Comments from customers:
Gayle Van Leer
March 6, 2013
Neutral buoyancy…for your camera
We know as divers that our sport is equipment heavy, and not just in the actual amount of equipment diving entails, but clearly in the actual amount it weighs. Your camera equipment is no exception with even the small light weight compact cameras “gaining weight” by the time you add on a tray, the housing, lights and even leash you use to prevent losing it while using.
While our gear on land is heavy, it becomes “weightless” in water thanks to the design of our buoyancy compensator device (BCD or BC) and things like dry suits for us cold water divers. Our cameras on the other hand basically remain nearly as heavy while under water as above water and after an hour of trying to hold a heavy camera steady that is trying to tip forward or backwards or down, you are going to feel it in your hands and wrists. Good luck about shooting with one hand! Until such time someone invents a camera BC, our choice is to use closed cell non-crushable foam available at marine supply stores. Round blocks in two sizes designed specifically for attaching on various brands of underwater camera arms also are available from underwater camera equipment suppliers.
The design of the Beneath The Surface tray and frame is ideal for placement of foam to balance the camera. It allows you to put it right on the top where you need it. Because I had some of the round blocks that slip onto metal arms available, I slid two on the center bar, and then filled the rest of the space by cutting one of my smaller blocks in half with a hack saw and zip tying those to the bar. I finished off with one large block I zip tied onto each arm near where they connect to the frame.
With just these 5 blocks the camera is now just slightly negative in water even with the heavy 10X converter on the housing or the super wide angle converter and I can shoot with one hand if need be to get into a tight spot, or if I need the other hand free to hold back kelp or some other object.
I plan on replacing the smaller block halves with those of a larger block when I can obtain another one. That should pretty much get it right where I want it. I think you want the camera to be slightly negative just to help hold it steady when working in super macro or when there is some surge.
Gayle Van Leer
February 3, 2013
On Being A Stalker, as in a Fish Paparazzi
One thing I have always liked doing is getting close up fish faces and the eyes of the larger fish. You can have a lot of fun with this and if you are patient and approach the fish in a slow non-threatening way you will get good results. Clearly the fish that are camouflage wait and strike types are easier to approach. Others are just plain skittish and you will have little luck but most all can be approached to a certain degree. By learning a bit about the behavior of the local fish where you will be diving you too can get good results.
I am often asked what camera and other equipment I use when people see my photos. Although equipment is very important, one of my standard answers to that question is the best way to improve your photos is make sure your buoyancy is rock solid and you can remain nearly motionless in the water while holding your camera as well as being able to shift your position by using very small movements of your body and fins. Having a neutrally balanced camera rig will go a long way towards helping that buoyancy which is one of the reasons I am so pleased with my Beneath The Surface tray/frame set up. It was light weight from the beginning and the bar along the top allows for attaching trim foam to get it to that neutral buoyant state. I have mine now balanced to the point where I can shoot one handed underwater even with the heavy glass of either a 10X diopter or a large wide angle wet lens. Shooting one handed is a huge asset when trying to get in real close to a fish because the camera can be maneuvered without your entire body having to also be close.
Most fish I have found the best way to approach a fish is from slightly below and at an angle slightly to the right or left of the headon angle. I think the fish feel safe if they can “keep an eye” on you and that side angle allows them a quick escape vs. directly headon where they have to turn to run. This works for the smaller fish too, but many of the wall dwellers and hole dwellers like gobies and fringeheads, you basically have to just plant yourself and wait for them to come back out of the hole. Know that if you come up from behind or above they will almost always bolt.
I am shooting with continuous lighting. If you shoot video you would also be using this same approach. What I do is turn on the light before I aim the camera at the fish so that the act of turning on the light itself does not scare the fish away. I then slowly raise the camera up and aim at my subject. Next step is to start moving in very slowly with as little movement as possible and while not holding my breath, I try to exhale as few bubbles as possible until I get off a few shots. After I get my shots I then back away just as slowly trying not to disturb my subject any more than I have already by shining bright lights in its face.
Meet some of the Southern California locals, face to face, and eye to eye!
About my camera and lighting system
I had not planned on upgrading my Nikon P7000, a first generation of their flagship point and shoot camera line but when I realized that my $200 credit with Sony was going to expire at the end of the year I took a look at their product line. I had not released that they had released a new point and shoot camera, the DSC-RX100, in July that has set new standards for compact cameras so much so it even made Time Magazine’s top 20 inventions of 2012. A quick check of camera reviews on underwater photography websites and I was convinced that this little camera had also caught the attention of the underwater world by storm with three manufactures already having released housings and the reviews being glowing.
Needing no further convincing, I purchased the camera along with the Nauticam housing. Despite adjusting and adjusting I was never able to get my P7000 with its Ultralight tray and arms neutrally buoyant underwater and wanted to try something different. Part of the out of balance issue is the weight of the wet lenses I like to use, a 5x macro diopter and a wide angle, both of which are big weighty chunks of glass. With this new housing I also got the wet lens adapter ring that allows you to swing your wet lens out of the way when not in use rather than screwing and unscrewing underwater and putting the lens in your pocket between uses. Those of you that use wet lenses will recognize the beauty of such an adaptor immediately.
As someone that shoots with continuous lighting, and for the past year and a half those lights being one Light & Motion Sola 1200 and a Big Blue flashlight, the Ultralight arms were simply over kill for the lightweight lights I am using. My new goal was to find something lightweight that could be balanced to be neutrally buoyant underwater with wet lenses attached.
First Impressions, Beneath The Surface product
Having seen the Beneath the Surface travel trays at a trade show, I liked the lightness and the balance of how it felt in your hands and the design with the bar across the top for attaching accessories and foam seemed very logical. Okay I also have to admit, the pink handles caught my eye too since that is my signature color and I will quickly be reminded should I stray to another color even for one item.
Shawn Gibbs the owner of the company quickly fixed me up with exactly the parts I needed after I sent pictures of my existing Nikon rig and the measurements of the Nauticam RX100 housing. The parts all fit together perfectly with the quality of the manufacturing being second to none. The quick release on the arms is simple to operate, secure and very handy. Not only is this new rig more compact than my Nikon rig, it is a pound and a half lighter. Even before getting into the water for the first time I was impressed.
Balancing and first use
Just guessing at how much foam I would need, I pulled two pieces of the larger foam off my Ultralight arms and slid them onto the top bar. I then sawed in half one piece of the smaller sized foam and zip tied those two pieces to the top bar in the remaining space thus creating a solid line of foam across the top bar. Upon first use in the water I found it to be nearly neutrally buoyant just from this initial guess. Given how much experimenting I had to do with the Ultralight setup and the fact I never got it right, I was impressed.
Shooting with one hand!
When putting the rig together initially I put the camera in the center of the frame. I quickly found however for my small hands with 5mm gloves I could not hold the handle and reach the camera controls and putting my hand between the camera and the handle was awkward. With nothing to lose, I moved the housing all the way to the right knowing I can still get the housing open easily because of the way the latch spins. To my delight, that worked like a charm and not only can I now reach the controls while holding the handle, the rig is balanced enough from the foam I have already applied that I can shoot with one hand! I have never been able to hold my Nikon with one hand for more than a few seconds it was so front heavy.
An unexpected bonus by moving the housing to the right, when I now swing the wet lens out of the way, it neatly lays on the opposite handle’s soft rubber thus the glass is protected from scratching and I can lightly put a finger on it to keep it steady and out of the way. Also unexpected, the rig is still reasonably balanced despite so far only being set up with one arm. Even moving the wet lens back and forth, I am still able to easily hold the camera with one hand. With only a few dives with this new rig, I can already see the potential, both in the camera and how the balance and lightness of the tray system is going to positively affect the ease of use of this amazing little camera.
Next chapter, final balancing once 2nd arm and light added.
In these photographs diver Olga Torrey explores and documents the wreck of the Pinta and Rockland County. The Pinta was a Dutch Freighter built in 1959 and sunk off the NJ coast on May 8th 1963. The Rockland County was a tugboat built in 1960. She was sunk as an artificial reef on February 14th 1986. Both of these wrecks are only four miles from Point Pleasant NJ . The Pinta sits in 90' of water while the Rockland is in only 75'. Both wrecks are affected by the tides but conditions are usually good. These are just two of the many east-coast shipwrecks that the dive boat John Jack visits. http://www.john-jack.com/
Olga is shooting with a Canon PowerShot SD880 in an Ikelite housing. The housing is equipped with an auxiliary wide angle lens. This is so she could move in close to her subjects. The goal is to eliminate as much water as possible between the lens and subject. On the day these photos were taken vis was not great so this is very important.
Olga is ready to light still images with dual Sea & Sea YS-110a strobes. Using Beneath the Surface's new triple clamps she could also light video with dual Light & Motion Sola 1200 LED lights.
To be able to have complete control of the attached lights, Olga is using dual Beneath The Surface Ball Joint arms. She is using one 8" section and one 5" section on each side. This allows Olga to bring the lights way off to the side. This helps lessen backscatter, even in less than perfect visibility. The arms are attached to the housing with the Beneath The Surface tray. This allows for easy camera handling and the cross bar allows the camera rig to be easily handed to the diver from the boat.
Photos of Olga Torrey by Larry Cohen (www.liquidimagesuw.com)
Click on the images for the rest of the photographs.
I attended the Beneath The Sea Expo in New Jersey last March. I stopped by your booth and was intrigued by the Ikelite Bridge Bar Adapter you had on display. Later in the day, I stopped by to look at it again and at the end of the show on Saturday, I made the purchase. All I can say is, glad I did! My wife, son and I just returned from a 2 week trip to Bonaire. We did 39 shore dives during that 2 week period. Walking in and out of the water was so much easier having the camera attached to my BCD. Truly hands free. Usually, my wife is carrying my fins and helping me over the rough spots. This trip, I was carrying my own fins and helping her. What a great idea and product you have. I attached a picture of me walking out of the water at Pink Beach on Bonaire.
Again thank you,
Old Lyme, CT