New ‘Used Gear’ Page

Used gear page screenshot

I found out today some of my colleagues are already creating their Christmas lists! If you are super organised too you should buy one of my Nikon lenses for your Nikon-using loved ones (this includes yourself – you know you want to)!

I’ve put all the details & photos on this page here:

These are all my own Nikon lenses. In perfect condition, the only reason they are for sale is that I’m swapping away from Nikon. I’m even selling my complete underwater housing, with Nikon D300 camera & lens.

So go on! See if there is anything from my list you’d like to get your hands on today!

Underwater off-camera flash

Whilst in Cayman I got to play with one of my new toys, an off camera flash set up a-la Alex Mustard. It was so much fun I thought I’d share here with you.

Alex in the Ghannis D Engine room, Red Sea 2010

The Why
In normal underwater photography our flash comes from the front/top (since the strobes are attached to our cameras) and we have to be quite close to the subject being lit. Off camera flash allows us unusual and creative lighting choices.

The What
The basic premise is to have a flash on your camera rig at minimum power and a slave flash off on a tripod with a slave sensor to trigger the flash when the one on your camera goes off. I have two Inon Z240 strobes so I left one on my camera and stuck one on the tripod (unfortunately I forgot my tripod but Alex kindly loaned me his). The tripod is one of the joby gorillapod plastic tripods. Mine is the small mobile one (which I’m now not sure will be big enough) but the one I borrowed was the slightly bigger chunky one. Screwed onto the tripod was an ultralight ballhead that allowed me to use my ultralight strobe clamps to attach my strobe to it. I got Peter Ladell to make me a flash trigger (the same spec as Alex’s). It has a nikonos connector so it can just connect straight into my Inon with a the normal flash sync cord I’d use on my housing. It has quite a nice long lead and made longer by the sync cord. Perfect for being able to hide the strobe in a rocky outcrop of bit of wreck whilst still be able to have the sensor facing you to catch the main strobe light. Attached to the tripod with cable ties is a weight (the same type as you’d put on your weight belt, I think this was 1 or 2 lbs). The tripod is plastic (so floats) and the strobe is neutral so the weight is essential for its centre of gravity.

I had a little play around with it in the pool in Cayman to check it was working and try and gauge the range of the sensor. I could basically go to the other end of the pool and it still fired (although I had to turn up my strobe slightly for it to catch). Also, I knew I’d blog about my findings and I wanted a photo that showed the set up.

The Experience

I’d been on dives with Alex when he’d been playing with his set up (he’d set up the strobe and we’d take turns in modelling) – see the shots above from Ghannis D in the Red sea. Admittedly we’d been inside wrecks or beneath under-hangs so I think that must be the key – no current what so ever, otherwise it just falls over. My buddy Kay and I took mine for two test dives in Cayman to have a play and it was more difficult that I thought it would be – although Alex does have a nasty habit of making things look effortless ;).

I found it annoying to swim with the strobe/tripod and camera, it meant that both my arms were busy (so equalizing on the way down was a pain) and taking photos without putting it down was out of the question. I think in future I’ll rig it so I can clip it onto myself somewhere and be tight to my body so it won’t dangle down if I’m photographing something else.

Also, I think Alex’s Strobe outputs much more light than mine, even at full power the Inon didn’t quite cut it in the same fashion. Where Alex’s strobe would light up a whole person we had to get so close to mine that the light would only fall on our heads. We had a play in a small crack in the rocks where we could hide the light somewhat with the idea of shooting ourselves against the blue but some of the local lionfish came to join the fun, that seemed to be about the right size subject for the inon Z240 so we concentrated on them. By the time four of them arrived I wondered how I was going to get my strobe back without getting my hand stung! As a side note I can’t believe how many and how big the lionfish in Cayman have got since last year! No wonder they are being caught and served as Tacos.

All in all it was good fun but I need a lot more practice!

Feel free to add your comments below 🙂

How to set up a Subal ND30 – Part three – 105 VR lens

Following on from the how to set up a subal housings parts one and two, part three is just a quick update really..

I have the Subal 105 VR port with manual adjuster knob (for use with the new Nikon 105 VR lens). The port comes with some instructions which I pretty much followed to the letter but here are some brief observations.

  • It turns the opposite way to the 60mm flat port!
  • It uses a slightly thicker oring, be very careful not to mix up your orings. I keep all mine in little resealable sandwich bags with the port size written on the front.
  • You have to attach the lens after the camera is in the housing (because the lens is too fat to fit through the back way). I keep the camera body cap handy so I don’t get any stray dust in my camera whilst I’m fiddling with my housing before I fit the lens.
  • Make sure the lens itself is switched to M/A unless you want to manual focus for the whole dive! As you put the port on its easy to knock that little switch so care is needed.

How to set up the Subal ND30 – Part two – Strobes

As promised this is the long overdue second section about how I personally set up my Subal ND30 (underwater housing for the Nikon D300). I have two Inon Z-240 type 3 strobes and sea-and-sea sync cords. This is how I put mine together. Other makes might be different so you should ask the advice of your dealer. Remember I’m still just a beginner and these instructions are mostly my aid-memoir.

Strobe sync cords.

To connect the strobe to the housing you need a strobe sync cord (or two). I have two different ones depending on if I’m using one strobe or two, but essentially they have the same method to attach.

The small end goes in the camera and the big end into the strobe.

Attaching the sync cord to the camera housing:

1) Take the plastic cover off the small end (and keep it handy)

2) Put the metal ring back on flat side first (I learned the hard way not he leave these metal rings on for storage, mine got salted on and took 3 burly men and a wrench to get it off again).

3) Grease the little blue oring

4) Take the stopper out from one of the flash ports on the housing.

5) The pins go in a certain pattern inside the port and the sync cord so line it up by twisting until it drops into place them push in firmly.

6) Screw the back part of the sync cord (not the metal ring) to tighten

7) Now screw the metal ring for extra tightness.

8) Take the plastic cover and port cover and screw together so they protect each other and stow somewhere safe and out of the way.

Attaching the sync cord to the strobe(s):

1) Take the plastic cover off the large end (and keep it handy)

2) Grease the little blue oring

3) Take the little plastic cover from the sync port on the strobe

4) Line up the little pins and holes in the sync cord and port (mine has a little yellow dot to line up too)

5) Once its dropped into place push down firmly and screw into place.

6) Screw the two little plastic covers together so they protect each other and stow somewhere safe.

I have one single cord for a single strobe and one splitter cord for two strobes so I only ever use one port on my housing. Don’t make the same expensive mistake I made, make sure you grease the orings on the port stopper for the unused port because if the water gets in your port will go rusty and need replacing! If you use two single sync cords I guess you wouldn’t get this problem anyway. When my port when rusty the first I knew about it was when my strobes were behaving very erratically, they were firing seemingly at random and wouldn’t stop for a while after I pressed the shutter, this didn’t happen during my test shots in the hotel, it happened on the dive because the housing was wet and the cord was shorting. I thought my camera was broken! Luckily it all went back to normal after we unplugged the affected strobe port from the little circuit board inside the housing.

See the original post for instructions on how to put together the main subal housing back and 60mm lens port and tokina 10-17 fisheye port.

see part three coming soon for 105VR lens…

Good news and bad news.

Which first? Well the bad news is that I’ve busted my housing already! The good news is I got to go and check out Ocean Optics new store in Basildon.

To all those with ND30s who only use one strobe port. Make sure you grease the Orings and tighten the port cover of the unused side before diving and flooding the port 😦 Its gone all rusty inside and my strobes were behaving most strangely until I unplug the affected port from the inside electronics.

I’ve taken my baby up to Ocean Optics  so that they can fix it. It’s always worth going to see them in person because they are such great people. Their shop used to be in the Strand (which was great for me since I live in central London) but they’ve expanded out to include the use of the underwater studios at Basildon. They have a great looking deep pool that is heated to almost 30 degrees. Now it’s a tube, a train and a bus to get there but it was worth the trip as I feel my housing is in the best care. Fingers crossed I get it back before our next trip!

How to set up a Subal ND30

I’ve written this how to guide-to get primarily for my own use as an ad memoir but I thought I’d post it here in case anyone else is having trouble. When I took my subal to Cebu, Martin Edge had to show me everything. So I’ve jotted it down here from what I can remember. This is my disclaimer.. these are my own personal notes so if you chose to use them and your camera floods please don’t blame me.

EDIT: One piece of info that I forgot to mention (thanks for pointing that out Peter). I always take the strap, the little rubber eye piece and plastic LCD screen cover off the camera before putting it in the housing. The little eye piece should just click off if you push it upwards. Apparently the pressure caused by these things can cause a flood.

I have a 60 macro flat port lens and a fisheye (with gear & extension ring) for my Tokina. This is how I set them up. I may update this account with pictures in June so take this as an initial draft.

Firstly, make sure you’re in a nice dry environment (I always did this in my room at Cebu). And make sure no one will interrupt you otherwise you’ll end up missing a step and flooding it 😦

Back of housing:

  • Open Subal housing with heal of hand, push down & twist (this is how I do it because I haven’t the strength in my thumbs).
  • Take out baseplate and attach it to the camera (by the tripod screw slot) with a coin
  • Drape flash head over the edge of the housing
  • Turn Subal Housing on/off switch to ‘On’
  • Of the two knobs on the left hand side – switch the larger one to auto focus, Flick the smaller button up to ‘M’ for Manual Focus
  • Switch the camera to manual focus
  • Switch the camera on and remove the lens cap!
  • Place camera into housing (on baseplate spokes) & flick down baseplate switch to secure
  • Put flash head into hotshoe on camera and make sure its pushed in firmly until flush with the hotshoe
  • Test switches (on/off & turn focus to C or S)
  • To remove the o-ring, run thumbs over main o-ring until it pops out at the bottom or top.
  • Clean the groove with a cotton bud
  • Clean & slightly grease o-ting & check for little bits of grit or hairs or anything that might cause a leak!
  • Place o-ring back into the groove at the top & push gently into place with thumbs
  • Wait a few moments to make sure the o-ring doesn’t pop back out at the bottom (Ive seen this happen and it causes a leak if you don’t notice this)
  • Clean the lid of any grime & place in position
  • Click into place with two clips (with palm of hand or knuckles or thumbs)

Front of the housing:

A flat port (like the 60mm macro port) is easier to put on before inserting the camera. A dome pot (like the Tokina fisheye) or a port for a lens that needs gears is possibly easier to put in place with the camera already inside.

60mm macro flat port

o Lightly greasy o-ring.

o Place back onto port by thumbing the o-ring back into the groove rather than stretching the o-ring back over (they stretch eventually anyway & need replacing).

o Hold the port so that the subal logo is at the nine o’clock position

o Place the port onto the housing & turn until you feel it drop into place

o Then push down hard & twist until locked into place (the Subal logo should now be at 12 o’clock at the top of the housing all being well)

Fisheye for Tokina

o Put camera into housing (as described above)

o Put the extension ring onto the front of the housing (follow the instructions for the 60mm macro port above)

o Place the gear ring inside the housing onto the lens. Push it down into a position so that the teeth of the gear turn when the side knob is set to manual focus (this autofocus/manual focus knob is misleadingly named in this case. I am using the lens on auto focus but the manual focus level is zooming my lens for me).

o Once you can turn the lens with the knob you know the gear is on correctly.

o Grease the o-ring of the fisheye port.

o On mine there is no subal logo to line up but when properly attached the larger shades on the port should be at the top & bottom. So put the large shades at 9 o’clock & twist until it drops into place. The push hard & twist until the shades are at the top & bottom. One thing to note, be careful when twisting these that the extension ring is still locked into place with the logo at the top (and not twisting with the fisheye).

Ta da! Now go and watch for bubbles in the dunk tank before taking it diving! And try not to leave it unattended.

EDIT: see other posts in my ‘Subal Housing How To’ category for strobes, 105 VR lens and any additional updates… here