Diving and taking photos at the bell on the Typo wreck 180′ deep in 40F water (Photo Credit: Mel Clark)
Quite a few people have asked about the equipment needed to safely dive and photograph wrecks that are 200 feet deep in 38-40F water at the bottom and with reasonably long (75-90 minute) decompression obligations. This post lists some of the equipment that I relied on during my trip.
Note: I’m not paid by any of these companies but I use their products on a regular basis.
Anytime you dive in cold water with a rebreather, drysuit and undergarments, and a camera system you are guaranteed to have a sh*t-ton of gear. On this trip, I had about 175 pounds of equipment in total:
- Rebreather in Pelican Case = 54 lbs
- Drysuit, undergarment, boots, 2 x 6 cu ft Drysuit tanks = 29 lbs (shipped via UPS in advance)
- Duffel bag with clothes (minimal) and scuba gear = 68 lbs
- Backpack with batteries, computers, Nauticam wet lens, etc = 25 lbs
There are different ways to travel with that much gear, but if you want to dive with a camera on a rebreather in cold water, there aren’t many ways to reduce the weight.
This is obviously one of the top concerns for any diver in cold water, but especially for dives involving decompression. If you get cold or if your drysuit floods, you cannot just surface and end the dive. If you do, depending upon the amount of decompression obligation, you could be severely injured, paralyzed, or die. Therefore, your equipment needs to work well (i.e., not flood) and to keep you warm enough.
Drysuit – My favorite drysuit and the one I used on this trip is the TNT Pro by SF Tech. It is a trilaminate suit with a full kevlar exterior which means that it is “bombproof” and also has an extra warmth factor compared to a regular trilam suit.
Undergarments – For “normal” Southern California dives I’ve been using Fourth Element Arctic undergarments. I sometimes get a bit cold and decided that they wouldn’t be warm enough in the cold of the Lake Huron. I ended up buying a Halo 3D and I’m really glad I did. When we had a cold upwelling, I used it in SoCal and it worked great to keep me warm here as well. It is a bit “bulky” and it required a couple extra pounds of lead, but I really like the Halo 3D. I also had Bare base layer pants.
Dry Gloves – I have skinny wrists with tendons that “stick up” and create a gap so my wrist seals will leak water so I use Rolock 90 Dry Gloves. I had considered using heated gloves but decided against it due to the complexities. I’m happy with my decision and my hands got a bit cold but were okay once I got to shallower deco stops.
Hood – I used a Bare 9mm drysuit hood. I got the “ice cream headache” at the start of the dive but the thick hood fit well and did it’s job.
Heat – I used the Venture Heat 40W Pro heated vest. I could not have done these dives without heat. I really like this heated vest.
Camera & Housing – I have a Sony a6400 camera and a Nauticam NA6400 housing. The Nauticam housings are rock-solid, seal reliably, and are rated to 100m / 330 feet. They also have great ergonomics.
Lens – Most of my photography is wide angle to capture wrecks. I have two wide-angle setups. The first is with the Sony 10-18mm lens and a Nauticam 6″ acrylic dome. I prefer the “look” of this combination but traveling with it is a bit harder due to the dome. For this trip, I used the “kit” 16-50 lens with the excellent Nauticam WWL-C wet wide-angle conversion lens.
Lights – I still haven’t mastered strobe photography so I “cheat” and use video lights. I use Big Blue lights and had two CB15000P lights and two VTL8000 lights. Mel also uses Big Blue and she had two 15k lumen lights as well. I personally prefer the more natural light from the “warm -white CB lights compared to the “white” light from so other video lights. Most photos were taken with the CB15000 lights.