A Guide to Underwater Wildlife Video & Editing: Part 3

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Read Part 2 here.

A part serialisation of a book by Jeff Goodman

PART 3: Monitors – Leaks

Monitors

Which ever housing you finally decide on, it is important you have a good clear view of the image you are trying to video. Some housings are a whole lot better at providing this than others. Make sure you can see the camera monitor with ease.

The alternative to seeing the actual camera monitor is to have an additional external monitor, in its own housing, fitted to the top of your camera housing. This for me is the best option of all as it allows me to angle the monitor in all directions and so I see exactly what I am filming at all times, no matter in what strange position I find myself when trying to get close to a subject.

Leaks

I previously mentioned the dreaded ‘L’ word. It happens. It happens to us all sooner or later. That cold sweat and feeling of sheer panic as you realise there is water inside the housing. How much?…..Is it on the camera?…….Is the shoot over?……..etc, etc, etc.

The acrylic housings let you see any water in the housing where as the metal ones don’t. One way around this is to fit a water or ‘leak’ detector to the interior of the housing. This is simply two electrical contacts that make a circuit when touching even a small amount of water. The completed circuit then sounds off an alarm buzzer and signals to you there is water in your housing. When you hear the buzzer, don’t panic right away. Hold the housing upside down and look into the port.  If there is no water on the inside then it may just be a faulty circuit. If there is water then good luck!

There are ways of minimising potential leaks:

  • Make sure all o-rings are free from grit and dirt. Grease carefully the o-rings that need it with silicone .The newer orange types require no grease. Make sure any o-rings are seated firmly in their groove
  • Check the battery in the leak detector by licking your finger and making a circuit across the contacts.
  • Make sure all the housing clasps are done up firmly but not over tight as this can reduce the effectiveness of the o-ring.
  • Do a quick ‘dunk’ test before getting in the water.
  • Once in, take a minute to check there are no small bubbles coming from the housing showing water is getting in. (At the same time be sure to wipe all exterior bubbles off the port before you start filming,)

Checking for leaks

Dealing with a leak

Electronics and salt water, any water in fact, do not go well together. There are occasions, when, if the camera is not powered up, that circuit boards can be dried, and occasionally, if water has not penetrated the interior of the lens elements then they can also be dried and cleaned.  But it’s very iffy.  If it’s a full flood and total immersion, then forget it. Contact your insurance.

With the housings it is slightly different. If the housing is electronic then circuit boards will have to be cleaned and washed with specialist electronics cleaner. It is always a good idea if you can, to have spare circuit boards just in case. With manual control housings there is no problem. Simply take it completely apart and wash it out thoroughly with fresh water. Dry it, grease the o-rings, clean the port and put it back together. Good as new.

Before putting your camera back in, give the empty housing a ‘dunk’ test just to make sure that what ever caused the leak in the first place has now been cured.

Just a few words on o-rings. Over greasing can reduce the effectiveness of the o-ring. Old and pitted o-rings are a leak waiting to happen. O-rings are quite inexpensive so don’t be too thrifty. Keep an eye on them and keep them in good condition. If you are not using your housing for long periods, then take out the o-rings and put them in a plastic bag so they remain in good shape.

Next time we look at tool kits and spares and housing buoyancy.

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is the Conservation editor and also the Underwater Videography Editor for Scubaverse.com. Jeff is an award winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

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