PHOTO KIT REVIEW: This spring I was able to put the new INON telescopic arms into action.
Why would you want telescopic arms?
Versatility! With a more conventional arm system, you have to build up or reduce the length of your arms in sections. Each section adds weight (which you offset with floats), not to mention cost.
Traditional wide angle really demands 2 sections. The more particulate in the water, the higher the chances of back scatter. Lengthening the arms right out can be an effective way of minisiming back scatter. However, carrying really long strobe arms around underwater is quite literally drag! For low viz or dives where there is a lot of particulate in the water, the INON arms should come into their own.
For macro pictures you can get away with a single or shorter section, but for back lighting you often will need more than 1 strobe arm segment.
How do they work?
The INON telescopic arms consist of three sections, adjustable by loosening or tightening the correspondent dial. This system allows you to extend the arms to the desired length quickly and without the inconvenience of dealing with clamps.
The arms are available in 3 sizes:
S (280mm to 515mm)
M (370mm to 790mm)
L (460mm to 1055mm)
In water performance
Even if they seem heavy at first (211g for the small version), these arms are lighter than the combined weight of regular arms and clamps needed to achieve the length of the fully extended INON arm. This makes them a strong contender for travel.
I tested these on a trip to Palau, and on the harbour wreck dives, there was a lot of particulate in the water. The reduced backscatter achieved by lengthening the arms right out to their max was impressive. Yet, once the pic was taken I was able to bring them back in again, which made them much easier to handle in the water.
Cleaning the arms is easy, they come apart relatively easy and you can rinse all the parts of the tightening knobs. Putting them back together can be a bit fiddly.
Summary: These are not an cheap option as arms go (£136.99 to 159.99), but they look very well made (as we expect from INON products) and very durable. I’d happily add them into my bag.
PHOTO KIT REVIEW: Nauticam WWL-1 wide angle conversion lens was put through its paces in Lembeh. This might not be a classic wide angle destination, but as you will see, the versatility of this lens helps gain fresh perspective.
What is it?
The new Nauticam WWL-1 wide angle conversion lens gives you 130 degree diagonal view. It simply screws onto the port of your housing with a 67mm thread. But the main difference between this and all other wide angle lenses is that it gives you access to the full zoom range of the camera lens. Even at full zoom you can focus close up. It claims to maintain sharpness and contrast and has been designed with high resolution sensors in mind.
Does it live up to the hype?
I tried the WWL-1 out with a Canon G7X (used with the short port) and the Olympus EM1 (with the Olympus 12-50 lens). Performance was great on both cameras, and I was especially impressed with the corner sharpness at the widest range. I did find that, as with many wide angle lenses, you need to zoom in a bit to prevent vignetting.
If you are using a mirrorless set up, this lens gives you a huge amount of versatility… It reminded me of the way in which wet lenses on compact cameras improves the range of shots you can achieve underwater on a single dive. I was now able to shoot traditional wide angle reef scenes and schooling cat fish as well as nudibranchs and frogfish without having to change lenses.
It is a very robust bit of kit that feels solid in your hands. Nauticam are well known for their build quality and the WWL-1 is no exception. It’s made from 6 elements of highly refractive optical glass and all the internal elements have an anti reflective coating to prevent flat and internal reflections. The neoprene cover is easy to attach (without falling off!) so you can protect your investment on land and in the boat.
Did I want one?
YES! The WWL-1 currently retails for £764.95, which puts it at the higher end of the price range for wide angle lenses. But the added zoom functionality coupled with the image quality makes it a real contender for space in your kit bag.
My diving diary this year has involved a fair amount of pool based action, with a few dives on the South Coast thrown in for good measure. But in only 12 days I am off on a proper diving holiday (in fact are there any other kind of holidays?). It is time for some warm water and plenty of exotic sounding critters.
This year will see me jet off to the Philippines for the first time. Dumaguete here I come! I have chosen Atlantis Dumaguete for several reasons. Firstly, I think the Philippines can tend to get a bit over looked when it comes to dive holidays, with many photographers heading to Indonesia instead. But it promises a similar range of small subjects and healthy reef dives. And I am curious to see if it delivers. The other big attraction for me at the Atlantis resorts is the sheer amount of diving included in the standard package! A normal day has 5 dives (4 day dives & 1 night dive) on the schedule. In 10 days I can easily rack up a comparative amount of diving as on any liveaboard.
I’ll talk a bit more about the marine life in this part of the world on next week’s blog. But for now, I want to talk kit. As well as a chance to really get down to some hardcore photography, the trip will be a chance for me to try out some of the newest toys on the market. Making it into my kit bag on this trip will be:
1) Light & Motion Sola NightSea UV light vs FIX Neo 1200 DX
I was lucky enough to give fluo diving a go a few years back, but until now, the kit costs have been pretty steep. Both of these options make capturing marine life bio-fluorescence on a night dive far more affordable. And both in a compact set up. I cannot wait to see what kind of results I can get and to see how they compare in performance underwater.
2) Snoot for FIT LED 2500 video light
The basic principle of a snoot is simple. You add a tube to the end of a strobe to focus the light into a restricted circle. The effect is to light only a small section of your picture. The rest remains in shadow. Used properly, it can create a professional, arty effect. But anyone who has tried using a snoot will will agree… aiming it is tricky. The biggest problem is that until you fire the strobe, you cannot see if the light is hitting your subject. It can take a fair few shots until you can position both the light and subject correctly.
The flexible snoot for the FIT LED 2500 video light is a clever solution to this problem and very impressive for the cost. This bit of kit is hot off the press and, having given it a quick try in the pool, going to be fantastic on macro subjects. Cannot wait to give it a whirl in the sea.
3) Nauticam vacuum leak system
Ok so this is not technically a bit of kit per se, but it is a clever system that can be retro fitted to most Nauticam housings. This is the latest in leak prevention. The vacuum pump quite literally sucks some air out of your housing once it is closed, giving you an internal pressure of approx 0.7bar. As long as the pressure inside stays at this level, a small light on the back of the housing is green. If the pressure rises (ie you have a leak), the light goes red. Simple really. And I a hoping an effective way of keeping my camera safe underwater!
On the 11th of November 2013 I found myself at Heathrow airport with what felt like an extraordinary amount of baggage. I was off to photography mecca Manado, Indonesia. It promised to be a photography fest of all that was weird, wonderful and often strangely hairy. This was my first visit to what has earned itself the critter capital of Indonesia.
My plan was simple. This was a 2 stop trip. The first 6 nights were spent at Tasik Ria dive resort, which gave me a chance to photograph the walls of Bunaken, and then onto KungKungan Beach Resort in Lembeh. I was going armed with as much underwater photography kit as my 30kgs allowance permitted.
I have been shooting underwater since the days of Nikonos and film. In this digital age, my camera of the moment is the Olympus OMD-EM5. The image quality and lens choice rivals many entry-mid level SLR options. Put it in the beautifully engineered Nauticam housing and you have a powerful, yet small set up for travel. Check out the rest of my photo kit for this trip here.
It didn’t take long for the shot count to ratchet up. These are the times I love digital photography. It was at Critter Circus 2 (under 5 mins from Tasik Ria!) that I saw my first ever blue ringed octopus. There were ribbon eels and tiny painted frogfish. Yet more thrilling were the species I not even considered! This was the first time I have seen skeleton shrimp. These delightfully ugly transparent shrimp appear to walk upright, like some sort of zombie army, and became a unexpected, fave subject.
In Bunaken, the hard corals here are healthy and turtles feast on the reef. It was an impressive mix of rich wall and colourful reef fish. But I was mainly impressed by the quality of the macro life and muck diving this side of Manado offered. Without a doubt, Lembeh to the east of Manado is the area that is most famed for muck diving. But in my opinion, if you skip the western side of the Manado peninsular, you will be missing out on some fantastic photo ops. The combination of walls, hard coral gardens and muck diving is highly productive for a photographer. And means you can work wide angle opportunities as well as macro and super macro.
By the time I reach KBR, the subjects seemed to be getting smaller. The dioptre had become my new best friend underwater! It was genuinely helpful photographing subject that were under 1cm big! If you have not used one before, I would heartily recommend adding a dioptre into your kit bag. In a location such as Manado you will find yourself turning to it time and time again.
Perhaps one of the most photogenic subjects in Lembeh are the pygmy seahorses. There are several species of pygmy seahorse, including the oh so pretty bargibanti. However, they are not the easiest of beasts to photograph. In my experience, they seem to favour big sea fans, which by their very nature waft in the surge or current. Getting that killer shot at 28m as the seahorses gently swings back and forth is a photography work out! And as is so typical of Indonesia, there is not just this one type of pygmy sea horse to snap. There are Denise, Pontoh’s, Satomi… even Lembeh sea dragons. The list goes on!
Every photographer has their dream list of critters, those exotics beauties that get all the headlines. And yet there were many, many more somewhat “common” critters that made for outstanding photos…gobys whizzing up and down the whip corals or chomping on shrimp…crabs in every imaginable colour and camouflage… razor fish surging around mooring lines… stripped catfish tumbling along the sand… mandarin fish dancing with their mates… these are just some of the marine life that I found impossible to swim past time and time again.
A small handful of species eluded me on this trip. But no photography destination should ever be that perfect. I am, after all, taking photos of wild animals. And it just seems, I have all the more reason to go back!
My next dive trip is only a couple of weeks away and my mind is well and truly on what photographic equipment will make the cut into my bag. Most importantly, it has to fit into 30kgs hold and 7kgs hand baggage… and my oh so clever Scottevest. Here’s my personal underwater camera packing list for a long haul holiday!
This time I will be diving Bunaken and Lembeh Strait, Manado Indonesia. This means there will be both wide angle opportunities on the walls of Bunaken and all manner of tiny, crazy, Lembeh critters to find.
Main Camera – Olympus OMD-EM5
This is my go to camera of the moment, underwater and on land. It’s perfect for travel and with the right lenses I should be able to cover most scenarios. There’s the Olympus 60mm macro lens and SubSee +10 diopter for the really small stuff. I am seriously impressed by the FIT LED2400 video/focusing light and will be interested if the red light setting in particular really helps on night dives when shooting photosensitive subjects (watch this space for a verdict).
I do like to have the choice between wide angle and fish eye so both the Olympus 9-18mm wide angle zoom and Panasonic 8mm fisheye lens are in. The Nauticam 4inch minidome is a real space saver for travel. Yet it is also very practical and easy to handle underwater.
It all gets housed in a Nauticam NA-EM5 housing, tray and handles. The Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobes are back in action. StiX float arms help with the whole set up’s balance underwater. A bit of an extravagance but well worth the extra in my opinion.
Compact Set – Canon S90
The Canon S90 is by no means a new model, but over several trips, it has proven a reliable, quality camera. And I still love the wet lens system and believe it encourages creativity. The Inon UWL100 AD wide angle and Inon UCL 165AD allow me to shoot both wide angle and macro on the same dive – something that may prove useful on the walls of Bunaken. The Inon S2000 strobe is smaller than the Sea&Sea YS-D1 but still powerful enough on this set up. I don’t really do too much deep diving so the Canon housing is perfect with a 40m depth rating.
GoPro Hero3 Black
Of course I could not go without a GoPro! It simply mounts on the hot shoe of the OMD and I forget about it! Well, other than to turn it on and off of course. I do use a red filter and like the URPro option, which fits on a SRP adapter.
Throw in my laptop and there you have it! All of that plus dive kit (maybe even a tshirt or 2 )and I will be a happy snapper!
Are you interested in any of the above equipment?
Why not chat to me to find out more
01483 279 879
I like to mount my GoPro on the top of my camera housing. I then use URPro red filter when I need it – it simply screws onto the outside of the housing.
The main advantage of this set up is that I don’t really have to think too much about framing. As long as my camera is pointing at the subject I get a decent shot!
And when you’re done, why not check out my photos from Socorro too
It is not every day you get a chance to visit a veritable bucket list destination but this June fishinfocus is off to the mysterious Socorro islands. Several hundred miles off the Pacific Mexican coast, Socorro is most famous for the giant manta that swoop along the walls. But there is so much more. Huge schools of hammerheads, silkies and white tips are common as are other pelagic fish such as tuna. We have to thank the lovely guys at Scuba Travel and Solmar V for this incredible opportunity.
Essential camera kit for the trip? Taking the trusty Canon 60D and impressive Olympus OMD (both in Nauticam housings). This trip will also be a great chance to test out our new YSD1 Sea & Sea strobes – these strobes have had rave reviews so will be fab to get them in the water to see just how the performance is with wide angle and fish eye shots. We will be back on July 4th and hopefully have some awesome images to share.