Increase your Photography Rig life expectancy while minimising the possibility of Disaster.
Guidance on the use of your U/W photographic rig from new season to storage
Bringing your rig out of hibernation
Leaving your rig in storage until the weekend before you want to use it, like most of us do!
Is a recipe for disaster!
You really do require plenty of time, before your diving season starts, to check your U/W photographic rig.
The start of your diving season equipment check should always be a time for extra vigilance when checking over your under water photographic system. Taking kit out of storage for a trouble free season requires a systemised approach.
When your remove your equipment from storage check first for signs of oxide blooms on metal work and fungi blooms on optics and coatings, these generally occur if kit has been put away wet or it has got damp during storage, often humidity can be enough to kick this off.
Checking over all the mechanical operations will soon tell if they are a little tight, or free and easy to use, any sprung items should return to their stop positions smartly and all should be free of any contamination, while of course looking‘just like new’…
Well, as new as when you packed it away.
Often buttons and levers will suffer from what is called ‘Stiction’ this is when the control and seal require a little more pressure first time around to get them moving again, repeating the operation and it should be easy to move.
When taking kit out of storage this is not uncommon and generally not a problem, but if this happens regularly before or on a dive, the rig is in need of some ‘care’ and possibly a service.
Remove and replace all the user serviceable ‘O’rings, these seals are under a little more pressure in situ and will oftendeform over the storage period, re-using these seals will expose you to a much higher risk of flooding your system.
It’s always a good idea to keep these seals as sacrificial for next years storage or for when you are travelling, but be sure to mark them clearly, so you don’t get them mixed up with the seals you use for diving the rig.
Check your new seals carefully before greasing with the recommended grease from your housing manufacturer, keep the grease light so the seal just looks wet and carefully close up the sealing faces as soon as the seal is in place.
If you would like to know a little more about greases
their make up and behaviour check out our report here:
Fully charge all your batteries and check their integrity and power over a few days. Replace those that do not hold their charge and all those that are not rechargeable.
Check the accessories (Clamps, brackets, cables, lighting equipment, ports, etc.) all work as they should do and check their interaction with the camera rig when it is fully assembled.
A quick warning; You should never over work the underwater flash guns or video lights when they are not in water.
Most modern equipment for illumination relies on the water to keep their systems running cooler, failure to observe this may result in permanent damage to your lighting equipment.
This is also a good time to check that all the camera functions do exactly what they should be doing, a large percentage of the housing controls rely on a friction drive interface, these are normally made from a rubber pad of some sort.
All rubbers have a life span and checking that each operation works reliably before going diving will save you a lot of heartache.
After taking your rig diving
You know that rinsing, when you have access to a fresh water supply, is the best way to keep your housing functioning every time you dive.
This is best practice and always the easiest way to keep your system clean and trouble free, but so often this process is not carried out as efficiently as you think.
The rinse tank placed on the deck of a dive boat will become more salty the more it’s used and certain conditions, hot, windy or both, may result in the tank becoming ‘super saturated’ with salt, this will cause the salt crystals to attach themselves directly onto anything put into the tank.
Plus you have the added risk of some numpty plopping their weight belt on top of your expensive camera rig!
The easiest and most secure method is to have your own personal rinse tank!
Using a waterproof bag (e.g. a cooler bag) big enough to take your rig still set up, is the ideal solution and it really doesn’t matter if the water is fresh or salty!
The big secret is ….. “Keep the rig wet until you can get to a clean fresh water rinse.”
It’s only when the water evaporates that salt crystals are left, so as long as they stay in solution you can rinse them away with fresh water.
Obviously don’t reuse your personal rinse tank without changing the water every few dunks or it will end up just like theboat’s on deck communal rinse tank! You can use the water you have been diving in, if no clean fresh water is available.
If you are shore diving or have no space for your personal rinse tank, then use a wet micro fleece towel, wrap it around your rig and pop it all into a big a plastic bag, then seal it so no water escapes.
Don’t Forget you are only preventing the evaporation process from occurring before you can get your equipment to a clean fresh water rinse.
This works with all of your diving kit not just the photographic rig!
The cleaning of salt, sand or grit from behind the buttons on your U/W rig is always a great source of concern and one of the most common questions we get asked about.
The action of any hard material behind the button head is going to be abrasive, so either the ‘O’-ring seal or the button shaft are going to get damaged first.
Which of those, depends entirely on where the offensive material is sitting when you push the button head in.
So how can you avoid any damage to the button assembly?
Fortunately while the equipment is being dived the area most at risk is flooded with water and the material is easily moved as you depress the button……..so when you are under water you would be really unlucky to damage the button assembly due to sand or grit, salt is not an issue while it’s dissolved in solution.
It’s obviously possible that a large piece of sand or grit could get wedged and cause damage, but the entry tolerance around the button head should reduce this risk greatly.
This poses yet another problem. With tight tolerances between the button head and the button seat, it becomes a lot more difficult to rinse effectively beneath the button head.
But this cleaning process is imperative to avoid the salt crystallising onto the button shaft or seal and causing damage to the seal or shaft next time you use the equipment and push that button.
The simple solution to this problem is to rinse all the salt water out and off your U/W rig before the salt starts to crystallise.
If you would like to know a little more about salt water
and the damage it does to your kit check out the post here:
How to I change Batteries, Cards or Lenses if I need to keep my rig wet?
It’s always best practice to plan your day to eliminate entirely or at least minimise the number of times you need to disassemble your rig.
I guess you are already aware that the process of breaking open a rig, is probably the most risky part of any U/W photographers day.
Always find a quite place where nobody will interrupt you, or drip into your housing!
The dripping of water into your housing, from you or somebody else wanting to see what you’re doing, probably causes more internal breakdowns than any other faults on U/W camera systems!
The Seven Rules for breaking open your rig between dives!
Rule #1 is make sure you are dry, before even thinking about opening up your rig.
Rule #2 is to make sure your rig is as dry as possible, but without drying out the buttons!
Nobody said this was easy!
Rule #3 When breaking open the rig make sure anything you put down is on a very clean and lint free surface.
Rule #4 Always replace the Battery, Card or Lens as quickly and efficiently as possible, so make sure they are ready before breaking open the housing.
Rule #5 Check the exposed ‘O’-rings for contamination and clean if necessary. Then reassemble the rig as efficiently as possible.
Rule #6 Check you have sealed everything and it operates as it should.
Rule #7 Put the rig into your rinse tank and check thoroughly for any signs of water ingress or bubbles streaming out, then keep it wet before taking it diving.
If during the process of setting up your rig, opening it during a session or when checking it you notice any deformation of the seals, or if you think you may have accidentally caught or pinched a seal, change it immediately!
Don’t risk it!
You can always check it later when you have more time.
Just closing up a casing or battery cap slightly out of ‘square’ will often produce stress induced deformities that can be difficult to see, but still enough to cause a flood.
The risk of a damaged seal causing a leak is not worth the ruined dive, ruined kit, wrecked trip or destroyed holiday.!
Yet another set of reasons you really must find a place where you will not be disturbed when setting up your rig.
If you would like to know a little more about ‘O’-rings
their make up and behaviour check out our report here:
Traveling with kit.
Your travel will be much easier if you have a fixed routine with all parts of your system and have methods of packing wether you are driving, flying, sailing or even travelling by train or coach. The most restrictive travel for luggage is by air, so the following is mainly focused on this.
The rules and restrictions in weight and size are often very different between airlines and especially on forwarding journeys.
So we have all developed our own way of packing kit for travel to cope with the limits on luggage that are constantly changing. But a few things that commonly cause problems, may be worth thinking about to make your trip less hassle and less risky to your valuable kit.
Closing hosings so they are sealed for travel is never a great idea, pressure differences between departure and destination can vary enough to make opening your housing almost impossible or the reverse, where it pops open too quickly causing you to drop it or damage something!
Always leave a sealed unit with a free passage of air between the inside and outside to avoid these problems, but never leave an ‘O’-ring seat unprotected from rubbing against a hard surface, this can lead to irreparable damage.
Optics should be covered and preferably facing into the centre of the bag or case, always ensure you also apply the rear cap, or protect this area from impact, crush or scratching.
It is usually recommended that batteries of any type should be carried out of the equipment and in such a way that it’s impossible for any contacts to short.
Using electrical tape to cover these is easy to do and placing batteries in a sealed plastic bag adds to the security.
Some battery manufactures supply plastic boxes specifically for their battery, this is usually the best choice.
Cleaning fluids are always a cause for concern, so if you need to take these with you, make sure they are not flammable, only carry small amounts and they must be clearly labelled.
It is also prudent to put these deep inside your packaging, placed into a soft case packed inside the main housing is what many of our customers recommend.
When packing cables for flashguns whether wired or fibre it’s best to not ‘over bend’ them. Fibre cables are more susceptible to physical damage through ‘over bending’ so using the empty inside of an SLR housing will give a gentle enough radius not to damage these fibre cables.
Wired cables generally have fewer problems, unless the wire where it enters the connector is severely stressed.
All the arms, brackets, flip lenses, etc………. can if necessary, be wrapped in plastic bags and carefully secreted in with your clothing bags, it’s rare to find damaged arms etc. that have been packed around the edges of luggage bags that have been placed in the hold.
A question we often get is about the protection of memory cards and damage caused to data by airport scanners.
This is not based on fact as memory cards for cameras, phones etc. are all ‘Non-magnetic memory carriers’ and therefore cannot be damaged by static magnetic fields.
However electro static discharges, can effect all your electronics, you probably remember as a child rubbing your shoes across the carpet and touching a door handle to produce a shock.
The best description I have heard is to think of this as a tiny ‘bolt of lightening’.
There are a few postal carriers that use a ‘cleansing scanner’ that uses such a charge but these are not used in places where people travel, it takes out all electronic devices!
It’s normally best to carry the camera, lenses and memory cards with you and not in a bag, extra lenses will usually fit in pockets!
Or in your carry on / cabin bag.
Storing your Rig at the close of season
This is the time to review your dive logs to see how many ‘bad dives’ your rig has been on, how many rib rides, how many heavy current or cloudy sediment dives it has suffered for you.
Each ‘BAD’ dive (Bounced-Abused-Dinked) increases the likelihood that a professional service may be required.
It’s obviously better to get that done sooner rather than leave it until the start of the next season!
If you would like a copy of the
‘Good Dive – Bad Dive’
Check list, check out our pdf & download here:
The end of your diving season is the time for a full thorough check on all the workings of your housing with extravigilance on the condition of all the moving parts.
Are they a little tight or free and easy to use, any sprung items should return to their stop positions smartly.
All the controls, buttons, levers inside and out should be free of any contamination and look clean.
Cleaning and checking all your ‘O’-ring seals and corresponding seal seats is a good idea before storage, any contamination could cause surface degradation over the storage period.
All optics need to be very clean and very dry, it’s always a great idea to use a drying agent in a bag with each piece of optical equipment.
If any damp is allowed to contaminate your valuable kit, then on most optics it will show as fungal growths and this will normally result in damaged coatings, in the case of a camera lens it will often render it beyond economical repair.
The fixtures and fittings all need to be removed from the casings and will usually require cleaning along with a light lubrication. But leaving them assembled will probably result in them corroding ‘together forever’.
Accessories like flashguns or video lamps need careful inspection.
Extra care should be taken over examination of the connection pins, cables and attachments, as the extra power transferred through these points will destroy them more quickly if corroded or damaged.
While not forgetting the battery pack or batteries and the lamp’s internal battery contacts, they are also vulnerable to contamination along with the battery cap contacts.
Batteries need to be put away in the best condition possible, some batteries need charging fully while others are best left charged partially at a set percentage.
In most cases all the batteries should be removed and stored so they cannot short between each other or any metal objects.
Separate and store them so that if they do leak during storage it doesn’t effect or contaminate anything else nearby.
Checking the state of each battery and power output will give you a good idea of those that will need replacing before the season kicks off again.
If you are using a large plastic case to store your rig, ensure you have enough drying agent to keep the sponge from contaminating the rest of your equipment.
If your casing foam smells even ‘slightly musty’ remove it all and wash it thoroughly until the smell has gone, also check any material left around the case edging.
Then dry it out completely before using it as storage.
Or just replace the foam insert if necessary.
Material covered wood separators are difficult to clean and best disinfected and left to dry completely before re-fitting.
Finally find somewhere where the kit is accessible, but not in the way.
Preferably in a dry and dark location.
If you are not storing the rig in a big black case, ensure it is not subjected to natural UV or any fluorescent lighting, either will degrade any rubber in your rig.
Also keep away from petrochemical vapours.
Don’t forget to mark your diary to inspect your stored batteries in a few months and book enough time off to check your rig thoroughly, well before you want to start diving again.
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