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Getting started: drysuit or camera first?

Discussion in 'Tips & Techniques' started by wnissen, Oct 13, 2020.

  1. wnissen

    wnissen ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Livermore, Calif.
    Hi All,
    I wanted to get to a decent number of dives before starting down the path of underwater photography, and I'm finally at the point where I feel comfortable in the water and ready to start taking pictures. The issue is that I mainly dive in Monterey, where the water is around 54F / 12C year round. I currently have an 8/7mm semi-dry that keeps me comfortable on 95% of dives, but on the few dives where I've hung out for periods instead of swimming continuously I have started to get cold.

    So that means getting a drysuit is necessary for getting a camera, but which do I train on first? I could see it going either way. What do folks think? I didn't find any previous threads.
    Esprise Me and Rose Robinson like this.
  2. Rose Robinson

    Rose Robinson Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: British Columbia
    Hi wnissen,

    Well you can't take photos with a dry-suit, and a camera won't keep you warm, and you need to be warm consistently to do what you want to do.

    My choice would be the dry-suit, choose carefully, there are lots of pitfalls, with the primary one being proper fit.

    If you normally wear ''large'', don't let yourself be talked into XL, because the ''large'' inseam is too short. if this happens to be the case, and I only use it as an example, the XL will be far too big for you, and over-bulk will trap air, and cause you no end of buoyancy problems.

    Again as an example, you would need a large-Tall.

    Best of luck in your choice.

  3. Zef

    Zef Divemaster

    How is your photography out of the water with regards to things like composition, light balance, etc.? If your photography on land is can use improvement then I would recommend against investing time and money into underwater photography gear...

    ...get the drysuit, learn how to dive it proficiently, work on photography skills out of the water and when the time is right with your dive skills and your photography skills you will then be able to progress more comfortably to in-water photography.

    Even if your underwater photography skills are up to snuff, I would still recommend going with the drysuit, as learning to dive proficiently with a drysuit will pay dividends on comfort and your ability to capture well composed images.

    laikabear, rob.mwpropane and lowwall like this.
  4. MaxBottomtime

    MaxBottomtime Divemaster

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Torrance, CA
    Definitely get a drysuit first. More than half of the underwater photos from the West Coast of North America are macro. Visibility is often too poor for wide angle and there is plenty to see in the way of small invertebrates. You will find yourself composing a shot, repositioning yourself, your camera, or your subject, and taking several images without moving for quite a while. You will get very cold while being motionless in a wetsuit.
  5. Esprise Me

    Esprise Me Kelp forest dweller Staff Member ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Los Angeles, CA
    Another vote for drysuit first. It'll extend your dive season and make it more comfortable and fun. Plus, the basic skills like buoyancy you're continuing to work on are relevant to photography. So it's not like this will be time lost toward your photo game; you'll just be starting farther ahead when you get that camera.
    laikabear likes this.
  6. wnissen

    wnissen ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Livermore, Calif.
    Wow, this is really making me question Scubaboard's reputation for a place that can argue about anything! :wink:

    @Rose Robinson , I have kind of a funny body shape, I always joke that I am built like a tiny, overweight T-Rex. So I was going made-to-measure, and have been avidly reading the various drysuit threads.
    @Zef , the more I shoot, the more I am convinced of the old saw that poor photographers talk about cameras, mediocre ones about lenses, and good ones about light. The closest I've come to nature photography is my kid's soccer team, took about 10K exposures in a season and I think I've developed enough of an eye that I could take adequate pictures with any reasonable setup. I will get training in both drysuit and "underwater imaging", but it probably wouldn't hurt to take a general photography class as well.
    @MaxBottomtime , I am definitely interested in macro first, I really love all the nudibranchs, soft coral, etc. So I assume most of the time I will be hovering nearby a nearly stationary object. Someday I hope to be able to capture a kelp cathedral that looks like I remember them, but for the moment macro is going to be plenty.
    @Esprise Me , I do dive here year round already, but there certainly are days when the breeze is blowing that I really wish I had a warm coat. Your idea that I won't be putting myself behind makes a lot of sense.
    Rose Robinson and Esprise Me like this.
  7. rob.mwpropane

    rob.mwpropane Contributor

    Drysuit. Hands down. You would have probably gotten there anyway in 54f water, might as well be warmer sooner.

    And the SI in a drysuit is worlds better than being in a wetsuit. That alone is almost worth it. I do not miss being cold and shivering when cleaning everything up at the end either.
  8. lexvil

    lexvil Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: jamestown, ca.
    Well let me scubaboard you, I think you should get the camera first, if you get the suit you’ll be so happy with your dives you’ll just enjoy diving and you’ll keep pushing the camera further out.

    If you buy the camera first you’ll find your dives will be 30% shorter because as you slow down and look for little critters you’ll freeze and get right on the drysuit buy!

    Monterey so rarely offers much more than macro opportunities, you how excited we get when viz is over 20ft.

    You need to decide if you’re going to be a photographer that dives or a diver that takes pictures.
    rob.mwpropane likes this.
  9. Marie13

    Marie13 Great Lakes Mermaid ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Great Lakes
  10. Chris Ross

    Chris Ross Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Sydney Australia
    I'd vote for drysuit first - you need to get it trimmed out so you can remain stable and sort issues you might have with it. I'm sure you are aware of the potential for the air to all go to your legs and the need to deal with this. I find that in UW photo sessions I tend to keep my legs up to keep them off the reef and this can catch you out at times with your legs getting buoyant and this is in a neoprene suit which is less prone to this problem. I'm thinking I'll maybe get gaiters to prevent the problem. Made to measure makes a lot of sense particularly if you are not a standard size.

    Having said all that I started in wetsuits and got my camera in very quickly afterwards and have been shooting for a number of years and only recently got a drysuit for winter and I leapt straight in with camera when the drysuit arrived. If you are fairly new to diving I would do a few dives in a drysuit before hopping in with a camera.

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