ClassroomReturn to Mainreturn to scubaLesson 2

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Welcome to class.  In this lesson I will cover an intro of my equipment,
the number one problem with underwater photography and
Dr Mark’s 10 commandments of Underwater Photography.  

I will also present my Cardinal rule that too many people regretfully ignore. 

My Equipment

People often ask me about my camera equipment.  Interestingly, the majority come right out and ask how much it cost.  Others want particulars on for recommendations and ideas for purchasing their own.   I put a great deal of thought into my purchases.  There actually are many options in the marketplace.

Let me first start with my personal criteria.  I wanted excellent quality at a very affordable price.  I also wanted low risk. I have a Canon 18mp T2i.  However, the Ikelite Case for it with the lens housing is about $1500.00.  Although I trust Ikelite, I didn't want to spend another $1500 for a housing and risk my $1000.00 camera.  So I continued my search.

I have used Intova equipment since they were "Snapsights."  My wife gave me a 35mm Snapsights underwater camera with flash in a housing good for 100'.  I used it and enjoyed it.  Of course digital has significant cost advantages over film especially in underwater photography.  So I upgraded to the Intova IC5, a 5 megapixel with compressed VGA video capability.  I further upgraded to the IC10,then IC12 and now an IC14.  The cost of the new Intova IC14 was $260 including both the camera and housing with many extras included from Cameta Camera.  The new Intova IWAL wide angle lens is an additonal $170 (best underwater wide angle value on the market) and the IFREDWAL Infra-Red filter is $40 (also the lowest priced in the market).  Why do I choose Intova?  Nobody, and I mean nobody beats their warranty and customer service. NOBODY!

Underwater camera

Pictured was my setup from 2010 including:
Intova IC10 camera and housing ($200)
Intova IWAL wide angle lens ($130)
Kodac Zi8 1080p video camera ($120)
Ikelite Housing for the Kodac including Red filter ($255)
Intova Flex arms ($50)
1 Intova ISS4000 Strobe (on the right) ($125)
1 Fantasea Remora Strobe (on the left) ($125) (Because Intova was out of stock).
Custom dual strobe cable (You can see my instructions to DIY) ($50)
Custom aluminum mount assembly ($20)

Total cost as pictured $1075.00

Here is a look at my rig from the later part of 2010 and early 2011 as pictured on the right

Intova IC12 (12 megapixel digital camera in underwater housing, and an IC10 as backup)

Dual Intova ISS4000 strobe with Intova Flex Arms
Custom dual fiber optic cable to connect dual strobes

Intova Infra Red Filter (IFRED)Dive Camera setup

Intova Wide angle lens
Kodak Zi8 in Ikelite case for video
Dive Camera Setup Side View
Zeikos wide angle lens with Intova Infra Red filter and adaptor for the Ikelite case
Two Nu-Dive Ultrabright Rebel 100 Luxeon LED Dive Lights 250 lumens each.  Due to weakage I replaced these with the Ultramax UXLG.
Custom aluminum tray mount


Cameras for 2012

Here is my camera setup for 2012. 
I have a custom rack I made from 1/4"x1" aluminum bar with stainless steel hardware  This gives me the ability to house video and still cameras together.  The side handles are actually from an old Ikelite housing (recycling is good).  These handles can allow for my strobes as seen above to be mounted should I wish to use them.
You'll notice the new Intova IC14 with it's updated wide angle lens and large IFREDWAL- Red filter for underwater shooting without strobes.
The Canon Vixia HF-M30 HD video camera is in a Canon WP-V2 case.  This videocamera has a built in underwatermode to replace the red filter.  On the front I have aZeikos wide angle lens.
Above the cameras is an Ultramax UXLG 6 watt, 500 lumen video light.  It really helps when penetrating wrecks or looking under ledges.  I hope to undate it with an Intova Meganova 2000 lumen wide angle light.  Underwater it is wonderfully balanced and justslightly buoyant so it's easy to handle.  I added the curved handle underneath to make it easier to carry.
The only downside to such large rigs is very few dive boats have large enough camera tubs for them.
Cost for this as setup is $1,550.00

Obviously, a good camera and housing is important.  I trust the Intova housing.  I probably have over 100 dives on the Intova equipment with zero failure even at over 120+ feet down.  I have seen people with much more expensive equipment have leakage and camera failure while my Intova's have been dry and productive.  With proper rinsing and cleaning and a light coat of silcone on the gaskets, the Intova should last forever.

More important than the camera is the operator.   It really does take practice to get good underwater pictures.  They don't happen by chance.  They happen by design.  Here are a few of my recommendations to help get good pictures. 
1.  Know your menu system on your camera backwards and forwards.  You can't waste time underwater trying to figure things out.
2.  With your camera in the housing, use it above water to take a few hundred various pics.  Do close ups and landscapes.  Switch between Macro Landscape and Auto.  Use it in very low light situations to mimic lower light underwater.  Using it in the housing will help you get used to the buttons, menu and feel of the housing.  You want it to feel natural underwater.  To simulate it further, put your mask on and take more pics.  As a Dr in Psych I highly recommend you not walk around the neighborhood that way. 
3.  Practice, Practice, Practice some more.
4.  Use 2 lbs or more of extra weight to help position yourself more steadily for pics.  Good bouyancy control is essential. 
5.  For additonal tips see my 10 Commandments of Intova Underwater Photography
6.  You can't make a silk purse from a sows ear.  Having good pics to process is essential.
7.  You can make a faux silk purse from a sows ear if you know how to use photoshop well.  I will be posting lessons on Photoshop processing for underwater photography. 

Feel free to email me if you have related equipment questions and I'll try to help.


The Number One Problem with Underwater Photography

Most people find their underwater pictures come out lousy blue/green pics lacking detail.  When you are trying to capture and keep some of the awesome memories it is so disappointing to see such mediocre results.  First the good news- almost anyone can take really cool underwater photos.  Now, the “other” news- it takes practice and lots of it.  It isn’t just point and shoot like the land lubbers do. It really does take practice.  I have listed here my “10 Commandments of Intova Underwater Photography.”  These really apply to any camera system you are using.  Like God’s big Ten, these are not multiple choice if you want decent pictures.

Dr Mark’s 10 Commandments of Intova Underwater Photography


      I.            Know every button and feature BEFORE you ever think of getting in the water (What, ya gonna waste precious air tryin to figure it out 100 feet down?)

   II.            Use Lithium batteries and replace after every two tank dive (Alkaline batteries won’t last for a two tank dive if you take video and tons of pics.  Dead batteries when a stingray comes your way is beyond frustrating!)

III.            Use the red filter if below 5 feet (the red filter is NOT optional.  The Intova red filter is actually a balance between red and yellow (orange) to replaces the color lost by the filtration of the water robbing the color specrum).

IV.            The closer you are the better the picture (so use the wide angle lens when possible)

  V.            The strobe is not optional (Just be careful to not overexpose when close by powering down for closeups.  Although there is some caution against using the strobe and red filter at the same time, it is much easier to tone down the red than create it- see lesson 2 on strobes).

VI.            ALWAYS pre-focus (On Intova press half way down till green for “go” appears).

VII.            HOLD STILL (Use extra weight if you need to.  Video should be the objects moving NOT the camera panning- See instructions on good video shooting). 

VIII.            Shoot first ask questions later (IOW- take as many photos as you can and sort em out later).

IX.            Photoshop correction is required.  (I recommend Photoshop elements and see my instructions on correcting underwater photos).

  X.            YOU MUST USE DESICANT PACKS INSIDE THE HOUSING (these absorb the moisture that will tend to condense when you go from the warm moist air on the surface to the cool water below- otherwise you will eventually fog up on the dive making the camera unusable for the dive).


And the Doctor's cardinal rule of digital photography…
“Don’t be stupid- backup the SD card immediately.” 

SD cards are NOT for storage!  They are for camera capture and transfer.


More to come including…

How to use photoshop to make your pictures reflect what you really photographed.

How to do video the RIGHT way.

Editing underwater video in Adobe Premiere
How to build custom trays
How to build custom fiber optic cables for strobes

Lesson 2 Strobes


Please email me with your comments or questions or suggestions.