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james

Wearing a drysuit and shooting macro

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I dive a drysuit regularly with twin steel tanks and a camera. IMO the only way to manage this gracefully(the key word here) is to look at the techniques used in technical diving. In fact, most photographers would benefit from the skill set of a technical diver, because a camera tends to make a simple recreational dive more complex.

 

1) Make sure you're correctly weighted. Most people tend to wear way too much lead. Too much lead -> too much air in the suit and the BCD -> more buoyancy change to manage even on small ascents and descents. If you can't stay on the surface by finning with your BCD and suit empty long enough to orally inflate your BCD you're probably overweighted.

2) Managing air in a dry suit and a BCD is not as hard as some people would like you to believe. Actually you can manage all your ascent/descent/buoyancy related stuff with your left hand in almost all common equipment configurations: the BCD and drysuit inflators are easily in the reach of your left hand, as is your nose should you need to equalize. The same applies to dumping air, as the shoulder dump is in the left arm... and this becomes instinctive very quickly. Put gas in your suit only to reduce squeeze and for warmth, manage the buoyancy with BCD. With a single tank you might just manage with the suit only, with twins and/or a negative camera setup using the BCD becomes a necessity.

3) Master horizontal trim - try to keep most of your lead as close to your center point (ie navel), speading it on the both sides if possible. An easy way is to take a 1-2 kilos off your belt and put it on the upper tank band. Think of your body as a lever, and you'll realize why ankle weights are a bad thing. If you have a problem with air in your legs, get gators, they do wonders to managing trim.

4) Master the frog kick. As it is symmetrical in the vertical plane you'll be much more stable, and can be reversed for quick stops and backing up (although this requires some practice and won't be easy with gimmicky fins such as hinged or split ones).

 

...these are very basic skills, and can be mastered in almost any gear, though the DIR folks will always start by first preaching about gear and then the skills. A DIRish setup will surely help, but it's not really necessary...

 

BR,

LN

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For what its worth, my last dive trip saw me using a very lightweight membrane drysuit (a Typhoon something-or-other) with a 4th Element Extreme Arctic thick pullover thingy, and Polartec clingy trousers (a bit tight-like but there you go) and an excellent Weezle extreme on top of these.

 

Lead and tank were as offered by the dive shop/boat so varied a bit as I didn't have portable weighing scales with me and, as all the kit was new, didn't know how much I needed anyway.

 

In spite of this I had 30 pleasant dives, never used the BCD, was pretty comfortable from 13~19C (I like being warm) and happily managed hour plus dives. The cuff dump was, as usual, a bit of a nuisance at times, but worked ok.

 

Which all goes to prove what? Well that really this drysuit business isn't all that much of a problem. If it IS for you, then as I've said here before you need to get more experience using drysuits in general. I watch too many divers flail about in drysuits and adding in a camera merely makes them notice just how much they thrash around.

 

I don't really think that you can be too prescriptive about technique in a drysuit - there are many different ways of using them as can be seen from this thread and what is right for one diver may not be for another. What is important is that you should be thoroughly at home in using one before adding in the camera. You can't buy experience!!!

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" You can't buy experience"

 

There's a few girls down SOHO who will dispute that quote.. :lol::lol:

 

Dive safe

 

DeanB

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I always check bouncy at surface-I wear USIA(made in Oregon) underware and they are very bouyant-They are also very warm. Its a farmer john with full jacket -under is pagagonia long johns. In the DUI or Nokia suits or Viking- I use 30# and a couple of ankle wieghts. I'm a 6 foot 200# guy. this has worked for many years for me. I never use my bc except to float at surface at end of dive near boat. Every diver will have there own way on what works as I stated earlyier but for me in 30 years of dry suit work this works for me. I can stay in one place till the cows come home shooting macro and stay warm in puget sound the Queen Charlotes or Nor Cal as we as mid cal around Montery in this set up. Heres another set up which is much harder to shoot photo with. Only you older folks will reconize this setup. I'll make a post on it. Mark

post-3833-1173683846_thumb.jpg

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Isn't it nice to have the leg up and body downward when shooting macro ? Won't kill all those critters underneath, & can get a more level shot. :wacko:

 

Here is what I sometime do and probably violate a few PADI safety rule ...

Say I am horizontal, with the weight of the camera forward at head level, I exhale and this will pull me down into position of where I want to shoot my picture, sometime needed one finger, other time may be not, and yet other time the camera might rest on some rocks. Take a few shots and inhale, this float me back and up and away. It's 5 to 10 seconds event. I don't really pay attention to where my legs are. If I have too much air in my leg, I will get my orientation right and get rid of some air first before approaching the subject again.

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Hi James

 

Looks like you hit a popular topic there :lol:

 

One thing I haven't found in the answers (might be there though), is that by placing you tanks lower (In upright position) at your BC plate, you can shift some weight, without adding any. This is how I got rid of my ancle weights.

 

I use my drysuit in water temperatures between -1,7°C and 15°C. In the configuration for the warmest water I dont even need weights at all.

 

Good luck, Morten

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I would ignore the people trying to give you exact numbers for your weights. As stated above you do need to be weighted exactly to the 1lb to minimize air and be properly weighted. I change my weight depending on my my port selction and which dive light I use. It is best to get it exact. Much more than a wetsuite.

 

I shoot macro with my drysuit and SLR and at first it was challenging. Everytime I got horizontal, the air would shift to my legs and I would go vertical. I use 4lb ankle weights and now

it is perfect. I can lay on the sand or stay horizontal with very little effort. I highly recommend it. Some people who do not like ankle weights use very heavy fins, but it is the same difference.

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I use a 5mm neoprene drysuit from O'Three and snug fitting polartec undersuits from Fourth Element. I just take the squeeze out of the suit and always use my BC (16 kg wing for single cylinders, 22.5 kg wing for independent twins and 30 kg backplate wing for manifolded twins) for bouyancy.

 

Recently I have started to use ankle weights as I felt that in conjuction with heavy fins (Scubapro Jets) and my lower legs raised in a wide legged 'skydiver' stance I achieve greater lateral stability and a finer degree of control in the water. I like to migrate a little air into my lower legs which helps relax my legs.

 

I tend not to use the shoulder auto dump and manually expel air from my left wrist seal by raising an arm but I guess it depends how quickly one moves in the water column.

 

This configuration allows me to adopt whatever body attitude I wish; flat and level, head up, inverted, but I'll probably change something next week...

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Two very simple things I found... I was so happy to be able to take my lovely thick wool socks diving I completly forgot about the foot over head syndrome they were about to cause! Either leave them on shore or never leave the ankle weights behind; and number two...weightbelts are GOOD. They move your weight further down your body and spread your lead distibution so the strain is not all in one place, integrated have their place but....

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They move your weight further down your body and spread your lead distibution so the strain is not all in one place, integrated have their place but....

I drysuit dive a lot... I wear ankle weights, and used to wear two weight belts, distributing the weights around the bodyt. Now a days, I have one of the DUI Weight and Trim Harness (classic model) It works well. Its easier onthe body on the boat, shoulder straps help to take the load. And as the straps cross across the back, when in the water helps to distribute the weight, holding the body down.. I find this harness system easier to manage than two weight belts. Something worth considering.

Edited by wolfeeldiver

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One of the most important elements to be able to comfortably shoot macro photos is have excellent buoyancy control. You might want to work on that in your drysuit before you tackle more macro photography.

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I totally agree with laure!

 

What I did was looking at technical divers, realizing that I needed to learn how to dive again. I took GUE fundamentals ( gue.com ) and have now completely chanced the way I dive. My weights have decreased. I am more relaxed underwater and thereby the diving is more enjoyable. Equipment is more simple. I can Hoover at the same spot, doing complex things without moving around ( damaging corals ).

 

If you are serious about diving and photographing then this is the right thing for you!

 

 

Cheers

 

 

Gassa

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When it comes to buoyancy and weighting strategy its important to remember that everyone's physiology is different. Maybe more dense leg muscle, bigger chest, larger sinus cavities - not to mention the belly :blink: , so we all have a subtly different balance in the water. The experienced diver might have tried lots of kit but for sure has only dived with his/her own body.

 

Observe the safety issues, understand the physics and start off with something close to an accepted norm. Where you go from there is down to what works best for you.

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I can Hoover at the same spot, doing complex things without moving around ( damaging corals ).

First came underwater ironing - now it looks like underwater vacuuming is taking off! :blink:

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First came underwater ironing - now it looks like underwater vacuuming is taking off! :blink:

 

 

PMPL

 

Stew

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Thanks for resurrecting this topic, altho mixed opinions, I've found it pretty helpful.

Recently I've been having buoyancy problems and blamed it on my fairly recently new force fins (10ish dives), last night I went into the club pool for practise in my shorts and t shirt with single cylinder and I was fine, so I've realised its not my fins it is within my dry suit or my weight distribution. I dive 12l indie steel twins with 5mm neoprene dry and most recently arctic undersuit. Last Sunday I went in Swanage for some more practise and when I was taking photos, I too, had my fins uncontrollably raising, I even had 2 x 1 kilo ankle weights on to try and keep them down.

My weight is currently 13kg, breaking it down...5kg in the integrated pockets at the front of my tekwing, 2 in the concealed ones in the back, and 4 (previously 2 without the arctic) in the front of my weight belt (as well as the ankle weights which I am not using anymore)

I appreciate the comment about the more weight you use the more air you need to keep neutrally buoyant, and the amount of air needed to keep me on the surface after the dive.

I now aim to try lowering my tanks as much as I can and shifting the 2 (not 4 anymore) in the front of my weight belt to the back of my weight belt (both forcing my arse down and thus my legs?)...totalling 9kg, I've been down before with 9 but felt a little light, but if I persevere on draining all the air out of my dry suit before I go in and descending vertically upright with my dry suit exhaust valve open I think I should be ok? any other pointers to help me would be appreciated...I weigh 15st 7lb (217lbs or 99kg)

 

Cheers

Woody:)

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Woody

 

I doubt its weight distribution - sounds like you are simply getting too much air in your feet - I'd blame air migration. FWIW although I'm a bit lighter than you I too use ~13kg on a single weight belt and ankle weights (I use size 13 wetsuit boots over soft DUI compressed neoprene boots so these do create buoyancy but with Force fins on they seem to stop substantial air migration into the feet too). So I'd be more concerned with trying to check on how air is shifting around your suit and especially into your feet and reducing this. I tend to be somewhat overweight generally - useful to settle on sandy seabeds where no damage will be caused - but rarely have buoyant feet so I'd suggest air migration to the feet may well prove to be the culprit.

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Thanks Paul,

I forgot to mention that my arctic 3 piece undersuit includes the arctic socks and it was a very tight fit in between that and my dry duit, that tight I had to get my dry suit pulled off my legs after the dive, so there's even less room for air than there ever used to be

 

 

ETA...I'm gonna go in Swanage on Saturday with my semi dry and see how I am, that should help, process of eliminatiion and all that!

Edited by The Woodster

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Thanks for resurrecting this topic, altho mixed opinions, I've found it pretty helpful.

Recently I've been having buoyancy problems and blamed it on my fairly recently new force fins (10ish dives),

 

 

When I got my latest dry suit that takes separate hard boots I got rid of the air in the boot problem so no more need for ankle weights. I also switched to XXL Scubapro jet fins to fit over these boots, which may be slightly negative as well. :wacko:

T

Edited by Tom_Kline

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Okay let me add my 2 cents.

 

What I think we need to accept is that trim and buoyancy are part and parcel of the same skill. That skill set allow precision and control underwater. Whilst it is possible that this can be achieved in any gear set up, it does make life harder, not having the right gear.

 

First off we need to establish what we are aiming for in terms of trim and control. For me something along this level is really the only goal.

. That is absolute buoyancy control and a horizontal trim. This helps us in a number of ways by providing a stable platform where we can hover ie approach shy critters with only a tiny flick of the fins. It also provides excellent mobility allowing use to backward kick and re position for a good shot. It also does this without silting or dragging our fins across the substrate, a behaviour which a depressing number of divers still feel is acceptable.

 

Also the fact is that, given a correctly weighted rig and a little bit of practice, these levels of control are not hard to achieve.

 

So in terms of drysuit management where does this leave us. Okay technique wise what do we need to have

 

First off you have a drysuit and a wing/bc. Which one is designed to keep you dry? Which one is designed as a buoyancy control device? Sorry to point this out, but why make life harder for ourselves, by using our equipment for a role that it was not designed. Your wing/BC controls your buoyancy whilst min gas is injected into the drysuit to keep you comfortable. On ascent gas is dumped from the suit before, it expands creating buoyant legs, whilst buoyancy is managed via the wing. Easy

 

For good trim and buoyancy in a drysuit what I suggest is that you try using min gas in your suit and spend some time trimming your rig with trim weights. For instance when using twins I commonly use V weights between the tanks. This prevents me from having too much weight on my weight belt, which pulls my legs down, not where I want them, silting the place up.

 

If you find that your legs are buoyant, then there are 2 possible problems. Either you have too much air in your suit or your buoyancy control is off and you are negative causing your heavy bits ie your torso to sink. This in turn causes your light bit ie your legs to rise. So next time you feel your legs rising relax and focus on where you are heading, if you are heading down, inject some gas into your wing. Once you have achieved neutral buoyancy, ask yourself what your legs are doing now.

 

Also as stated by others, if you are still struggling to manage air in your legs, by all means try a pair of gators. In all likelihood though you will find that after a bit of practice you will no longer need them.

 

Ankle weights are not a very good solution as again they pull your legs down, leaving you out of trim and silting out/damaging the substrate again. Not where we want to be. Better to focus on our trim and get the basics correct, rather than apply corrective techniques, for not having skill base sorted out.

 

 

First off in terms of drysuits, neoprene is not my choice. Neoprene is less flexible, slower to dry and harder to fix than a membrane suit. On top of this neoprene also has changing buoyancy characteristics, with the neoprene compressing at depth so, you ll find that when you are at depth and the neoprene has compressed you ll over weighted. Again not sure about you but I like making my life easy, so having to lug around weights I don t need doesnt appeal to me.

 

After about 15 years of drysuit diving, I have tried many manufactures and unfortunately I have to say that the DUI TLS350 series is the best out there. It offers by far better flexibility than any other suit I have tried, making it very easy to manage. I say unfortunately as they are the most expensive suits out there and try as I have no other suit comes close. Sorry just the way it is (and I don t work for them or get paid by them, wish I did though as I d get cheaper suits).

 

Other gear, is really a back plate and a wing. This helps me to achieve perfect trim whilst allowing me to do anything from a 10m reef dive to a 100m wreck dive with the same gear foundation. That, again, makes my life easier.

 

I hope some of the above info helped. In terms how I dive this is what works for me. I am as you have probably guessed a GUE trained diver and unashamedly so. I have been training with them for about 8 years and to be honest I progressed more as a diver in the first year than I had after 8 years prior diving.

 

If anyone has any question you can either reply or send me a PM. I d be more than happy to help.

 

 

Happy diving Erol

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I highly recommend the DUI weight harness, it is fully adjustable and will allow you to position the ballast to achieve good horizontal trim.

 

As for how much lead you need, that will vary with the undergarments you wear, but in general the same principles apply as with a wet suit. You want just enough to be able to maintain neutral buoyancy at the end of your dive for a stable 15 foot safety stop with near empty tanks and enough air in the suit to prevent squeeze.

 

I would get at least 10-20 good dives just practicing buoyancy before adding the camera if you are new to dry suit diving. Once acclimated you can experiment with the shoulder dump valve to maintain the proper amount of air in the suit during the dive.

 

Leave it wide open when first starting and then as you get the feel for things you can close it down somewhat while at depth, just don't forger to open it up all the way again before beginning your ascent.

 

I usually dive with it about halfway closed once at depth. Sometimes I even close it down if I need to maintain a position that places the valve high up and I do not want it to vent. Just be very careful that you do not forget to open it back up if you ascend, even just a little or you could start a runaway ascent.

 

Mostly you just need practice, eventually you will get more comfotable with the feeling of you're legs floating. It takes practice but eventually you will be able to float neutrally buoyant in a head down position ( like a trumpet fish) I even sometimes adopt this position when there is not enough room or over a silty bottom when getting my camera as low as possible. The big key is practice practice practice.

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Since my last post I bought an O' three dry suit off the peg, made to measure; buoyancy's better, but miles away from what it could be, if anyone fancies helping me with a dip in Vobster Sunday, let me know, would consider a course fee as long as u can guarantee a definate improvement with my indie twins! thanks

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Hi Scuby,

just wondering if you have tried Gators? I use them instead of ankle weights and they work a treat. I generally, in the

colder months, like to be able to pump a bit more air in the suit and have no issues with the floats. I also place a small weight in

each thigh pocket for my trim. I frequently dive in <5m on long shore dives so tend to overweight a touch and just compensate

early in dive with more air in suit if required. These days I rarely dive in the wetsuit as I am most comfortable in the dry-suit. I

also dive in a Tri-Lam suit rather than Neo so my solutions may not suit you.

I got my Gators from Golem Gear for a very reasonable price.

 

Cheers,

Jim.

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There is no doubt that a drysuit makes photography that little more difficult. You really need to wear your weights in such a way that there is no tendency to pitch or yaw while neutral. If you start your dive neutrally buoyant you only need to add air to the suit to stay that way. By keeping the volume of the suit constant your buoyancy remains constant and the only time you should need your BC is at the surface. In Britain I see so many divers wearing too much lead and needing to use the BC to compensate. This can lead to serious problems. So get it right in the shallows. Use the minimum amount of lead and exhale to leave the surface. Am I trying to teach my mother to suck eggs?

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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

 

I agree with marli. It sounds like you're pretty light and need some more weight. I use 26 lbs when I dive in a drysuit. As a point of reference, when I am diving and a 2-3mm in warm water, I use 8 lbs.

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