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phxazcraig last won the day on January 26

phxazcraig had the most liked content!

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About phxazcraig

  • Rank
    Sting Ray
  • Birthday 10/19/1953

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Phoenix, AZ, USA
  • Interests
    Photography, especially underwater. Diving. Motorcycling (numerous long distance trips on one BMW or another, including Europe). Chess - used to be a tournament player years ago. Travel (63 countries, 50 states). Computers (self-employed IT consultant for 19 years).

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    United States
  • Camera Model & Brand
    various Nikons
  • Camera Housing
  • Strobe/Lighting Model & Brand
    Sea & Sea YS-D1
  • Accessories

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  1. I've been shooting a pair of YS-D1's since late 2015. A couple of hundred dives. Last year one of them failed, and I bought a pair of used YS-D1's as a replacement + spare. That's all I can say about reliability issues. When the YS-D2 was announced, the one new feature that I really like is the battery separation in the battery compartment. Makes it easier to swap batteries on a moving boat without having them go in crooked and get jammed up. Not a lot of differences overall, though the new controls look handy enough. The YS-D1's are very powerful as underwater strobes go, but they are never going to light as much scene as a wide angle FX lens can take in. But it will light a foreground object nicely. Other strobes are going to have less power, save perhaps the new Retras, and they won't have enough power either. Also, if you want to light as wide an area as possible, you'll have to use the 100mm or 120mm diffusers that come with the strobes, at cost of some strobe power. The YS-D1's will work in TTL mode if you have the right kind of trigger, or pop-up flash.
  2. No, it doesn't fit me well. The back gap is because the torso is too short. Only way to remedy that is to splice in two more inches. Tailoring might work when the suit is too big. Hard to see how it works when suit is too small.
  3. My problem is partly I get cold easily (3 dives/day for 2 weeks leads to it) but I've never had a well-fitted suit. Last year I rented a 5mm when my 3mm was worn out and too cold. And I got cold in the 5mm too, but not as bad. After that trip I bought an Xcel 4/3, but it gaps in the small of the back... Yes, 4 mil body for extra warmth, 3 mil arms and legs to lessen the struggle of getting the suit on.
  4. As others have said, it depends, but it's generally not a good idea to start diving and underwater photography at the same time. Understanding the risk is simple - while you are concentrating on the camera, you are doing something wrong and not noticing it. Maybe you never notice that you just dropped into coral and kicked the crap out of it. Maybe you don't know that while you were floating around in an uncontrolled manner, you dropped onto of another diver and knocked their mask off, or their air out of their mouth. Maybe you did notice the fire coral you just sank into, but probably you did. Or maybe, like my late wife, as you were concentrating so hard on that shot that you drifted down and ripped an ear the first day into a week-long Fiji liveaboard. Buoyancy control IS key, and you need some of it before you start shooting. That said, holding a camera steady on a subject is also a good way to improve your buoyancy skills.
  5. Can you speak to your experience with going from a suit off-the-shelf to a custom fitted one? In particular I'd like to confirm my believe that a properly-fitted 3mil may be warmer than an improperly-fitted 5 mil. I was looking for a 4/3, but I don't see a lot of options like that in the custom shops.
  6. If you can, try to go to the Reef House resoort for lunch in Oak Ridge. It's a very personable place. If there around 1:30 when the dive boat is in for lunch, talk with divemaster David and get local suggestions. Nobody knows that section of Roatan like him. You might also talk to the resident dive instructor Robert about taking a trip over to Cayos Cochinos for some different diving. If you have never been to the Mangrove swamps in Roatan (above water), I highly recommend it. Also drop into Hole in the Wall, past the Czech Village.
  7. OK, so far between this website and dpreview, I have several custom wetsuit manufacturer suggestions, all of which seem to be in So. Cal. It's at most a 6-hour drive to say Long Beach from Phoenix, and I may find a way to go to a shop and have myself measured there. My girlfriend is adamant she can do the measuring though, so I'm also pretty comfortable using that approach. I have recommendations for M&B, Otter Bay, Wet Wear, and when looking into M&B I found complaints and recommendations for New Wave Wetsuits. From dpreview I heard of JMJ and 7till8. Both of those were custom, but limited to 3, 5 or 7 mil. (I want a 4/3). The Otter Bay seems a little odd in that they have a special custom wetsuit they call a Remote Suit, because you don't come into the shop and have them measure you. Seems odd to have a special version here, so maybe I need to research this more, but the gist is that you don't get the perfect fit unless you come in to be measured. New Wave Wetsuits has a few strong recommendations by some customers, so I will look at them next.
  8. Here are a few. I dive mostly Caribbean, by the way, so any critter tips are relative to there. 1. Assuming you have strobes, set camera to base ISO and try to leave it there. This gives you maximum dynamic range for post-processing. 2. Shoot in RAW mode. This gives you MUCH more flexibility in post-processing. 3. Get close. If you can't get close, crop. Compare two similar pictures and usually the one that is closer is the one people prefer. 4. Use macro / strobes to shoot small critters and isolate subjects. Use wide angle to tell a story, and include divers in shots. 5. Practice your buoyancy skills. 6. Critter stuff - like anemones and clownfish in the Pacific, you see Pederson Cleaning shrimp around Corkscrew Anemones. Sometimes around Florida Corallimorphs and Branching Anemones. Corkscrew Anemones are very interesting subjects in themselves. 7. Get below fish and shoot level or pointing up a bit. Looking down on fish tends not to be interesting. 8. If shooting an eel, time your shot so the mouth is wide open for at least some of your shots. 9. Use a faster shutter speed to avoid subject motion blur. (Helps to avoid camera motion blur too). When shooting strobes you may or may not be able to shoot at the fastest sync speed, but if you see a black bar across the top or bottom of the frame, you probably need to slow the shutter a bit. If shooting strobe with no ambient, it doesn't matter to have a really fast shutter speed, but often there is some ambient light to deal with. I found that I got a lot of blurry fish at speeds less than 1/160th. 10. If you want sharp corners, you have a big job ahead to get there. Flat ports generally won't (can't?) have sharp corners at wider focal lengths. Big domes can have very nice corners, but it depends a lot on the lens, extension length and dome size. To be honest, if you want sharp corners in your image, the easiest way is to frame loosely then crop out the blurry stuff. Myself, I have only recently got sharp corners from my 16-35vr, in spite of shooting with a 230mm/9" dome port and stopping down. I had to add a $400 field-flattening filter from Sea and Sea. 11. Always try to get the eyes of your critter to be visible and in focus. Some examples: http://www.cjcphoto.net/uweyes/all.html 12. If you are not overwhelmed with what you're already carrying around underwater, consider adding a 'Lembeh stick' or 'dive stick' about 18 inches long. These are popular (and controversial) for muck diving where you basically jam the stick into the bottom and hang on with one hand while shooting to keep you and the camera more stable. It is also useful when current carries you too close to coral - you can carefully use the stick to press against a rock and not crash into something. Don't try that against a sponge though - you'll just spear it. These sticks are also handy as pointers, and very handy as noisemakers by banging against your tank. That sound carries decently. 13. Consider a tripod for macro or video work, usually something like a gorillapod. Similarly, for advanced strobe work, consider adding a snoot. 14. One of the most important things I've learned is how to post-process an image. I never use a JPG straight out of camera. I don't even try to set up the camera for jpgs, if only because the white balance is rarely correct. My Lightroom skills have translated back to how I set up the camera now, and rather than try to get a perfectly-composed, white balanced, and properly-exposed shot, I more just try to center the dynamic range (by histogram) and deal with things in post. Sounds lazier than it is, but there are many times you have to use the setup you have or miss a shot. Especially underexposed shots because I didn't have enough strobe power and the subject is a bit too far away. And so I try to shoot at base ISO to give maximum dynamic range - which translates into being able to push shadows and pull highlights by a huge amount. (I'm shooting a Nikon D850 by the way, which lets me do this sort of thing because it has incredible dynamic range at ISO 64.) Shoot RAW, and then learn how to 'make the image look good'. The more you learn here, the more you'll know what you can get away with underwater.
  9. My guess is that the same thing that keeps a mask from fogging while diving would be helpful to get water beading and rolling off. It's a matter of surface tension. Just try gently rubbing the outside of the dome with a diluted mixture of baby shampoo before you go in the water.
  10. I'm curious how this turns out. I also have the 230mm dome, and I also would like a normal zoom for it. But there are no normal lenses listed for a Nauticam housing and a Nikon FX camera, if I'm not mistaken. 60mm micro is as close as I have seen for support. The problems/questions you have to solve/answer are: 1. What extension to use? 2. Does the front element move significantly back and forth between focal length extremes? 3. How will you zoom it? You will need a focus gear designed for your housing. 4. Optically, will it perform well in a dome-underwater situation? Myself, I have the 24-70vr I'd like to be able to use underwater, on a D850.
  11. I wish I had an answer for the caps. I leave them in the room now. I have in the past taken the big neoprene sleeve 'cap' for my 230mm dome off in the water and stuck my arm through it for the remainder of the dive. But I lost the cover in high currents off Hawaii on a dive and haven't felt like risking the ($45) replacement. Strobe diffusers are easier. I leave them on the strobes until I'm in the water, and if I don't want diffusion I take them off and let them dangle by their retaining strings. I loop the string around the ball clamp when mounting the strobe. That way I always have them. It's worked for 5 years, but it does look a bit fragile.
  12. If you already have the D800 and can find a cheap-but-decent housing, go for it. But if you could do the same for a D810 rig (perhaps someone selling a package), there is an advantage I hadn't thought of before. A D800/800e only goes to ISO 100, while a D810/D850 goes to ISO 64 and gives another 2/3rd stop of dynamic range. That is important in post-processing. You can feel that dynamic range disappear extremely rapidly as ISO goes up.
  13. Being a long-time Nikon shooter, I use Nikon underwater and above. Personally I use the same camera (D850 now, D810 before that) above and below water. I wanted the best camera I owned to go underwater with me, and it took me 10 years to convince myself to take that risk (and spend that much $$). I am extremely happy with the D850 underwater, and I would prefer it over the Z7 for instance, unless I was shooting video and wanting acceptable autofocus there. That said, I've come to the point where I typically don't mix above and below water for shooting. I used to do it a lot - diving from a cruise ship is a good example. But I got tired of lugging all the gear for 2-4 dives on a trip, or even 10 dives over 5 days. I've since started just doing dedicated dive trips of 1 or 2 weeks where I can get in 18 dives/week. When I go on a dive trip, ESPECIALLY WITH FX CAMERA, I simply don't have room to take many lenses. in fact due to the packing situation I have, I can really only take 3 lenses, and two of them are for underwater. The third has to be some shorter prime to fit the remaining space. Sometimes that is an 85f1.4, sometimes a 35f1.4. My diving lenses are limited to 16-35 and 105 macro. So on a dive trip, I typically don't have the lenses I want for above water anyway. To me this argues in favor of a dedicated dive camera as it may not be used much above water anyway. (I use my cell phone a lot for above water, and I also use my old RX100 which comes along as an emergency spare dive camera (along with housing). If you haven't looked at the logistics of bringing an FX camera along, or looked at available lenses, start looking. When I shoot Nikon FX underwater, I have the choice of fisheye, wide and macro - nothing in the middle. I don't much like fisheye, so that means I have a choice between a 16-35 (and a 230mm/9in) dome or a 105 macro. M4/3's has a lot more choices. DX has somewhat more choices. And a 230mm dome port? Until you've held one you don't know how big it is, and it is BIG. Until you've packed one, you don't know what will and won't fit in your bag. And it will limit you in how you pack and what you bring. TSA is really curious about it too when it shows up on the x-ray.
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