only thing they have going for them besides salt. They must keep it nice.

Here is a link for epic

http://www.epicphotocontest.org/