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james

Wearing a drysuit and shooting macro

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Hi Gang,

 

I had my first real good taste of drysuit diving this last weekend. This was my first "cold" water trip where I was warm and comfy the whole trip and I loved that. I guess it wasn't too bad because the water was 65, not 56...:-)

 

In any case, I had a LOT of trouble shooting macro. I have a pretty big camera rig, so one handed shooting is hard but do-able. I usually put down my left index finger on a piece of rock to steady myself and try to get flat in the water to get good composition. I thought I was trimmed out pretty well w/ a backplate BC, weights in the pockets, trim pockets on the tank band, and a 1.5# ankle weight on each leg. I had 14 pounds of weight plus the backplate and camera.

 

But I was still having a lot of problems staying still in the water. My legs were all over the place! Any tips? Get gaiters? Heavier ankle weights?

 

That will bring my legs down I'm sure but some other problems I had were that the bubble of air moves around really easily shifting buoyancy when I was trying to set up for a shot. I was wearing fleece pants but I was also getting a big "crushed" in an uh sensitive area...

 

Wide angle was no problem. I was able to swim pretty fast, even w/ the added drag, and I felt trimmed out pretty well for that...

 

Cheers

James

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Gosh,

Welcome to my world!! :blink:

Really, since aquiring my housing, I find it a challenge to dive with the humoungous thing anywhere, let alone at home. One hint, just use enough air to keep the squeeze off, and use your BCD for bouyancy, too. That avoids the big air shifts. I hate ankle weights, so don't use them. I haven't even used my dome port yet; I'm still shooting wide with the (!) Nikonos. I'm often in current, so the more streamlined the better. I'll make the shift to d. when a compact SLR and housing with a large viewfinder materializes.

I find the most difficulty when diving over reefs...walls are where it's at for me with "The Behemoth", as it is now called.

It does get easier........I hope!

Cheers,

Marli

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James,

It also sounds like your're not wearing enough weight. I'm sure that you're not wearing as many layers as I do in 43 degrees F, but 14#s?? Is your backplate heavy? I wear 32#s of lead, on a 125 lb. frame. I'm super bouyant, but you might want to add some lead, too.

Cheers,

Marli

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Actually, whoops, I was wearing 17 lbs.

 

Just for reference, when using a 3mm suit and my backplate BC, I need zero lbs.

 

Cheers

James

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Dry divers will always be clumsier.

 

Try to limit the amount of air in the suit. Shifting air from the suit to the BCD will help, but not as much as getting rid of that air completely. If you can balance your weight with less lead AND less air things will become smoother (as when diving with wet suits).

 

Try to stay as horizontal as possible - spreading the air in the suit over a larger area.

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It also sounds like your're not wearing enough weight.  I'm sure that you're not wearing as many layers as I do in 43 degrees F, but 14#s??

 

You've got to understand that James makes a wet rat look like Arnold Schwarzenegger :)

 

I wear 32#s of lead, on a 125 lb. frame. 

 

Thanks for making me feel like a walrus :blink::)

 

James: Although I have limited drysuit+camera experience, I would definitely echo Marli. Having the minimum air necessary to stop the squeeze does make things easier. I don't use ankle weights, so I have to be very careful not to have too much air in the suit or my legs go flying up when I adopt my typical ankles up/body flat pose (as when lining up a macro shot).

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What kind of suit are you using? What garments underneath it? Aluminum tank? Not a mine goes to 11 question, rather getting a feel for its construction is helpful.

 

I think some time alone with your suit and no camera would be beneficial. Without being there, I would guess your weight was too high on your body. You need to find your center of buoyancy, and put your weight there. Most people, when wearing a wetsuit, have their center of buoyancy high, up around their torso, making a backplate, steel tank, weight integrated bc, and wi trim pockets a logical place to stick your lead. In a drysuit, that center usually moves down around your butt, and weighting yourself in a similar arrangement to a wetsuit is problematic. DUI's weight & trim will allow you to move your weights down where they need to be.

 

Personally, I feel my trim and buoyancy is better in a drysuit, and wore one last weekend in Key Largo's balmy 75deg water...

 

Why don't you come on our April Optiquatics trip? Then, not only will Joe change your batteries for you, he'll help you figure out your drysuit too!

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Hi Ryan, Craig, Marli, etc. Thanks for your good feedback to my post.

 

I'd love to make the April Optiquatics trip w/ you and Joe, but have other trips planned that month.

 

When I'm diving w/ the wetsuit, I wear zero to two pounds. In other words, all my weight is the backplate. That's with an Al80.

 

With the drysuit, I did a pool class without the camera and that's how I figured out my weighting. I now feel that with my Seacam housing, it's shifting my center of GRAVITY forward and this might explain my feet-up problems.

 

What about putting more air into my wing and less into the suit? What do y'all think about the recommendations/opinion in this link:

 

http://dive.scubadiving.com/members/divetips.php?s=563

 

It goes against what I've read and been taught.

 

Cheers

James

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That is an interesting article.

 

I'm going to talk that over with some of my instructor friends and compare it to the NAUI SMP.

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slightly off subject, but where can one get fitted for and purchase a drysuit in the LA area? Any recomendations on brand/type?

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James,

 

Drysuits are kind of hard to explain. When I first started diving with mine, I was all over the place. A camera wasn't even an option. The more I dove it, the better my buoyancy became. That's the best advice, dive the thing as much as possible.

You'll get to a point where there's no problem gaining the position you want to be in to shoot.

 

Second, weighting is crucial. I've been amazed at the comfort level even dropping 1lb. can do. A lot of people are concerned with losing control and overweight themselves but all that does is increase the size of the bubble and the associated problems that different depths changes cause on the size of the bubble.

 

I'm not a big fan of using the BC and Drysuit for buoyancy. Until you've had many dives, (100+) it's asking for trouble in my opinion. Trying to manage two systems is confusing and in an emergency, could really cook you if you can't figure out why you're rocketing to the surface before it's too late. The only time I've put air in my BC is when on a wall and I want to get into a more head up position. Besides, properly weighted, you'll need just enough air to inflate your drysuit for comfort which should also be perfect for bouyancy. If you have air in the BC, then less is needed in the suit which may have caused the squeeze you mentioned.

 

Next time you dive it, try what I call the porpoise move, by undulating your body, you can distribute the air down along your legs and change the center of the bubble. Maybe you'd need to see this in order to understand what I mean.

 

The above is all my personal opinion.

 

Rand

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Rand, that's exactly how I've always felt about Dry Suits.

 

Although what I found interesting the article linked to by James, is that they mention leaving the dry suit exaust wide open, which in theory would prevent any suit caused out of control acent.

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I actually find the dry suit to be easier than my thick double layer 7mm wetsuit. Some of the things that help bouyancy control are equipment related.

 

Dry suit type: The non-compressable shell types are better. My comments only apply to this type of suit.

 

Underware: Put on enough to keep warm so that you can dive with just enough air to keep from squeezing.

 

Boots: The DUI rockboots I have squeeze most the extra air space out of my foot area. I think this really helps in situations where you're trying to get the camera low and end up with your feet above your head. I don't use ankle weights.

 

Weight: Use enough underware to keep warm. You should put on just enough weight so that you can be neutral at the end of the dive with enough air in the suit to not be squeezed.

 

Unlike Rand, I use my BCD to compensate for the weight of the air in my tank at the begining of the dive and let it out towards the end just like tropical diving. At all times I try to maintain just enough air in my suit to keep from squeezing.

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Rand, that's exactly how I've always felt about Dry Suits.

 

Although what I found interesting the article linked to by James, is that they mention leaving the dry suit exaust wide open, which in theory would prevent any suit caused out of control acent.

 

Anyone shooting on a wall with a wide open exhaust would disagree with that technique.

 

Frankly, once you master drysuit diving, there's individual choices that work for one person and not another. Everyone sorts these out along the learning curve. I don't wear ankle weights for instance, yet others couldn't be comfortable without them. When I'm in 46 degree water, l want every bit of insulating air in my drysuit I can handle. Someone else may be invigorated by the numbness...

 

Rand

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Hi James,

 

Love drysuit diving. Actually had my drysuit shipped to Hawaii from Sweden because I missed it so much :blink:

 

I sounds to me that you might have too much lead. I also use only backplate with 3mm wetsuit. The backplate is 6lbs negative I think and I could do with just 4. When I dive drysuit I use a normal (not too thick) underwear and if it's really cold add long-johns. I use about 14lbs with a shell drysuit. Weight makes a huge difference!

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Rand is absolutely right. Use your BC only in an emergency. The idea that someone is promoting multiple buoyancy use is terrifying. Learn to control your buoyancy via the suit with an auto dump shoulder valve and you will enjoy your diving just as well as I have for the last 14 years here in Scotland - last Sunday 2 x 50 mins at 8 deg C. It's still a struggle sometimes to get into position for the shot, but it's still lots of fun.

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James,

 

Drysuits are kind of hard to explain. When I first started diving with mine, I was all over the place. A camera wasn't even an option. The more I dove it, the better my buoyancy became. That's the best advice, dive the thing as much as possible.

You'll get to a point where there's no problem gaining the position you want to be in to shoot.

 

Second, weighting is crucial. I've been amazed at the comfort level even dropping 1lb. can do. A lot of people are concerned with losing control and overweight themselves but all that does is increase the size of the bubble and the associated problems that different depths changes cause on the size of the bubble.

 

I'm not a big fan of using the BC and Drysuit for buoyancy. Until you've had many dives, (100+) it's asking for trouble in my opinion. Trying to manage two systems is confusing and in an emergency, could really cook you if you can't figure out why you're rocketing to the surface before it's too late. The only time I've put air in my BC is when on a wall and I want to get into a more head up position. Besides, properly weighted, you'll need just enough air to inflate your drysuit for comfort which should also be perfect for bouyancy. If you have air in the BC, then less is needed in the suit which may have caused the squeeze you mentioned.

 

Next time you dive it, try what I call the porpoise move, by undulating your body, you can distribute the air down along your legs and change the center of the bubble. Maybe you'd need to see this in order to understand what I mean.

 

The above is all my personal opinion.

 

Rand

 

I echo this 100%. I do all my diving this way and have many cold water dives. That and the thought of squeeze is not comfortable if you know what I mean. I also find that the air can also provide some insulating and therefore rather have it in my suit if possible.

 

Less is better. In terms of how much weight to use that varies by individual and the underwear that you are wearing. Steel tank verse AL as Ryan is referring too also.

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I also use the "rand" method.

 

My only real mod to this is that I wear "gators" to help keep air out of my feet/leg area, as Rock Boots alone were not enough. This allows me to have my feet a bit over the top without having them "fly away"

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HI JAMES,

 

I agree with Jander you are risking uncontrollable assent by using

both dry suit & bcd to control your bouancey. Do a proper weight

check at the surface, I only put small amounts of air in to my suit

& never use my bcd under water only at the surface. Their are other

reasons why like how you feel & how your body mass is made up you

may be a floater so you need more weight. Layers of under clothing

holds air, these all make differance to bouancey, is housing neutral?

 

 

Hope this helps

 

Andy

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Hello James,

 

I can't really add anything that hasn't already been discussed, except trying a DUI weight harness. I used to have to use ankel weights until I got mine. After fine tuning it, I was able to give up the ankel weights and was a lot more trimmed in the water.

 

Don't know if DUI has any of their dog days schedualed for you area, but if they do, go down and try the harness. Its well worth it.

 

Stephen

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As one can tell from the varying opinions and the article on the link James posted, there are different opinions. I was not trying to promote something dangerous. I found that in a neoprene drysuit, the best way for me to stay in control of my bouyancy and stay warm is as described. One omission: I leave my drysuit valve open, unless I am below 100 ft., and then I just back it off a little. I can simply lean to one side and excess air vents. I completely agree one should be comfortable in the suit before dragging the camera gear along. I also believe that one should be experienced and comfortable diving in a wetsuit before diving dry, while others would disagree. I'm on my third drysuit, and every new one has had a learning curve, even after 900 dives. I have dive friends, including instructors that subscribe to each technique.

Cheers,

Marli

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Rand is absolutely right. Use your BC only in an emergency. The idea that someone is promoting multiple buoyancy use is terrifying.

 

Well,

 

It all kinda depends. If you carry twin steel 15 liter tanks for backgas and two 7 liter alu's for deco you will find that doing all your boyancy with the drysuit only is not such a good idea after all. The amount of weight you lose during a dive can sometimes be amazing...

 

While I agree that initially having only one boyancy device in use definitely makes life much easier, using both is not by any means dangerous. Just a matter of practice. In fact, I have found photography (or any other UW activity like laying line in mineshafts etc. for that matter) incredibly easier after learning to use both BC and drysuit for boyancy, especially when carrying a lot of kit for the "bigger" dives.

 

YMMV.

 

timo

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I have been using (rubber and tri-laminate) shell type dry suits since the 1980’s and agree that each one, and the parts and accessories (zippers, seals, dry gloves, hood, boots), presented its own learning curve. However, I am of the school that keeps the air in the suit to the minimum, has the exhaust valve in the minimum pressure position (counterclockwise in the suits I have used), and uses a B.C. for buoyancy control. I now use the DUI weight harness with rather negative steel tanks but back in the 80’s I used Al tanks, which required 44# plus ankle weights for underwear needed for temps that are typically in the 40’s (F) with a standard weight belt. I am presently use 32# plus ankle weights when carrying a 2# negative camera rig. It takes a number of dives to get proficient in a dry suit.

Tom

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Well, everyone has pretty well covered it.

 

I think we should add in "degree of difficulty" points for cold water shooting on the contests!

 

I disagree that using both the BC and drysuit for buoyancy is dangerous or something. Just using the suit is old doctrine and results in huge bubble that roll around your back and throw you off. I just loose the air in my BC first as I continue the dive and vent the air in my suit as I come up. I've left my vent all the way open most of the time on walls and whatever with no problem.

 

Best advice is to dive the rig and get yourself horizontal, with a bubble or two in your wing to keep your head up at the beginning of the dive. Have a friend look at you and maybe take some ankle weights and move them around on your rig up and down to achieve trim. Adjust your tank and plate as necessary.

 

I would do this without a camera, in fact I would dive at least 25 dives without a camera at all to make sure using the suit is second nature. It's easy to get task loaded.

 

Then add the camera and move some weights a bit to compensate. I've put 2x 2# inside my undergarment and pockets with good results. For god's sake get rid of the ankle weights; all you are doing is tiring yourself out and digging a trench.

 

Jack

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This is the first I have heard of anyone carrying their lead inside their drysuit. I actually tried out two sets of ankle weights when using a Viking - no that did give me lead foot! With no weigths the feet had excessive bouyancy - a lot depends on the suit!

Tom

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