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frogfish

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Posts posted by frogfish


  1. I mainly fly in Asia, and have found that it's almost always possible to carry on two pieces, and so I try to do so whenever I can. Whenever airline staff have questioned this, I've explained (very politely) that both pieces are carrying fragile, sensitive cameras and lenses, and that I'd very much appreciate being able to take both with me.

     

    One is a Pelican 1550 case, which takes the housing (Subal for FS2) and big dome port, with strobe arm segments under the dome port (separated by a layer of pick-foam) to keep that weight out of my check-in bags. Also an extension ring, synch cords, diopters. O-rings in plastic envelopes behind the foam layer in the lid, and one inexpensive lens (to support any claim I might make that both pieces hold cameras and lenses. I don't mind putting one camera body in the housing as long as I know I will be hand-carrying all the way.

     

    The other carry-on is a Phototrek backpack, which takes all (other) camera bodies and lenses, including big telephoto. Both will fit in overhead bins on international flights. Wearing the backpack and carrying the 1550, it really doesn't look like much more than other passengers who have OD-ed on duty free purchases in the terminal.

     

    If I ever have to check the Pelican 1550, then if I have a body in the housing, it comes out immediately and goes into the backpack. The 1550 is Hasn't happened yet, but then again I've never tried to do this out of the US or Europe either.

     

    Frogfish


  2. Here's another solution, for what it's worth, though I have to say at the outset that I only used this a few times, then decided the improvement in buoyancy wasn't worth the extra drag. I do a lot of diving in strong currents, and minimizing drag is the highest priority.

     

    I bought some PVC piping, about 2" diameter, plus caps. Cut the PVC pipe into lengths about the same as the tray and arm segments (minus balls), then glued the caps on with sealant - I think I've used both epoxy and some thread sealant I had.

     

    The caps, naturally, have a bigger diameter than the pipe. It's easy to attach the PVC piping to the tray and arm segments with a couple of plastic ties. And just as easy to rip them off again for travel. The PVC pipe segments are happy to travel steerage, thrown into the bottom of the dive bag.

     

    It did make the rig a bit more neutral, and it was certainly cheap. I think the total outlay for one tray piece (I could have used two here) and four arm segment pieces was about US$3.00. But , as mentioned above, in the end I decided that the buoyancy wasn't worth the extra drag, so I don't bother wish these anymore.

     

    Frogfish


  3. oh.. one more thing, backplate system was invented first.

     

    Technically correct, but if I'm not mistaken, the original backplate harness systems were used with a horse-collar buoyancy control device, or without any buoyancy control device it all.

     

    In this sense, the modern backplate rig - sandwiching a wing between the backplate and the tank (or tanks) is very much a new configuration. In addition to the advantages mentioned (claimed?) by myself and others higher up in this thread, another plus is that the modular design means you can switch wings so that you have the optimal buoyancy - and no more - for different kinds of diving.

     

    Diving with a wetsuit and a single aluminum tank - the standard configuration for most tropical resort or liveaboard diving - a small narrow wing with 27-30 lbs lift is more than sufficient. For twin steel tanks, you can switch to a larger wing with 55-60 lbs of lift or even more.

     

    I prefer a stainless steel backplate for the easy trim it provides when diving with a single aluminum tank. The 3 kg weight of the backplate is perfectly distributed along the length of the tank, counteracting its buoyancy. Another plus is that the twin tank cambands and crotch strap incorporated in most BP+wing configurations not only holds the tank securely and safely, but also eliminates the problem of a near empty tank trying to float away at the end of a dive. Itr's common to see divers using conventional jacket BCs with their tanks jutting out at 50-60 degree angle after 40 minutes underwater - not exactly ideal for minimizing drag in a current.

     

    It's true that flying with a stainless steel backplate is a problem, so I also have a 1 kg aluminum backplate for air travel. Adding two 1 kg weights in trim weight packs, one mounted on each of the two tank cambands, gives me almost the same trim as the SS plate.

     

    One point to keep in mind with "DIR" designs like the Halcyon (which use a single continuous length of webbing and have no plastic clips), however, is that it is necessary readjust the harness when diving with a thicker or thinner wetsuit. If the harness is correctly adjusted for a 3 mm wetsuit, it will be too tight and difficult to get out of when you're wearing a 5 mm or 7 mm suit. Adjusting the harness is not difficult, but once you're suited up it's too late.

     

    Frogfish


  4. Actually we are going in Nov. Does that change the water temperature?  

     

    I'm just back from Komodo, and can tell you that the water in the south is still quite cold in November, at least this year. We had temps of 20-22 at some of the southern sites - Yellow Wall and Cannibal Rock off Rinca. It was a bit warmer at Manta Alley.

     

    Actually, the cold water (and low viz) pushed quite far north for a couple of days. Three Sisters was about 24, and one day it was only 25-26 at Castle Rock in the far north. A week earlier it had been 29-30.

     

    So I'd say, definitely bring your 5 mil., and a good hood and gloves.

     

    But do read the warning about Labuanbajo-based operators in Komodo I've just posted today.


  5. Kameron Kamdani, owner of Puri Komodo Resort and Chairman of the Nusa Tenggara Marine Tourism Association was lost diving Batu Bolong in strong currents from his own boat 14 November. An expatriate customer and DM who also were on the dive surfaced and survived.

     

    Frogfish


  6. First off, it's spelled Papua, but that could apply to either West Papua (which is part of Indonesia) or Papua New Guinea, which isn't.

     

    The diving at Kimbe Bay and the other locations that the Star Dancer does is OTS (off-the-scale), and you'll like staying at Walindo too. But be sure and take your anti-malarials.

     

    Frogfish


  7. There are experienced photographers using just about every style of buoyancy control device, so I don't think there is a single answer to your question.

     

    For me, however, there's no question that a backplate and wing (Halcyon) is the best solution. The main considerations are:

     

    1) Drag. Wrap-around jacket BCs have a lot more drag than more streamlined backplate and wing combinations. Pushing a SLR housing set for wide angle with two long arms against a current is bad enough. If you're diving with a single aluminum tank and a wetsuit, a small wing with only 27-30 lbs lift is more than enough.

     

    2) Trim. A stainless steel backplate will weigh about 3 kg, and that weight is distributed more or less in line with the buoyancy of an aluminum tank. Most people find that a properly-set up backplate and wing rig promotes much better and easier horizontal trim u/w, which is what you want.

     

    Being able to hover horizontally close to the bottom (with knees bent and fins up, of course) is critical both for shooting macro as well as w/a (where you will often want an upward angle). When I see a shooter with his fins and legs down and mashing the coral as he/she tries to shoot close in on macro or get a low angle for w/a, they usually seem to be wearing a PADI-style jacket BC with all their weight either on a belt or in integrated pockets, and have terrible trim.

     

    3) Reducing danglies. DIR-style configurations with everything clipped off is similarly critical if you want to get closer to the reef for either macro shooting or to get a low angle for w/a without damaging stuff underneath. Having your SPG on a short hose clipped off to D-ring on left side of waist - and your back-up 2nd stage on a necklace under your chin - means that there is nothing dragging on the bottom when you are close.

     

    >>Maybe they are great while swimming underwater, but I was told that when you are vertical and trying to shoot, they force you forward. I found the "forward face force" to be true when you got back to the surface.

     

    It's true that rear flotation style BCs and backplate+wing combinations, as well as most jacket BCs, will not float you face-up at the surface if you are unconscious. But I've never experienced the "forward face force" phenomenon you describe, either with my old Seaquest Balance, or with any of the backplate + wing rigs I use now. In any case, I do most of my shooting horizontal, and underwater. (If I'm shooting at the surface - for example snorkelling with pelagics, then I'm not wearing a BC anyway.)

     

    Take a look at the Halcyon or DiveRite websites, or any of the DIR/GUE sites, for more information about this sort of rig.

     

    My gear (all Halcyon):

     

    1) Stainless-steel backplate and harness for local diving

    2) Aluminum backplate and harness plus trim weight packs mounted on tank cambands for any place I have to fly to.

     

    Both of these are used with an Eclipse or Pioneer 30 or 27 lb wing for single aluminum tank wetsuit dives. I prefer the Eclipse, which also requires a single-tank adaptor. For twin tank dives, I rent a larger 45-55 lb double-tank wing, and use it with an aluminum backplate.

     

    Frogfish


  8. I'm in Labuanbajo, Flores between trips. The TNC field office here where I've been doing some work these past days has satellite broadband internet access, so I've been able to get email and catch up.

     

    My housing is currently set for macro, but I plan to reset for w/a tonight. I'll take a picture of the arm set-up Iincluding tops of arms) with the S2 and try to post it here before I head back into the park again on Saturday.

     

    Re: suicide clips. I follow a lot of DIR precepts, but only when and where they make sense for me. I use bolt snaps (AKA gate clips) on my SPG, spool, back-up light, SMB, and primary 2nd stage. I also tried using bolt snaps for clipping the housing to D-rings on my harness for several months before finally giving up and switching to suicide clips.

     

    The big problem was that it can be quite difficult to hook the rig on to the harness D-rings using bolt snaps, or unhook at the end of the dive, at the surface in heavy chop or waves. (Underwater, or calm conditions on the surface is usually not a problem.) The suicide clips are much easier to handle in this respect. They are fixed to the housing arms (not me) with line, so can be cut away, but I can't easily imagine a situation where that would be necessary.

     

    I personally don't feel that this use of suicide clips poses any enhanced risk. Moreover, my experience has been that using bolt snaps (for this specific purpose only) can pose potential risks, because the difficulty in handling these clips on harness breast D-rings could make it difficult to unhook the camera before reboarding a boat or RIB in heavy seas.

     

    Similarly, there are situations where it is important to descend immediately after hitting the water, and these situations (diving for a the top of a seamount, etc.) often involve negotiating strong currents, where you would want to clip off the camera rig in as streamlined a configuration as possible before descending. I've found this can be difficult with bolt snaps in heavy waves or surface chop, so using bolt snaps can make it diifficult or impossible to execute entry and descent according to plan, and thus potentially poses a hazard.

     

    I'll try to post a pic showing suicide clip mounting later.

     

    Frogfish


  9. James is correct. One more set of fastex clips at the top (with the arms folded) makes the whole rig into a rigid triangle that you (or anyone else) can pick up or carry almost anywhere. It works very well.

     

    The other thing you can't see in this photo is a pair of suicide clips tied on near the top of the folded arms, which clip on to half-bent D-rings mounted on harness near collar-bone. It allows me to have both hands free to launch a submerged SMB, assist another diver, or whatever. Using both clips keeps the rig close to my body and symmetrical for swimming up-current, much easier than carrying it, esp. with arms unfolded. I know suicide clips are a DIR no-no, but I found gate clips were sometimes too difficult to hook and unhook on the surface in chop or big waves.

     

    The fastex clips thing isn't my original idea - someone posted the suggestion to the u/w photo group two or three years ago. I'd give him credit, but I don't remember who it was.


  10. I use the ULCS tray-mounted handles with the FS2 housing for the Fuji S2, even though that housing does have two strobe attachment points.

     

    The main reason is for better balance. I use the 12-24 mm (and occasionally the 17-35 mm) zooms for wide-angle. Both lenses require use of a 50 mm extension ring. Extending the larger Subal dome port that far out in front of the housing generates a substantial torque on the handles.

     

    This wouldn't be a major problem over a short trip, but after several days of liveaboard diving my wrists became very tired from the effort of keeping the housing from rotating dome up. This was particularly a problem on strong current dives, when I only had on hand for the housing and the force of the current was adding more force.

     

    After a few days diving, I retired the Subal handles that mount directly on the housing and went back to the ULCS tray and handles. The tray adds a bit of useful weight on the bottom of the rig, steadying it. More important, using the tray creates a different geometry than mounting the arms on top of the housing, shifting the axis of rotation lower and almost eliminating the tendency to roll dome-up. This also leaves the top of the housing a bit more accessible. The downside is that the ULCS tray and handles add a fair amount of weight to the rig.

     

    I think it is likely that the situation for the Subal ND70 housing would be similar if the big dome and extension ring were used for w/a, and this may apply to other housings as well.

     

    Here's a pic of the FS2 housing using the ULCS tray-mounted handles with the big dome (but no extension ring in this photo), and another of the housing with the Subal handles and the strobe arms mounted on top of the housing. Both are from my review of the housing elsewhere on this site.

     

    DSCF1654.jpg

     

    DSCF1626.jpg


  11.                       Has anybody had any luck with dive shops or liveaboards offering hard drive storage then writing cd's of your pictures?  

    ...  They could set up a folder for each digital photographer and upload the pictures, then either when they have a full cd's worth or at the end of the week burn a cd.      

     

    People shooting RAW on SLRs, it works out to about one or one-and-half CDs per dive (assuming the shooter fills a 1 GB card with 70-80 raw image files).

     

    I take a laptop with me, and spend a lot of time burning CDs when I'm not underwater. If the liveaboard was to do this for everyone, they'd need to dedicate one crewperson (and several computers) working most of the day just to keep up. It might work for people shooting smaller JPEG files.


  12. Like ReefRoamer, I usually have the clamps very tight when the camera is topside. Once underwater, you can just crack them off a little bit. It shouldn't take long to find the place where you will be able to adjust the arms whenever you want, but otherwise they stay in position.

     

    I also use a system of three fastex clip sets on my long arms to fix them into a rigid triangle, which helps with handling the rig topside - esp. when others are doing the handling. One clip on the end of the second arm section on each arm mates with a matching clip on the base arm just above the handles. The third clip ties the two bent arms together at the top.

     

    Frogfish


  13. I always carry cameras and lenses, and if I can get away with it, the housing and dome port too.

     

    I have a Lowepro Phototrekker "Classic" backpack that takes all bodies and lenses (including the 85-400 VR), land strobe, filters and diopters, plus four of the heavy Ikelite SS200 batteries, to reduce weight in checked luggage. My laptop goes in the outside pocket, along with film for my "other" camera body.

     

    Subal housing and the big domeport is carried in a Pelican 1550, plus a few other items. The Pelican can be checked if necessary, but often I've been able to fly with both the backpack and Pelican as carry-on.

     

    Strobes, synch cords, macro port, arm sections, tray and clamps go in the checked bag with dive gear, tool kit, clothes and other personal items.

     

    If I'm reasonably confident that I'll be able to carry on both cases, Ithen redistribute a bit - carrying the Subal strobe arm sections on the bottom of the Pelican case under the dome port to remove a bit more weight from checked bags.

     

    Frogfish


  14. I'm with Craig on this. I've had the 10.5 for several months now. It's great for certain situations, and I expect to use it more now that I feel I've pulled past the steepest parts of the learning curve.

     

    But the 12-24 mm is still the lens I rely on most for w/a, and would definitely be my only choice if I had to pare it down to only one w/a lens. The 12 mm end is definitely is wide enough for your whale shark, and not just the head - unless you're thinking of swimming inside its mouth. (See below).

     

    Edge-to-edge sharpness with the 12-24 is excellent at all zoom powers, and it is very rectilinear too. Of course, your results may vary depending on the port combination. For Subal housings, the 12-24 mm works extremely well with their big dome port, but not with the smaller SWB, which led to some very misleading reports last year that the 12-24 mm was not suitable for use in an underwater housing..

     

    Re: your second posting, I've never used the Nikonos cameras, but my understanding is that 20 mm would be the FF housed SLR equivalent of the Nikonos 15 mm. I don't have the acceptance angle numbers with me here, but the wide end of the 12-24 mm on a digital is certainly a lot wider than the 20 mm on a FF SLR. The 12-24 mm works out to almost exactly the same range of fields of view as the 17-35 mm on a full-frame camera. So, in other words, I think the wide end of the 12-24 is actually considerably wider than the Nikonos 15 mm.

     

    Port extension rings are among the least expensive components you will ever buy from your housing manufacturer. For the Subal housings, at least, the ring used with a dome port for the 12-24 mm is the same one you need with the 17-35 mm, so if you happen to have (or acquire) one of those, you've got a two-fer, and a wonderful lens for things like sharks and large pelagics which can't be easily approached close enough for optimal use of the 12-24 (not to mention the 10.5).

     

    With my other housing, I've also used this same extension ring to mount a 105 mm macro on top of a 2x converter for super-macro, so this ring is at least potentially a "three-fer." The zoom gear is, or should be, a simple (and relatively inexpensive) plastic sleeve.

     

    Back to your concern about only being able to get the head of a whale shark with the 12-24 mm, here's a slightly larger animal, shot with the 12-24 at 12 mm. Admittedly, the 10.5 would have been even better for this subject, but the 12 mm was wide enough.....

     

    DSCF4446_C.jpg


  15. I hope your situation turns out better than mine. I had a similar problem with my S2. The verdict from the Fuji people in Singapore was that the entire sensor assembly needed to be replaced - at a cost of about 75% of what a new body would be.

     

    No question that these are great cameras, but to expect them to be as robust as a Nikon F100 or equivalent would appear to be unrealistic.


  16. My ports are glass, so static and dust aren't serious problems. I occasionally clean them with lens cleaning solution and a photographer's chamois cloth. I don't know what you would use for acrylic.

     

    Covers for the port back opening are important for storage and travel. Also useful are front port covers - you can get them made out of neoprene, sort of like a beanie for the dome port, with "ears" - loops of shock cord - on each side to hook over something sticking out on the housing to hold it on. Keeps down avoidable scratches topside, especially when a lot of cameras are being loaded in an RIB, etc.

     

    Travelling, the dome port goes with the housing and laptop into Pelican case with appropriate voids made in the pick-foam. (The dome port sits over the laptop.) The neoprene beanie and back cover are both kept on the port when it's travelling the the case.

     

    Frogfish


  17. Taking the picture is just part of the process. Some digitals will produce images that look fairly good "out of the camera", but a certain amount of post-processing is usually necessary for images produced by any digital camera. (The same applies to most scans of film images - even a perfect slide - out of most scanners.)

     

    If you're shooting JPEG, you can do a certain amount of very crude "pre-post-processing" through adjustments in the settings. There is no reason you should want to do this, however.

     

    As Peter noted, you definitely want to shoot RAW. The big advantage is that you can now select the exact adjustment of color temperature, saturation, and contrast and other variables later, image by image, at the time you convert the raw image to a usable image format. You can also do quite a bit with exposure as well, in effect re-rating the ISO setting, though of course any area that is completely over-exposed in any channel is probably beyond recovery. Different converters provide different options, but most of the decent ones (such as the raw converters built into Photoshop CS) have all that you will need.

     

    If needed, further adjustments can then be made in Photoshop.

     

    Robert Delfs


  18. In the early days, you may find that close-up and macro yields more images that you're happy with than wide-angle, but starting off with a dSLR will make the wide-angle learning curve a lot shorter than it is for people who start out shooting film. The instant feed-back from the display on the back of the camera, allowing you to see instantly whether an exposure basically worked or not - makes a big difference.

     

    Two strobes on long arms are the optimum set-up for wide-angle, but it's possible to make spectacular wide-angle images using only ambient light - look at some of Alex Mustard's work and discussion of shooting wide-angle with filters elsewhere on this site. A single strobe can work very well for many CFWA (close-focus wide-angle) shots where you use the strobe to illuminate a close main subject in the foreground, while the background is illuminated purely with ambient.

     

    When you say you want to do close-ups, you probably are actually taking about what u/w photographers generally call "macro" shooting. True macro refers to an image shot at a magnification of 1:1 (on a slide), but the term is used more loosely. The main lenses used by u/w shooters for this are macro lenses (such as the 60 mm and 105 mm micro lenses in the Nikon system - the Canon equivalents are similar) which can also be used for close-ups.

     

    For wide-angle, many would say the wider the better, but there are a range of choices. On a reduced frame dSLR, the Nikon 12-24 mm zoom is a magic lens, giving about the same angles of coverage that a 17-35 zoom does on a full-frame film SLR.

     

    The ports you need will depend on the housing and lenses you select. Macro lenses are used with a flat port, which may also offer a manual focusing option. Wide-angle lenses require a dome port. Most shooters can get away with one of each, adding extension rings to accomodate alternate lenses of different sizes.

     

    I'd consider going with a well-established housing manufacturer with a wide range of products. One advantage of this is that if you later one to upgrade to a new model camera and housing, you should be able to continue to use all the ports and other peripherals you purchased initially. Ports are generally not inter-changeable among housings from different manufacturers.

     

    Frogfish


  19. Parents are parents, I know, but what "current condition of general unrest in Indonesia" are you - or they - talking about?

     

    Indonesia just completed two nationwide general elections this year, one for the legislature last April and a two-round presidential election held in July and September. Both elections were fair, peaceful, with a very good turn-out, and Indonesia now has a promising new president. I live in Indonesia, and spent most of this past summer working for the Carter Center as a long-term election observer here, travelling all over the archipelago - including places like Halmahera in Northern Maluku which were the scene of tragic large-scale violence 4-5 years ago. I never felt threatened or unsafe in the slightest. California makes me much more nervous than anyplace here.

     

    Yes, there was an JI bomb attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta during September. There are still at least a few JI operatives who have not been captured, and there is no guarantee that there will not be another incident. But the risk of a terrorist incident cannot be excluded anywhere in the world.

     

    In any case, the Lembeh Straits dive ops are not likely to be very high on anyone's list. And there's no need to go through Jakarta to get to Lembeh. You can fly to Manado via Bali, or even fly direct from Singapore. If your parents were ok with your going to Kimbe in PNG last year - and there's no way to get to Kimbe without going through Port Moresby, which IS a truly scary place - then I can't imagine why they would be worried about Indonesia.

     

    I'd keep working on them a bit longer. And you might add a live-aboard trip to Komodo or Raja Empat to the list of Indonesian options worth considering.

     

    Frogfish

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