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How to care for your underwater camera on a daily basis!

Master Divers underwater photographer, Rob Kelly provides his top tips on his daily camera care routine!

So today we were due the weekly dive report from the 1st to the 7th September 2017. Unfortunately, I have had a dilemma and my underwater camera needed some TLC, should we say plus, a lot has been going on which means I have been out of the water.

Having a faulty vacuum bulkhead on your camera housing is not always a bad thing…

For me, it meant the opportunity to spend more time with one of the most inspiring people in my Pro-diving career. The IDC Staff course with Gaz Lyden and hosted by Master Divers, gave me the chance to sit back and watch his trade craft. A holistic and genuinely person-centered approach to help candidates become the best instructors they can be.

Instructor Rob with Course Director, Gaz for IDC Staff Instructor Training

Unfortunately, without my camera I’ve been unable to continue with the weekly dive reports, showing the wonderful marine life to be seen whilst scuba diving Koh Tao.  Instead I have decided to write a little about camera housing care and maintenance; hopefully, I can help any of you interested in underwater photography, to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made. So I’ve written a brief summary of my day focusing on camera care.

I’ve heard the saying many times that if you dive long enough with an underwater camera; it’s not a case of IF you have a leak but WHEN.  I decided that I wanted to try really hard not to make this come true!  So here’s my setup and care routine.

Start: 1 hour before boat time.
  • Remove batteries from chargers and put in strobes, camera and lights.
  • Check function i.e. do they turn on.
  • Remove Housing from freshwater soak tank, dry and open.
  • Check main housing O-ring for debris i.e. dust and especially hairs, clean and re-grease if necessary.
  • Insert camera with SD card into housing.
  • Seal housing and remove air with vacuum pump.
  • Check camera function: focus, flash trigger, card reading and full battery charge.
  • Pack components into protective case.

Green is good to go Blue is vacuum pump now Red light means fail or failing Strobe arms, floats and the important camera housing

On the boat:
  • Assemble camera and floats/ strobes and arms.  Check vacuum is still holding.
  • Check all camera functions again; once you’re in the water; IT’S TOO LATE to remedy.
  • Brief groups on underwater shots, not to follow me, and that their guide or instructor is in charge.
  • Pre-dive scuba checks.
  • Jump
  • Boat crew pass the camera, final vacuum check and dive!
Water exits:
  • Pass equipment up, wash and/ or soak the camera if these facilities are available.
  • Check all camera functions.  Remedy if necessary; including batteries, SD cards.
  • Switch everything off and make sure there’s enough charge for dive 2.
After diving, I tend to head home and once there, I will:
  • Unpack everything and remove batteries from cameras, strobes and lights for charging.
  • Check and vacuum seal empty camera housing for soaking in fresh water (this helps to dissolve any salt crystals that have built up during the day)
  • Different types of diving present different cleaning issues.
  • A day in shallow bays with fine sand usually means a good deal of sand along the outer edge of the main housing O-Ring.
  • This O-Ring would then need to be removed, cleaned and re greased before soaking.  (less is more when it comes to the silicon grease used; enough to lightly coat the ring is enough)
  • For me a soak can be anywhere from 2 Hours to overnight.
  • Rinse and repeat!

My Camera Housing Extra equipment for wide and macro photography!

Just a quick word about my housing.  It didn’t leak whilst diving but I did find a small amount of water in the empty housing after an overnight soak.  To be fair, there had been some warning signs; I was having to tighten the vacuum bulkhead more and more to maintain a seal.  In fact, this part has been slightly redesigned since I first bought it, so whilst it’s having it’s annual service this month; this part will be replaced with the updated version.

I learned early on that routine and systematic checking is very much the way to go regarding underwater camera maintenance.  I found out the hard way that if you don’t check camera functions, or haven’t switched on your flash trigger or even put a battery in the wrong way round; during a dive is far too late to remedy the problem.  To be honest, it’s pretty easy to replace batteries the wrong way at 05:30 and before my first coffee!  It’s also a really simple to fix if I check everything before leaving home.

I hope this helps but if you have any underwater imaging related questions, I can be contacted on my Facebook page Ocean Secrets and I’m always happy to help where I can.  It’s also worth mentioning that you absolutely do not have to be a scuba diver to take underwater photos.  Whilst snorkeling around Koh Tao, it is possible to see and record some pretty amazing sights!

Shallow Reef whilst snorkeling in Koh Tao Turtle whilst snorkeling in Koh Tao

We’ll be back soon for some more awesome dive site reports so watch this space guys!
Rob Kelly- Ocean Secrets 




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