Shore Diving with a dSLR Underwater Housing

An approach to accessing underwater photography from the shore

By Michael Zeigler

 

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Ever since getting my scuba certification I've done my best to go diving whenever possible.  Since I'm unable to hop on a boat and cruise over to Catalina Island as often as I'd like, I choose to enjoy the wonderful shore diving that is available to me here in Southern California.  Shore diving with basic scuba gear is one thing; shore diving with a full dSLR rig is another story. 

 

Safety is of utmost importance to me and my approach to diving in general.  Ideally I will have both hands available for entry and exit, and while on the surface.  My goal is to share with you what I've learned about how to successfully shore dive with my dSLR and the system the I've used with my current set-up.  Much of what I learned about the rigging I'm about to share with you is from my buddy Kevin Lee. 

 

Shore Diving

Here I am about to shore dive at Old Marineland in Palos Verdes, CA.  Notice that both of my hands are free to don/ doff my fins, make adjustments to my equipment, or assist my buddy, if necessary.  Photo by Eric Aubort.

 

 

The Set-Up

My Ikelite housing is attached to my BC via three connection points: two male clips which are attached at the base of each Ultralight arm ball, and a ring that I attached near the base of the housing.  The two male clips are used to connect to their respective female clips attached to my BC.  The lower ring serves as a connection point to a lanyard which is attached to a D-ring on my right hip, should I drop my housing during the dive.

 

Shore Diving

Photo showing the two male clips attached to the strobe arm ball, and the ring I use to connect a lanyard to my BC.

 

 

Shore Diving

Close-up of the male clip attached via a ring to my Ultralight strobe arm ball.  The zip tie keeps the clip from moving around too much during the dive, and the clamp keeps the clip from slipping off the ball.

 

 

Shore Diving

Close-up of the ring attached to the lower portion of the housing.  This attachment is strictly a precautionary attachment, should I drop my housing while doing any kind of dive involving a current, deep floor, or any other condition that would make retrieval an issue.

 

 

Shore Diving

This photo shows the two corresponding female clips attached to my chest D-rings via stainless steel bolt snaps. Alternatively, some people skip the bolt snaps and attach the female clips to the D-rings directly to the metal rings. 

 

 

Shore Diving

Here is the rig shown with the clips connected.  At this point, my hands are free, and the housing is free to hang.

 

 

Shore Diving

Side view of the two connection points: the D-ring and the strobe arm ball.

 

Shore Diving

Side view showing the BC connection and the lanyard connection points at my hip and on the housing.

 

Tips for shore-diving underwater photographers

  • Get spring straps for your fins. You will not regret it.
  • Practice your shore diving at great shore diving locations such as Southern California, Bonaire, Bali, or Hawaii. Shorediving.com is a great resource.
  • Always scope out alternative exit points, in case conditions/ currents don't allow you to return to where you entered the water.

Summary

Setting up the rig is the easy part.  It takes a bit of practice to get used to shore diving with the system attached.  I was surprised to discover that I use all three clips (always the lanyard connection) when diving from a boat.  Kicking on the surface, making descents and ascents, and dealing with problems (having to shoot a surface buoy from depth, etc) is much, much easier with both of my hands free.  I encourage everyone who dives with a camera, be it a compact or a dSLR, to consider rigging a hands-free set-up of some sort.  

 

About the author

 

Michael Zeigler is editor-at-large for the Underwater Photography Guide, trip leader and instructor for Bluewater Photo, and is an AAUS Scientific Diver. Michael's underwater photography and blog can be seen at SeaInFocus.com.

Join Michael as he leads an amazing underwater photography workshop at the famous Wakatobi Dive Resort 11/21/13 - 12/2/13!

 

Further Reading