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First trip with dSLR -- Suggestions? Advice?

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I'll soon be taking my first trip with my dSLR (D70s/Ike/DS-125) and I wanted to get some advice on those small but important things that come with experience. Feel free to discuss anything, including what may seem obvious (pressure-testing the housing, learning the camera in and out, o-ring maintenance, etc); not all of it may not be so obvious to us newcomers :) Thanks.

 

Scott

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Shoot RAW it allows a lot of flexibility to correct exposure and white balance in post processing. Take lots of pictures and review your shots to learn as you go along.

 

In the Ike housing I find I can leave the eye piece protector on but I have to remove the protection screen from the LCD.

 

Make sure the screw on the mounting plate is good and tight, otherwise the controls do not work as well.

 

Enjoy yourself.

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congrats on your setup.

 

i pressure tested my housing (without camera of course) and then i tested my housing with the camera in the pool. It gave me some familiarity with the controls while diving.

 

before diving... be really careful with the o-rings. they can take a lot of punishment, but I am really careful re: lint, dirt. The nice thing about Ike housing is that they are clear. You get a real good look at the o-ring at the back of the housing.

 

make sure you have extra of the Ikelite lube, extra o-rings just in case. My last trip, my sync cord failed so i now have a redundant cable.

 

Lastly, shoot up, get close, and have FUN!

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I'm in a similar situation. I have a trip coming up and I have the same set-up (d-70, Ikelite). I'm getting pretty conformable with the camera and housing, but my question is more about spares. What spares should I take? O-rings, DS-125 battery, strobe cable, extra charger?

 

I'll be on a live-aboard, so whatever I don't have, I can't get.

 

Thanks,

 

J.C.

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this is the rig that I take. It has been revised over time, especially the redundant sync cord that i now take.

 

i have several extra o-rings (both for the ports and the housing)

over a dozen of the little lube containers from Ike.

one extra battery - which on a liveaboard i keep charging at all times.

i will dive with my two strobes while the extra battery is charging. Once i get out, i swap one battery immediately, and get one battery charging. At the end of the surface interval, the battery charging is done and i dive with two freshly charged batteries. I only take one charger but it is up to you with your comfort level. I'm going to the Galapagos in July so i will probably bring two chargers with me.

 

The other thing when it comes to redundancy is to see if you go with a group, you might be able to cover each other for redundant parts. The wife of the manager at my LDS also uses Ikelite so we have swapped parts.

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BTW - I've been taking pictures every week and asking for feedback in the gallery forum. If you're able to do that before your trip it'll be incredibly valuable.

 

Here's my first two attempts and feedback:

 

First

 

Second

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this is the rig that I take.  It has been revised over time, especially the redundant sync cord that i now take.

 

i have several extra o-rings (both for the ports and the housing)

over a dozen of the little lube containers from Ike.

one extra battery - which on a liveaboard i keep charging at all times.

i will dive with my two strobes while the extra battery is charging.  Once i get out, i swap one battery immediately, and get one battery charging.  At the end of the surface interval, the battery charging is done and i dive with two freshly charged batteries.  I only take one charger but it is up to you with your comfort level.  I'm going to the Galapagos in July so i will probably bring two chargers with me. 

 

The other thing when it comes to redundancy is to see if you go with a group, you might be able to cover each other for redundant parts.  The wife of the manager at my LDS also uses Ikelite so we have swapped parts.

 

Aha! My upcoming trip is also to Galapagos in September. Unfortunately, I think I'm the only one taking UW photos in the trip. THere's one other D-70 owner who already said I could use his camera if anything happens to mine.

 

I'd love to hear about your trip once you get back.

 

Thx

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A few quick suggestions to add to those so far:

 

- Start with a mid-range fixed length lens if you have one (e.g., 50mm) for the first few dives and get comfortable with it before you try your zoom or longer macro lenses. The fixed mid-range lens will focus quickly and let you concentrate on learning to use the controls, etc. without the distraction of zooming, focusing, etc..

 

- Use the histogram for immediately reviewing photos. If you aren't familiar with histograms, just do a Google search and you'll find numerous articles that discuss them. A histogram is one of the most useful tools underwater because it will quickly give you an idea if you're over-exposing or under-exposing (you can't necessarily tell that from just reviewing the photo itself on the little LCD screen), and you can adjust exposure (either in the camera or by setting your strobes to a lower setting) accordingly, and then take another shot of that subject. BTW, you probably already know, but for most uw photos, it is better to be slightly UNDERexposed than overexposed.

 

- Shoot RAW (I think someone already mentioned that). You really WANT to be able to change white balance of uw photos in Photoshop without degrading the image, and the only way you can do that is with RAW.

 

- Don't skimp on memory cards. You can get a great 4gb card (e.g., Sandisk Ultra II) reasonably cheaply these days, and you don't want to ever have to worry about space, or have storage issues cause you to consider NOT shooting RAW all the time... :)

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nice pixs jcfig.

 

this is a great forum for asking for advice.

I knew about wetpixel when i first started shooting pixs April, 2005. But i didn't start hanging out until two months ago. So all of my pixs have been trial and error and learning on my own.

 

i need to get some time to post some of my pixs to get some suggestions. This is certainly the best way to learn.

 

I'll let you know about the Galapagos. it is just around the corner! My big problem right now is figuring out whether to take the drysuit or to buy a semidry or 7mm. i'm just not as comfortable with the drysuit yet, i'm trying to change my comfort level every wknd! :)

 

Monterey was flat, clear but 47 degrees two wknds ago.

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Some of the people in my trip went there two years ago and they took dry-suits. This year they are not, but rather taking a 7mm and a 3mm. I guess temps up in Wolf and Darwin can get up to the mid-70's. The Southern island are colder, around 62. If you're use to cold water you'll probably do fine with a wet-suit.

 

Perhaps you can ind out what the temps are like this year from other people.

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It helps to get comfortable with your rig. The pool can be a good place to get used to composing underwater, to practice changing settings and overall familarity. Try shooting some softball-sized shapes or something. I have always benefitted a great deal from pool practice.

 

One of the difficulties in shooting great underwater shots is that there are so many variables. I'd try to cut down on those and practice on a few isolated variables.

 

I'd start out shooting macro. Controlling the composition and lighting in a smaller area is easier. It can be done in situations where the visiblity isn't good. And many macro fish and critters won't swim or scurry away when you come up to them. (It takes a lot of practice to learn to approach things.)

 

When I first stated I concentrated on shooting macro. I would set the iso, the shutter and the aperature somewhere reasonable and leave those set. I then would concentrate only the subject. Once I started getting better at finding and lighting macro subjects, I began thinking more about the negative space. I'd swim around looking for what appeared to be an interesting negative space and I'd shoot that-- without the distraction of a subject. I just wanted to practice lighting "backgrounds." I found the white sand to be one of the most difficult negative spaces. I've blown out a great deal of sand.

 

The other thing I'd say that has always helped me is planning shots. Usually for me the first day of diving trip is more scouting and observiing than shooting. That first night I like to think about what I've seen and consider how I want to shoot some things. And then when I go diving I look to make those shots happen. None of my favorite shots "just happened." They've all be very intentional.

 

I hope some of that helps and that you enjoy your first time out.

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What they said. :-)

 

Congrats on your new rig! I just completed my first trip with mine too, lots of things to keep track of! One thing I did that turned out to help a lot is I made a list of all the things I could screw up accidently by putting it together wrong. I.e., leave lense cap on, leave lense on manual focus, forget CF card, forget zoom/focus gear, forget battery, that kind of stuff. If you're sensitized to them more, you're less likely to ruin a dive by doing one of them.

 

Let's see. Figure out a good tether before you go.

 

Try to get used to your strobes - those were the hardest for me.

 

Figure out your buoyancy/trim while carrying camera if it's not neutral, wearing the gear you'll have on your trip.

 

Either take a laptop or avail yourself of the boat's onboard computer, if they have one. And like somebody said above, review your shots between each dive. Totally key to learning from each dive.

 

As far as redundancy, def get another sync cord. You'll want a multi-tool of some sort, or at least make sure you have all the screwdrivers you'll need to adjust everything.

 

Enjoy, and don't forget to just look at stuff! ;-)

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leave lense cap on, leave lense on manual focus, forget CF card, forget zoom/focus gear, forget battery

 

Damn! I have done all of these.

but the good thing is that I have at least not done it again.

 

I now take one test picture in the room after I have everything together. This helps to eliminate these problems.

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Spare anything electrical like batteries, sync cords, strobe, hot shoe adaptor, TTL electronics if your housing has it, battery charger, bulkhead connector, etc. Even buy a backup camera - you can always use it to shoot topside pics instead of having to get the one in the housing

 

For batteries I like to have at least 3 complete sets - 1 set in use, 1 ready to go & 1 charging. You won't feel so rushed that way knowing you always have batteries ready to go. And enough chargers to charge a complete set at the same time. You don't want to be spending all your spare time playing with batteries.

 

Mechanical stuff - complete set of o-rings for housing & strobes (including all the little control shaft o-rings), tools required to service to housing (including removing control shafts & glands), o-ring grease, housing latches & anything else that makes sense to you. Don't play with the o-rings more than necessary to keep them clean & lightly greased.

 

If you have a part you won't need it.

 

At lease 2 CF cards - when you open the housing to get the card you just used, change cards so you don't have to open the housing again.

 

All your camera gear is insured I trust.

 

I would also recommend a dynamic pressure test of the housing. Take it on a dive to 30+ ft & move/rotate all of the controls several times. If all is ok then add camera & have fun. Sometimes a housing will be ok under a static test (nothing moving) but have a minor leak when a particular control is moved. Usually caused by a small nick in an o-ring during installation.

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Congrats. Most important, I think, is relax and have a good time with your new camera. I agree with the suggestions to shoot RAW from the beginning, but I don't concur that you should start with a mid-range lens like the 50 mm. I'd suggest starting with the 60 mm macro lens (if you have one). In the early days, you'll get more pictures you're happy with shooting macro then wide-angle.

 

But you should start experimenting with wide-angle as soon as possible. Just don't be disapointed if the first results aren't all that you hoped for. WA is more difficult. Most WA shots require balancing strobe illumination and ambient light, which will take some experimentation. Alternatively, consider shooting WA with a magic filter and no strobes.

 

Some say no cotton buds in o-ring grooves. I think they're the best thing for removing water. Also cleaning - put a few drops of lens cleaning solution on the bud.) Clean the o-ring by passing it through folds of a lint-free cloth, then lubricate lightly with grease. Check the o-ring carefuly before replacing the back or port, and then look again. Don't store the housing or travel/fly with o-rings in place.

 

Pressure testing the housing: Make sure the synch cord plugs are in the ports (and that there are o-rings properly positioned on the plugs, port, and back). Without the camera, the housing will be positively buoyant. You can hold it under water for a minute with your hands. If you want to let the housing soak longer wrap a couple of dive weights in a soft towel (or bubble wrap, or neoprene) and carefuly position the weights in the bottom of the housing.

 

Spares and parts: As far as this goes, I'm tend to the extreme. Or at least, some people think so. Then again, I've saved trips for some of those people who don't carry their own spares. Sometimes it's possible to preposition (or ship) a phone box of extra gear to the vessel. Here's the minimum list of spares I like to have with me on a dive trip.

 

- a spare camera body;

- a spare synch cord port;

- extra synch cords (single and double);

- at least two complete strobe sets. (Strobes have always been the weakest link in the underwater photography system for me);

- lots of batteries for strobes;

- one spare battery for camera (3 batteries for 2 bodies);

- spare main body and port o-rings;

- air bulb, lens cleaning solution, swabs and solution for removing crap from camera sensor, lint free cloths, photographers' chamois (for lenses and ports);

- back-up (slower) PCMCIA card for transferring raw files from cards to laptop;

- o-ring grease (several kinds, as required)

 

Dive gear:

- Spare regulator 2nd stage.

- A full set of spare hoses (2nd stage, SPG and high-pressure hose, inflator hose), spare BCD power inflator and corrugated hose).

- Spare mask (prescription, in my case).

 

A carry a plastic tool box with basic tools: stainless steel crescent wrench, hex keys (metric and imperial, unfortunately), needle nose pliers, Scubapro's special regulator tool, screw drivers, brass picks, stainless steel dental pick, stainless steel tweezers, spare tri-glide fasteners, lens cleaning solution, cotton buds, cutters, superglue.

 

Unless you have stainless-steel spring heels on your fins, consider bringing a spare pair of fin straps. ALWAYS have a duct tape, a few lengths of braid line, shock cord, and extra plastic ties with you, but this applies to life, not just dive trips.

 

Frogfish

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Always test fire your camera on the boat to make sure your strobes are firing. If the hot shoe connector is even a little loose, the strobe won't fire. Really hard to fix under water (voice of experience here) :unsure:

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When setting up your rig make sure you are not disturbed, if you are go back and start again.

Shoot some test images in auto/ttl and manual mode for both the camera and strobes to make sure all selections are available using the housings controls.

Yep - all the spares everyone else mentioned.

 

Don't expect award winning images straight away - its a learning process and you will be amazed how quickly your images improve with the right attitude.

Post some images when you get back so the experienced people on this board can help you to speed up the learning curve.

 

good luck and I look forward to seeing your images.

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Manta Ray's advice is good, but the amount of gear involved is positively American!

 

I have spare o-rings and lube, a complete set of spare batteries, tools, two strobes (or three), three strobe cords, two strobe arm sets that spread to about 70cm on each side, but can shrink for close-up and a spare/above-water camera body. I usually take two ports and three or four lenses. I economise by having two small hard-drives and doing the Photoshop at home. Don't be put off, top end image processing software is part of the deal to get good shots (oh, and lots of practice).

 

I didn't start with macro, it's less interesting to the non-photographic audience. The key to grabbing their attention are wide-angle, "that's what it's like down there", images. I would recommend ambient-light shots with a Magic or UR-Pro filter in water to about 15-20m.

 

Martin Edge's new edition has all the advice you could want, I've no hesitation in recommending it.

 

Tim

 

B)

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Martin Edge's new edition has all the advice you could want, I've no hesitation in recommending it.

 

Get this book if you do not have it - it is excellent, last I looked in the UK Amazon site it was listed along with the Hall/Skerry book wich is also very good.

 

Don't leave your camera in the rinse tank, others may not be so careful and that can result in damage and or open catches ( flood - came very close here myself ).

 

Paul C

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...I don't concur that you should start with a mid-range lens like the 50 mm.  I'd suggest starting with the 60 mm macro lens (if you have one).  In the early days, you'll get more pictures you're happy with shooting macro then wide-angle...

 

Lots of good suggestions in this thread!

 

Let me clarify my earlier suggestion of a 50mm as a "starter" lens, since I think we may be talking about the same thing. First of all, I failed to say that I was assuming a 50mm macro lens, so whether it's a 50mm or 60mm isn't that crucial -- just make sure it's capable of 1:1 macro (so for Canon, we're talking about either the Sigma 50mm or Canon 60mm, but NOT the Canon 50mm, which is only 1:2). I also assume that our inquirer has a cropped sensor DSLR, which makes either a 50mm or 60mm very usable as both a macro AND fish lens. The beauty of starting with either of those lenses is that you can take macro photos when you see something small, but can also get experience shooting fish and other larger subjects, all with a lens that focuses quickly, even in less than ideal light.

 

An advantage of using such a lens for things OTHER than just macro is that you can get practice adjusting your exposure to get blue water in the background. IOW, I think a mid-range (macro) lens like a 50mm or 60mm is a GREAT lens to start with because it is relatively easy to use, and almost regardless of what's available on a given dive, you will be able to take some decent photos and--by reviewing them--learn quickly what is working and what isn't. After a few dives, you will likely start to feel comfortable enough that you can switch to different lenses to concentrate on EITHER macro or wide angle on a given dive.

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congrats on your setup.

 

before diving... be really careful with the o-rings.  they can take a lot of punishment, but I am really careful re: lint, dirt.  The nice thing about Ike housing is that they are clear.  You get a real good look at the o-ring at the back of the housing. 

 

make sure you have extra of the Ikelite lube, extra o-rings just in case.  My last trip, my sync cord failed so i now have a redundant cable. 

 

 

Remember that the main O-ring on the Ike rigs does NOT require grease. There is no advantage to grease o-rings that don't require it.

 

A silly one. Make sure that your diopter is on (if required), and lens cap off. As mentioned by others, a quick above water snap with the housing sealed up is a good check. Am I the only one who has brought a rig diving with the lens cap still on?

 

A short laminated check list is a good idea to get you in the rhythm.

 

Good luck

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All the above plus:

 

if the dive leader produces a map (typically drawn on a white board during the briefing) I take a pic of it to

a) check my rig is working/lens cap is off (no donjaussi, you are NOT the only one)etc,

B) to use as a reminder of the layout of the site via my LCD if I forget during the dive (frequent!) and

c) as a reference when the images are stored on my pc.

 

I always assume that everyone else on the boat has NO idea of the cost or fragility of my equipment & so I position it accordingly; away from feet, tanks, etc - are always as close to the deck as possible!

 

Electrical supply on boats is notoriously erratic so consider an in-line surge protector for your laptop. I always take a LONG extension lead, as where you sit/recharge may be some way away from the wall socket.

 

Make sure that the boat boys know how to handle you rig if they are passing it to/from you - I learnt the hard way when a willing helper walked off with my DSLR holding it ONLY by the flexible arm ;)

 

Martin Edge's book is a must - the single best piece of advice I can give (& was given) is get in close, then closer - then closer still!

 

Good luck!

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