12 Sep 2011

Let's test this underwater housing

I went on another dive last Friday night and among the many underwater wonders (including another cuttlefish and what I'd swear is the same octopus as 2 weeks ago, lol!) I saw one of these:

Sea hare over a Posidonia oceanica bed. Image taken from IUCN website.

A SEA HARE!!! Aplysia for scientifically minded folk. A.k.a. a sea slug. My first ever (I'd only seen it in photos for animal physiology class, popular for neuroscience research). And man was it BIG! Easily 20 cm, just flapping around over the rocks before it decided it had enough of being in the spotlight (several flashlights shining on it) and went and hid beneath the rocks.

I was both in awe, enjoying the magical moment, and wishing I had my camera with me!!! I know, I know... no point taking it on a night dive if I don't have super-duper external spots (like the guy I dove with 2 weeks ago), but I could have gotten a semi-decent shot with all those lights shining on him. Oh well. Next time! ;o)

Underwater photography involves a bit more care and preparation than photography on dry land. For one thing you need to encase your camera in some sort of housing to keep it nice and dry when everything around you is liquid.  Something like this:

This summer I had a wonderful surprise birthday present from my parents, a new compact digital camera (my dear DSLR needs to be sent off for maintenance, it refuses to focus ever since I subjected it to the 45ºC heat of Morocco in July), the CANON s95! This is me upon reception:

The first picture I took with it was of my crazy sissies:

Surprise number two came when I opened a birthday card from one of the above loonies (fellow biologist and diver and photographer Gabs "the Goby fish" i.e. the redhead) with some cash and instructions to pick up an underwater housing a week later! She helped my parents pick out the camera and order the housing and between her and one of my aunts they paid for half of it.

A week later, back home (we spent my bday in Mallorca) and with the housing in my posession, Gabs gave me a much needed "reminder about underwater housing maintenance" tutorial (I had a film camera -Sea&Sea- in a casing many years ago, poor thing finally died about 4yrs ago).

The Canon website has very good step by step guide of what to do, but basically you need to carefully inspect the O-ring, that's the yellow rubber thingy that guarantees a seal and keeps water from leaking in and ruining your camera, making sure there aren't any hairs or sand or dust particles on it. Then you need to coat it with silicon grease and place it in its groove (after verifying that the groove is dirt-free). Afterwards you place whatever it is you want to keep dry in the casing and then close it up. A final inspection of the O-ring through the plastic is a good safety precaution.

Now the housing companies don't guarantee your camera if something happens and the housing floods. They'll assume you screwed up and it's your own problem. They only step in if the housing itself has a problem, and you need to check that out before you put your camera in! So I stuffed the housing with paper towels and stuck it in a sink full of water. No bubbles! Good sign. So down we went to the pool with it, Gabs and I taking turns diving down to the bottom to keep it down there as long as possible while pressing all the buttons and levers. Back upstairs we opened it up and... presto! Perfectly dry paper towels! :o)

So in went the camera. Tried it out in the sink, then took it down to the beach to test it in situ. Before that my sister gave me a demonstration on the usefulness of the flash diffusor (the big plastic thingy above the lens):

It helps keep the flash aimed in the right area, eliminates the shadow created by the lens and reduces light scattering due to particles in the water.

So, the final test. Down at the beach closest to us:

Looks fabulous!!!

Let's turn around and check out downtown Alicante:

But of course what we really want is to try this baby under water!

As you can see lots of particles floating around, so not a great day for photography. But I'll show you a bit of what was beneath us anyways:

Oops! What's that?!

My sister's tatoo (courtesy of a Maori artist in combination with her own creativity).

Here are the two of us and our cousin:

I love the goofiness of this under/over shot, it looks like my dad is missing half his body! Like his legs are connected to his armpits! :p

And voilà! The camera and underwater housing passed the test. And since then (that was early August) I've had ample opportunity to really put it through it's paces! I'm still just using the "underwater" programme. Once I've finished clearing up space on my computer I'll start learning how to shoot in RAW with all manual settings which gives you a lot more editing capabilities afterwards.

Just to finish off with a laugh, a friend sent me a link to this delicious looking cake, perfect for scuba divers! ;o)


  1. Ew! giant 20cm slugs are not my friends!

    OTOH the camera, underwater housing and especially your sister's tattoo look gorgeous :)

  2. Wow! Now I am jealous! I think this would be a great and fun thing to do, underwater photography. Love the smiles and giggles with your sisters...

  3. Wonderful post! Loved the pictures, especially the underwater mermaid pictures. It must be wonderful to be able to dive AND take pictures. SO cool!


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