I finally have a camera housing for my old Canon EOS 550 D camera. The housing seems to be functioning, but it is far from perfect. For now it will have to do, though. I will publish a review later. Check facebook also. First decent shots: (click for larger)
I have been using my torch to light my pictures and video subjects for ages now, with mixed results, but always made with a lot of effort. The old mainlight diffusor setup worked like a charm for over 7 years in all kinds of configurations and I would still use it if my main light did not break down.
Holding the light in one hand and photographing with the other. Big problem is always finding the right light to the even more difficult task during the dive; changing settings on the camera while lighting, keeping your subject in focus, remaining in balance and not touching anything… while keeping aware of what your buddy is doing and your normal dive situation.
Last year I created a new setup for my photo and video stuff, making it possible to video and photograph together. Last year and during my recent trip to the Maldives I had lot’s of practice and fun with it. I created a base plate on which the camera’s and later, the extra lighting was to be fixed. It worked. This year I searched for gorilla arms… I finally settled for a much cheaper alternative: actioncam arms. At the moment they are quite cheap and available in all kinds of colors and versions. I also found a videolight that drowned on the Maldives and the whole setup cost me less than 50 USD.
After some evolution I came up with a version that can hold two arms, two camera’s and is light and small enough to take with me on travel. Currently I only have one light-arm, but I can extend to use two. In the Maldives I dove with a modified 7 USD light and a 600lm light on the baseplate. I extended the baseplate with a bit of extra aluminium plating to take some stress off the plastic Canon housing, making it also stick in one position. The actioncam that sits beside it is light enough not to need extra fixtures.
So what are the elements that made the current setup successful, besides the baseplate? For me the breakthrough was the light aluminium arm itself, that included the standard Gopro formats in all aspects. I combined that with a connection to the baseplate. Inittially by a simple camera connector but I found a sturdier alu version that will last much longer. The other added feature was the pivot extension. The video light was easy to attach, but since it drowned tie-wraps are my big friends for connecting the light. The light itself was adapted slightly by making the plexiglass. I still need to do underwater tests, to see if this will be sufficient.
I know I should have posted this about 2 months earlier, but I was still working on getting the site migrated. Now on the new site I have plenty of options to place a new article on the manta’s we’ve seen during our Maledives trip.
So here it is!
More than 5 minutes of Manta shots, all filmed at the Maldives, including shots with 5 manta’s, 2 manta’s going head on, playing chicken, a looping, close-ups… and some general feel-good shots.
Forgive me for posting late… but I had another great wreckdive again. This time we dove in bad weather, bad visibility, with limited gear, searching for a tugboat that had gone down on this location. We had no sonar, no viz, so it had to be done by instinct and touch. After 15 minutes of searching, we found it. No going inside the wreck, this time.
Together with some other Hydrofiel divers I decided to go for this wreck to help out the owner. The miniature tug is one of many recplica’s and miniatures that sail here on quieter weather. The ship was found, relatively intact, with no real structural damage by Arjan Wman.
Not something you see very often; a diver, going to the Maldives and then diving straight from Malé itself. Normally everyone lands at the airport, then boards a water taxi or a seaplane to move to their final destination, a resort. Not me. You don’t need to stay at the Malé island… you can simply rent a cheap hut at the beach for just as much as you would spend in Malé on a hotel but me and my travel agent didn’t know.
The advantage of staying in Malé would, however, be that you get to know the locals. For me especially interesting, because I play Ingress, a GPS game that requires you to move around town. I got in contact with the local Resistance players and had a few hacks with them, they advised me on my mobile data and toured me around Malé. (Thanks Najfa)
So I arrived from Abu Dhabi, I had a good flight, arrived in Malé and went to search for my hotel and finally found it in some small ally. I planned my first dives with Sea Explorers, based on Malé itself. I called them and the owner volunteered to come to the hotel to discuss how to do the diving for the next days. Weather was bad, so some of the dives were cancelled.
The dives were great, by any standard… Diving from Male meant getting your gear to the divecenter, checking it and moving to the boat. Roughly at 10am we sailed and moved out to the first dive. Two days of diving were done in no-time at all. The guide/instructor was good, and on the first day we had a divemaster-in-training to join us. Business was slow, end of the rainy season and this was not the right place to be diving at the moment.. so there were no other guests. This, however, made it possible to do a dive on the MV Victory, a freighter, loaded with cement, that went down just between the airport and the main island a couple of decades ago. It is a relatively difficult dive, due to the currents and the depths (top of the mast 12m, bottom of the shop 35m). Access is not all that easy and you have to follow the mooring line down to the wreck. It is nicely preserved and even has books and cassette tapes laying around. the ship itself is open for diving. We went in at the Deck level and my guide toured me around until we exited the bridge. Low on air, we had to go to the mast via the rope there, and up to 5 meter to do the safety stop.
Life in Malé itself during rainy season is not that special, as said. But for the tourist visiting, there still is lots to see and do. Not that I took time to do them…
Above the taxi boat I arived in, the qua and the motorcycles parked everywhere. Motorcycle to person rate must be something like 1:1, here.
As a test I bought me a small videolight at Banggood, one of my preferred suppliers from China. The light itself was quite cheap. I needed only an extra battery to be able to use it every dive and some mounting gear for the camera baseplate I created earlier. (the one that holds a Canon G12 and an action camera)
The lamp has a good spread but is only 300 lumen. Batteries last about 3 dives, the way I use it. In a continued burn it probably lasts about 1:30 hours. This is more than enough for normal use. The light also has a full-half-strobe function. You will not be able to use those settings for anything else than showing off the light.
So with all the limitations what is it good for? Well: macro and anything closer than 50 cm. The light is useful on deeper dives as well, as it helps you adding red to the subjects you are videoing. In the advertised use you see the light attached to an action camera, directly under or over the camera. That is probably the worst way to add light to your video. Be sure to spend a bit more on your light setup and add arms. The o-ring is a specially made rubber band, to be able to accommodate for the corners. I had serious doubts about the concept and I asked for a spare. The first dives in Holland went ok, with me cleaning and lubricating the ring every time I open the light. Going deeper than I normally do on my Dutch dives probably made this achilles-heel part fail.
So much for the review… I used this light on my Maldives trip and it drowned. I am not sure about the cause, but I think it must have been a defective or dirty o-ring. The light drowned on the 7th or 8th dive in the Maldives. It started flickering when I was at 20 meters, I tried to shut it down, but the electronics were already fried… and the switch stopped working. I didn’t abort my dive, and the light continued to function up to half an hour, when the battery finally gave up. This was the end of the light.
I have been using Chinese import divelights for years now. I bought my first lamp 6 years ago, after a long study on the European and American brands at that time. Most were offering Halogen or HID lights around the 400 to 800 Euro. The first LED lights were priced around that level as well. Canister lights were still not so very popular and goodman handles did not really exist.
Then the first Chinese imports started appearing. After long hesitation I finally bought me a 1200 Lumen light. Back then 1200 lumen was the absolute top. It would be like diving in daylight and the only thing I would see with that much light was baked or fried fish. True. Diving in Holland really limits the lightlevels you can be using. Normally 500 Lumen is more than you would ever need, I think. But then again, I use my light as cameralight as well.
I have been experimenting and testing my lighting setups for a few years now. I found some really cheap lights, bought them, to be used as cameralights. My MJ-850 finally quit on me, after 5 years… just before I went on my first Northsea wreckdive weekend. Bad timing. I ordered some more new Chinese lights on the spot. I needed to have them fast, because I was getting ready for my Maldives holiday as well. I now have a range of Chinese lights, including my latest addition, a new heavy duty light and a small 300 lm video light. This post is about the range I now have, how they compare and my advice on the lights.
The low end
Less than 7 USD buys you a low end 900lm light that has decent properties… and a tendency to drown when going deep. The good news: although I had 3 drownings with one of them, I was able to just dry, replace batteries and lube the o-rings… and it lived again. The light gives decent light, is easy to use although it is quite heavy to twist on and off. It has 3 settings: off, on, strobe. It also comes with a Velco wriststrap, which is of no use when you have european style wrists… or a thick divesuit/drysuit. With a small modification I use the light mainly for photography- and video-light. It can easily be fixed to my camera arms. (the lamp is light.. so no extra buoyancy stuff needed) A more extensive review will follow.
The compact, well made lamp
Just double the price of my yellow favourite is the sturdy, small backup light with an advertised 600lm. I have had this lamp on me for 25 dives as a backup. Problem with this lamp is 2-fold:
- it oscillates at about the frequency my camera uses for metering, result is many failed photo’s and bad video. (which, off course, I only discovered to be the cause after I finished diving in the Maldives)
- the on/off toggle switch switches WAY to easy. When I used this light as backup, I had several dives with a lighted BCD-pocket. The light turned on inside my jacket.
The Magicshine 810 revised edition
A divelight that has been around in several editions for over 7 years (*that I know of). The price has gone down quite dramatically and it is easily affordable as a backup while it is advertised to have 900 lumen, so no problems to use as a main lamp. I have used this light for a couple of dives, and really, this will be my travel light. It is small, light and has more than enough light in 3 dimmable settings, and strobe functions.
The 6000 Lumen for 25 USD light
Well, it was to good to be true. Off course it is no 6000 Lumen. It can be roughly 1200, if I compare it to the other lights I have, and even that might be a bit much if we are talking about measured lumen. The light has a ring switch and several good settings. It has 5 o-rings in 2 user maintained openings and a secret 3rd opening, you will only discover when the light gets flooded. Yes, this light flooded after 1 dive… I serviced the o-rings I had found… not the one I couldn’t find. The good thing, though: I get a replacement, sent to me by the Chinese trader that sold me this lamp and now I know the issue about that leaking o-ring, I am sure it will not happen again… I hope ;-].
The LM2200, heavy, sturdy
I have to confess this light still has had no logged dives with me. It is still quite expensive, but it is a different quality level as well. 1200 lumen, dimmable and battery indicator LEDs. This will be my main lamp for diving in Holland. It has a charger that plugs in to the light. The batteries cannot be removed for recharging. It comes with extra o-rings and a nice bag to transport it in. I need to build me a diffusor, off course and I need to find a way to get this attached to my vest. Looking forward to diving with this lamp.
It has been a while, but here I am again. This season I have been diving, but not blogging. However today I write again. Reason: I started a Wreckdive training and my first dive with the MV Serenity was great.
The plan was to go to the Stoomketel site, and check out the wreck there. From there to move to the SMS Bayern or one of the other wrecks. We missed our opportunity to dive on the Stoomketel site, but at least we had more than enough time to prepare for our next dive. The dive team was just 4 persons in size including the skipper (Bas), Ernie and Klaas, the experienced Northsea wreckdiver.
|On our way.. Captain Bas|
The weekend started on friday evening, for me, by packing and boarding the Serenity in Lauwersoog. It was already in the outer harbour, ready to leave. We went to the anchorspot for the night. Saving us both harbour costs and 2 hours of sailing in the morning. Ernie and I discussed the timing and the options for the dives. and we had a nice evening on the Wadden.
|Anchored at the Waddenzee|
This time I had my normal dive kit with some added features. It was my first dive with my new computer that now replaced my console. My normal divelamp had broken down when I tried it the day before, so I dove with backups. The sea was quite warm and it would be doable to use wetsuits, but I had my trusted drysuit with me. Then, off course the rest dove with simple thin protective gloves… I used my 5 mm. (I need to rethink some things… next dive I take just the protective gloves). The next thing was the SMB and a finger reel and finally for the training itself and as common practice: the big reel. 200m of 3mm cord that I was going to use. I dove with a big 15 liter Steel tank filled to 195 Bar with Nitrox 33. That should be enough for 1 hour at the depth we were going.
|Diveteam one preparing, Bas and me going second|
Our SMS Bayern was an old Vorpostenboot, the German version of converted fishing trawlers, by adding some weapons on them. This particular one was a ship built in 1930 by Frerichswerft that ran on a mine in 1940. It still is quite intact and complete for a Northsea wreck in this area.
Video from Ernie 2 weeks earlier on the same wreck:
Diving on the Bayern
Timing on going in was not difficult. We saw the current reduced to just a km/h and saw everything calming down. Then we geared up, went in and followed the line down to the wreck. I attached my reel line to the anchor point, a suitable place, only, not so handy when I returned to it later. [learning]
Moving along the wreck, we went to the front first. Criss-crossing the wreck for the best reeling experience. Visibility was quite good, with about 2-5 meters, but conditions can change quite rapidly on these wrecks. On this wreck there were lots of fish in schools we also noticed a large number of Northsea crabs, lobster and a codd. The first un-reeling was done, now it was time to reel in, again.. no trouble there, I had tention on the line when unreeling, this made for easy reeling, no finning needed, just slowly taking in line.
Upon returning at the anchor line after about 15 minutes we went towards the stern, laying out a new guideline. This time Bas, My buddy was in front of me, guiding me through (inside) the wreck. Now I needed to be careful not to trap myself in the line and to keep the dust levels low. A bit of a challenge, but great fun. We unreeled all the way to the stern and found a lot of recent netting there. This was our deepest point, 16.8 meters. Then we returned. Following the line, I tried to reenter the wreck where we exited, but found it was quite narrow so we went over the wreck instead, handing the reel around the trusses beneath us. [learning] Then, when getting back at the anchorline I noticed my guideline was underneath the line which moored the boat. The tricky part was to get the line loosened each the moment the cable slacked. This could cost a finger, or so, if not done properly. [learning] Next time I will most certainly try to find a different spot for fixing my guideline.
As we went up I noticed I had some alarms on my computer.. as we discovered, one was for my airsupply going below the 50 Bar threshold. The other one was for starting the savetystop. Dangling on the line at 6 meters we waited for a bit and then went up. Exiting was easy, the boat was a bit wobbly on the water though. The wind had started to pick up and was was diagonally on the current… which meant the small MV Serenity was catching every wave broadsided.
The dive was great. Even with just one dive, the weekend was quite an experience too. We returned to Lauwersoog Harbour, on the way back we had a great dinner, prepared by Ernie. All in all a great weekend. Thanks all!