Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Just add water

Lately I have been taking most of my surf photos from the beach.  I have a GoPro which I used for water shots, but apart from being very easy to handle and carry around, the wide angle lens requires one to be very close to the surfers.  For wave photography that is not a problem and actually quite comfortable to carry around and diving through the waves with little effort, but I wanted to do better surf photography and ended up getting myself a water housing for my Canon 7D.  The housing I bought is a local brand from Brother Housings based in Durban.  I cannot really compare it with other water housings as I have not really used anything to compare it with.  So this is an actual first experience report on using a water housing and specifically the Brother Housing. I will make a few comparisons with the Go Pro as well.

The housing itself feels quite sturdy.  I have always been very skeptic about any water housing and the damage it might cause to the camera, especially an expensive DSLR in sea water. The first day I tied a weight to it and left it in the pool overnight to see if it might leak.  It passed my pool tests, but I guess when one gets hit by waves it might be a different story.  Well after yesterday's shoot and having to do quite a few duck dives, everything still seems to be fine. 

I found the housing and camera very heavy to carry around in the water, especially compared to a GoPro. I stayed in for about an hour and after the session it felt like my right had was numb and cramping at the same time. It does float however, so that takes off some of the weight, but I also reckon that the way I clamped it out of fear of losing it in he water, contributed to the cramping. My biggest problem was aiming. I seem to get a better aim with a Gopro so I realized that I have to find the correct angle to get what I actually was hoping to capture in my shot. That I guess will sort itself out with more practice.

The one problem that does not seem to go away is water droplets on the lens. I know all the tricks about keeping your lens clean but even here water spoiled many of my shots. I was shooting against the setting sun which highlighted the spots even more. Due to the size of the lens compared to GoPro's lens it does appear much smaller though, but it is still a nuisance.

I was also quite amazed at how the Canon handled the changing light.  The Brother Housing does not allow setting changes once it is inside, so you have to choose your settings before you go into the water and hope the camera makes good choices. I was shooting in Manual mode at 1/800 sec, f/8 and auto ISO. I am quite pleased at how the camera adapted against the sun with basically having all the surfers in the shadow of the wave. In brighter daylight I will go for a faster shutterspeed to avoid the bit of blur.

I think one good thing about using a housing is that it makes you look more professional.  Surfers tend to be much more accommodating when they see a dude with a real housing in the water compared to a GoPro. I love it when guys see you and come closer hoping to give you a nice shot or two. 

Below are some of my shots.  As can expected I am very stoked about my first session. My next comparison will be between shooting in the water and shoot from land. For more images please visit my Facebook Page.