Posts Tagged ‘equipment’

Yup, everything shown goes in the cooler!

I am often asked “How do I get all that equipment safely to location?” Diving adds an extra burden to the limits that are currently placed on those of us who travel to distant places. So here are a few tips that I have developed over the years to try and take a bit of the sting out it.

You know those shiny silver cases people often use to protect delicate camera equipment?  Well, it’s unfortunate, but those branded cases such as Pelican are just too darned heavy and use up the precious pounds needed for the actual camera equipment.  Another thing that bothers me about them is THEY SCREAM STEAL ME! My solution for the past 15 or so years is a good old Igloo cooler.  The 60 quart on wheels works fine but you do have to modify it a bit to secure it.  By adding a little metal plate that has a loop on each side of cooler, zip ties can be used to secure the lid. The good news is that most people do not have a clue what is in the cooler and generally only ask if I have dead fish in it.  I hope not!!!  Is it pretty? Well, NO.  But that is kind of the point.

Cooler Zip Tie System

When I check in with the airlines, I generally try to get my cooler hand inspected by TSA after it is weighed and tagged.  Some of the agents grumble but at least I know all has gone back in the case correctly. Obviously, this does not work on the return segment of a trip. For that, I write a nice big note to the TSA agent that is immediately visible when they open the case.  It has a list of equipment and an explanation of how important it is to repack it carefully. The first line of the note is a huge THANK YOU FOR KEEPING US SAFE – and appreciation for handling the contents with care.  It goes a long way.  Occasionally, an agent will write back on the note with smiley faces.

I hand carry as much of my delicate equipment as possible – other than the underwater housings, ports, strobes, and accessories.  My roll on bag is by Lowepro and can hold lenses, 2 camera bodies, backup drives and laptop.  I also have a smaller backpack for extra gadgets and personal stuff.  The problem arrives when a particular carrier has a carry-on weight restriction. You certainly need to check the individual airline websites for their rules. I will resort to tears, begging and/or tough lectures to the gate people about just how expensive the equipment is and that they do not want to take responsibility for any damage caused in the belly of the plane from it getting tossed around.  This generally works.

Some people ask if they should have a carnet (a document listing all equipment).  There is an easier document that customs will give you titled “Certificate of Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad”  or simply Customs Form 4457 (110389).  You have to record ALL your equipment with a list of the serial numbers and value.  It is a headache but if you are concerned about questions going into or returning to the U.S., it’s not a bad idea to have it.  It eliminates needless questions as to where you purchased your equipment and if you plan on selling it in your destination country.

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Original RAW capture of a reef in Palau without any post processing

Final image of same reef after white balance adjustment and post production work

On my recent trip to the Galapagos, an interesting question was brought up by a guest looking at the video footage and still images taken by various people on the trip. They were noticing how different the color and contrast looked from one person’s collection of images to the next. The question was this: What are the perceptions of where white balance should be set and how much RAW image processing should be done after the fact?  Post production is a big job in these days of digital.  There are hours of time involved whether it’s going through footage or correcting still images.  In the old days of shooting film, the only real choice came from selecting your film type.  Kodachrome 64 was the film of choice for many of the professional underwater photographers.  It seemed to render the most realistic blue in the water.  It also meant most of their photos had a similar “look”. But then the ”you-know-what” hit the fan when Fuji products, especially Velvia, were introduced.  Too fake, people screamed. However, it didn’t take long before acceptance was achieved as people warmed to a new aesthetic.  Now, the options are limitless when it comes to manipulating digital images. So my questions to you are – “Do you like the color correction red filters place on lenses for underwater still or video?” (here is a good example)  “Do you think too much is done with white balance whether in camera or in post processing for stills?” and “How much RAW processing is acceptable while maintaining a natural look?”

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Notice the particulate in the water--perfect conditions to shoot macro. A little Photoshop clean up and the image is good to go!

In my last post on underwater photography tips, I discussed big animals, wide angle, and low visibility.  That was based on Socorro – land of giant marine life.  On my most recent trip to Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea, I had visions of using my wide angle to capture the huge sea fans and colorful reefs.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t always deliver the conditions you are expecting, but here’s the good news.  Milne Bay offers some of the most incredible macro creatures around.  The motto is still “get as close as possible”.  If there is a lot of particulate in the water or you are on a very silty bottom there are thousands of tiny reasons to look at your macro set up and see how you can get even closer: Does your macro lens focus 1:1?  Are using a Canon 100mm macro or Nikon 105mm macro?  Think about adding a diopter on the primary lens or looking into “wet” diopters.  Many of the external diopters are made to fit the flat port of your underwater system.

If this is more technical than you are looking for, check out my articles on the Adorama Learning Center for introductory underwater photography tips.

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AdoramaTV recently interviewed Michele on many aspects of her photography career and what she has learned from her experiences. They discuss her wide range of subject matter from indigenous cultures to resorts to underwater creatures and share images of them. She also gives tips on everything from equipment to lighting to what goes on behind the scenes while shooting and traveling!

Want even more info to get going in underwater photography? Michele is partnering with Matt Weiss from DivePhotoGuide.com to produce a series of articles for the Adorama Learning Center. They will cover all aspects of shooting underwater for everyone from those who have never even gone diving to those with years of dives under their belt. You can check out the first article here and keep up on future installments by visiting the Underwater Photography section.

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After recently returning from a wonderful trip to Isla Revillagigedos, Mexico (also known as Socorro), I began going through my images.  Although in the field I determine lens choice based on numerous factors, one thing stood out in my mind.  “What was the better lens for the task in that environment?”  Well, Socorro is all about big animals including giant mantas, whales, dolphins, and schooling fish.  The obvious choice is a wide angle lens but I have 2 of these to choose from: a Canon 15mm fisheye and a 16-35mm f2.8 zoom lens.  Many times I enjoy the versatility that the zoom gives me to get a reasonable shot of a passing manta that is say 30 feet away as opposed to “in my face”. That is great but then how does that image look if the visibility is not 75 plus feet?  Not great.  Because there is so much particulate matter in the water, the image looks muddy and not as sharp as I would like.  Plus, my strobes can’t reach that far to add fill light when you have so much “stuff” in the water.  So, I did make the right choice in the field.  I kept the 15mm fisheye on my camera and just waited for the close encounter.  I missed some shots because of distance, but you can’t get them all!  Motto: in low visibility, get close, closer and in your face for the best results.

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