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bghazzal

UW filming on breath-hold

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Hello all,

There are quite a few places and situations where donning a scuba tank is not ideal or even possible, whether for practical, legal (whales in Tonga or French Polynesia for instance), or other various reasons...

I was wondering if some people here with experience shooting video on breath-hold might want to share some practical tips on the subject (such as weight, rig setup and securing without a BCD, body positions, how to increase stablity and usable time on a single breath, stable filming near the surface etc...)

Personnally I've only done it a few times, but on the surface (feeding mantas in Indonesia and sea lions when I was working in Mexico for instance), and it's definitely something I'd like to be more confortable with - and I will definitely do some freediving training in the future, to try to improve bottom time, comfort and safety.

I've found stability is the greatest issue when freediving - difficult to find the same kind of stable platform that a scuba gives (not to mention CCRs...), but this also has a lot to do with technique and proper weighting. When I was doing this I was trying to stay in a horizontal trim, but without a tank it probably makes more sense to go for a vertical position if one is stationary and really neutrally buoyant.
I guess my aim now would be to be able to consistently  get a confortable and stable 30 seconds to 1.5-minute shot down at depth, 20 metres max.
 

Some ressources/references:


I found Alex Lindbloom's recent DPG article on "Freediving Tips for Shooting Photos and Videos" very interesting, as he offers some great technical tips on shooting UW, including video, on breathold:

http://www.divephotoguide.com/underwater-photography-special-features/article/freediving-tips-for-shooting-photos-videos/

And here's a breath-hold reel of his: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jdu4mtKm6Nc

Videographer Julie Gautier is mostly filming on breath-hold (but she was a professional freediver, and a lot of her work is staged...)

https://juliegautier.com/
https://monacolife.net/interview-world-freediving-champion-and-film-director-julie-gautier/
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/2019/04/freedivers-guillaume-nery-julie-gautier-one-breath-around-world/
http://www.panthalassa.org/julie-gautier-freediving-in-poetry/

Along with Fred Buyle (mostly UW photography?)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CY9Td57U24
http://www.divephotoguide.com/underwater-photography-special-features/article/interview-freediving-great-whites/
https://www.oceanographicmagazine.com/features/fred-buyle-freediving-photography/

And Behind The Mask is doing something on the subject as well:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohru9JoR3zQ

There's a coupe of much older WetPixel threads that I didn't dare ressurect, here:
https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/21764-free-diving-for-shooting-video/&tab=comments#comment-148910
https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/14938-freediving-video-still-a-work-in-progress/&tab=comments#comment-101388

Other articles I found are mostly photography related, which makes sense since it's probably a little more accessible on breath-hold than shooting video:

http://www.divephotoguide.com/underwater-photography-techniques/article/free-diving-photography/
https://www.freedivewire.com/freediving-photography/
http://thecoraltriangle.com/stories/the-art-of-breath-hold-photography
https://www.housingcamera.com/blog/underwater-photography/7-things-learned-becoming-freediving-photographer
http://momentum.travel/places/introduction-breath-hold-photography/


 

 

Edited by bghazzal

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First of all, if you haven't, take a freediving class! I can't recommend this enough. Safety is paramount and having a camera in your hands while freediving creates further risk for yourself and your buddy. You'll learn about breathing, safety, weight, positions and to learn your limits

I do NOT recommend freediving without a proper class.

(that was my disclaimer)

---

Regarding camera buoyancy, we all have our preferences. Some like a negative rig (easier for the dive), some prefer neutral (better stability) but i prefer positive buoyancy. It's an extra layer of safety if you drop your camera (as i don't take lanyards while freediving, don't want to be entangled).

 

In order to limit camera drag in water, you need to make sure it has the lowest cross sectional profile : avoid big strobe arms and try to get a dome as small as possible if possible.

Edited by waterpixel

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21 minutes ago, waterpixel said:

First of all, if you haven't, take a freediving class! I can't recommend this enough. Safety is paramount and having a camera in your hands while freediving creates further risk for yourself and your buddy. You'll learn about breathing, safety, weight, positions and to learn your limits

I do NOT recommend freediving without a proper class.

(that was my disclaimer)

---

Regarding camera buoyancy, we all have our preferences. Some like a negative rig (easier for the dive), some prefer neutral (better stability) but i prefer positive buoyancy. It's an extra layer of safety if you drop your camera (as i don't take lanyards while freediving, don't want to be entangled).

 

In order to limit camera drag in water, you need to make sure it has the lowest cross sectional profile : avoid big strobe arms and try to get a dome as small as possible if possible.

Thanks - I've taken Molchanovs wave1 and will probably continue up to wave3 or Aida4 in the near future, if all goes well.


But I haven't had the chance to experiment with the camera outside the pool as seas were rough with the moonsoon, hope to do so over the next couple of months.

How do you organise yourself for filming - Do you start rolling from the surface then dive, or do you start when at depth?

Do you have any training tips to maximise shooting time?

I would love to see some examples of videos you shot on breath hold if you have some up somewhere.

 

Thanks!

 

Edited by bghazzal

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I mostly shoot photos, very few films as I don't have the patience to edit clips! (a few on my instagram)

If i do film, I start filming once at depth to be honest

My "workflow" is :

  1. Turn the camera on and get appropriate settings
  2. breath up (no hyperventilation)
  3. Duck dive while pulling the camera behind  you (rather than pushing it forward)
  4. position yourself vertically at the desired depth (don't be too harsh on the turn, you don't want a squeeze if you're at 30-40m depths)
  5. Start filming
  6. Go up (by being vertical, you're already in position to go up)

 

If the subject is moving (dolphins, whale shark), then really it'all about keeping up and filming.

 

Don't be surprised if contractions come quicker than in the pool as you will be much more active with a camera in the hand (more Co2).

 

Not sure i can help more though, let me know :)

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Thanks, this is very interesting.

I plan on doing preparatory dives to lock in the WB at different depth 10, 20 - will be staying below 25m anyway for light quality.

Regarding the landyards and entanglement risk, I was thinking of adapting a short velcro safety landyard.
With my rig, with a big 900gm float I'm about 300 grams negative, which is comfy, but would sink slowly if dropped.

I have a flat wide wet lens (Inon UWH100), so no big dome issues.

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As an update, I've just finished my Wave 2 training - and I currently have the requirements for Wave 3 / Aida 4, but would need to work on a good 40m depth in constant weight and free-immersion, as I'm not there yet.

Pausing on the levels to practice and consolidate what I learned so far.
It's been very interesting but I feel a very clear need need to push the confort zone in classical apnea disciplines, and gain more experience before bringing/using the camera. 

Last training session, I started incorporating hang-times at 20m+, but not quite confortable yet, it's all still a bit to new.
Depth-wise, my ultimate aim would be to be able to do 40m real confortably, the idea being that this will give me a lot of confort and time at 0 to 20m.
I'd like to bring my static breath hold to 4+ minutes relaxed, so working on CO2 tables and apnea walks.

I'm guessing for filming on breath-hold, aims would be comfortable with hangs in the 30 to 40m, in order to be really relaxed at 0 to 20m and also to be able to switch out of relaxed neditative focus to open up on the outside will be crucial. 
I'm also aiming to get comfortably over 100m in dynamic training, to have more time to film comfortably in the shallows.

We've been using neck weights, so a transition to a slightly negative camera should be smoother.

An interesting part is hands-free equalisation. I was already doing a K/SP frenzel on scuba (came from having the reg in the mouth) and have very flexible tubes. I can do hands free (equalised to 10m yesterday head up and down), but i'ts not consistent, so I'm trying to really understand and master the motion to repeat it smoothly in any position, could be great with the camera in hands. I'd done it before on scuba but usually waited too long, letting the pressure build up, which makes VTO impossible.

Anyway, all this to say that there's a lot of training ahead, but it's also quite stimulating to get into this after almost 3000 dives on scuba...

I'll follow my hang time and general comfort to see when I can start playing around seriously with the camera on breath-hold.
My wife is now W1 qualified, with a max depth of 20m, so I now have a qualified buddy to work with in the shallows.

I'll report back on this once I've played around with breath holding some more.

cheers

b

Edited by bghazzal

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Posted (edited)

Found some interesting tips here -
 

This  here is mostly a basic introduction to breath-hold UW photography

 

Interesting as well:

And still more photography-focused:
 

 

Edited by bghazzal

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On 12/28/2020 at 10:07 AM, bghazzal said:

I'd done it before on scuba but usually waited too long, letting the pressure build up, which makes VTO impossible

VTO is almost always a physiological "condition" rather than an acquired skill. I have yet to meet a freediver who has "trained" for VTO. That said, Frenzel is a great technique for all freedivers and certainly at 20m you will not be limited by this.

 

It's great that you can train for depth! I would also consider training some STA and DYN. DYN for CO2 buildup and contractions tolerance and STA for mental awareness.

If you have to do tables, just do CO2 ones.

 

Thank you for sharing!

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, waterpixel said:

VTO is almost always a physiological "condition" rather than an acquired skill. I have yet to meet a freediver who has "trained" for VTO. That said, Frenzel is a great technique for all freedivers and certainly at 20m you will not be limited by this.

 

It's great that you can train for depth! I would also consider training some STA and DYN. DYN for CO2 buildup and contractions tolerance and STA for mental awareness.

If you have to do tables, just do CO2 ones.

 

Thank you for sharing!

Interesting for VTO - have you seen Stern's videos on VTO training such as these ones?
 

 


He seems to imply that it can be taught, if you understand the mechanics involved and actively train the muscles (there 3 or 4 different types of VTO mechanisms, some being more accessible easier to train than others)

This one is along the same lines:

https://therapystop.wordpress.com/learning-to-hands-free-equalize/

https://therapystop.wordpress.com/hands-free-equalization-for-the-beginner-and-the-curious/

Interesting stuff.
I'm currently in the phase where I can do VTO head up, and to a certain angle, but heads down is still difficult.
Apparently this is normal, and you need to gradually go into it, making angles of descent steeper, equalising really often, to avoid letting the pressure build up to much, as it's much less forgiving than a frenzel.  We'll see how it goes and if I manage to get it consistent enough to do it heads down...

Restrictions are coming back where I am at the moment, but I'm lucky enough to have unlimited access to a 10m pool in tropical weather, so DYN and STA it is, with the wife as a buddy!

cheers

b
 

Edited by bghazzal

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