2014.07.27

Surfing nightsurfing Scripps La Jolla San Diego stealth mission
Appropriation

One morning whilst enjoying my oatmeal I decided to check on the going rate on an underwater housing for my d700. My slr has been around for awhile, and you'd think either:
I was almost completely wrong. There were quite a few full-price new housings and not many used rigs. The best place to find used gear ended up being forums on sites like wetpixel. People here were, however, either selling used stuff at 90% of the original purchase price or only dumping their entire $4000 investment (camera, strobes, pelican case. etc.).

Ikelite 6812 underwater housing flash Nikon D700

But I did find one. The Ikelite 6812.7. For it I picked up lens ports that would work for my 20mm and 50mm and an old Ikelite strobe (don't need super electronics yet).

I'm enthusiastic about taking it on a dive but - more pressingly - it's July, the water is warm, and I haven't done nightsurfing in forever.
Preparation


This was potentially going to be a vast improvement on the previous sessions (film + soft case, point and shoot + hard case):
Indeed, pool tests indicated the optics were good. This doesn't necessarily map to success in the waves at night, but there was reason to be optimistic.


I ordered some cheapo led tea lights and strung pairs on some twine to be used as focus necklaces.

The plan was to mount the Ikelite strobe on the housing and use it to trigger the speedlight that Jon would be pointing at the subjects. Unfortunately, the strobe came with an Ikelite-Nikonos cable rather than Ikelite-Ikelite. Semi-fortunately, the speedlight housing was Nikonos format.

Ikelite 6812 underwater housing flash Nikon D700

This still meant I only had the single, front facing flash and it meant I'd had to rig the speedlight to the camera housing. Well, zip ties and electrical/duct tape have never let me down in the past (except as a prophylactic).
Booties on the ground

Scott and Chris (hence referred to as Chris2) were my only people able to get out that night, in addition to Jon who was now liberated of flashing duties.

We headed to Scripps Pier at nigh-high tide just after sunset.
Focus

Surfing nightsurfing San Diego La Jolla Scripps stealth mission focus

By far the biggest challenge for shooting any of these night sessions has been focus. Oh to have the speedlight infrared illuminator.

The leds worked very well for focus, but it was still difficult to ensure they were in the focusing screen when I hit the shutter. And, of course, an object moving toward you will progress out of focus in the brief period between pressing the button and the actual exposure.

As far as I know the only real remedy for this is coverage. Shoot shoot shoot.

Since I had Jon surfing rather than flashing, we didn't experiment with using dive lights to illuminate the subject and perhaps make focusing easier. Another technique I was going to try was focus-locking the flash operator and shooting from the hip.

Next time.

Some unfortunate misses:

Sharpness

Surfing nightsurfing San Diego La Jolla Scripps stealth mission

With many layers of optics (lens, filter, housing, water on housing), sharpness was a big concern. For those images that were definitly in focus, the setup seemed to work very well. I should probably lose the uv filter though.

The lens port seemed to shed water well, but I expect some images appeared blurry due to a post-duck dousing.

Lighting

Scripps La Jolla San Diego surf surfing nightsurfing stealth mission

The speedlight did well in its ad hoc mounting location. I did not hurt for flash power. Since it was sitting in a polycarbonate housing, the 105mm narrow beam did refract and illuminate the water right in front of me - which was bad.

Scripps La Jolla San Diego surf surfing nightsurfing stealth mission

But I think I'll always need an off camera flash. The direct flash just catches too much reflective stuff and sometimes doesn't catch the subject well.

Surfing nightsurfing Scripps La Jolla San Diego stealth mission

Interesting side note, toward the end of the session the flash frequently went from ready to standby to off. This was not good.
Lens

Surf nightsurf Scripps Pier San Diego stealth mission

The 50mm f/1.8 worked out well. It is way faster than anything else I have, getting plenty of light shooting at minimum asa.

Other than the flash and leds, I caught dusk, pier lights, and SIO/La Jolla lights.


Prep/miss shots yielded some prodigious abstract art:

Execution

It was a good day for the session. A little more height and peeliness would have been nice, but it was super clean. The rig was quite heavy, so I would not have had much luck had been floating.
Chris2

Surfing nightsurfing San Diego La Jolla Scripps stealth mission

Jon

Surfing nightsurfing San Diego La Jolla Scripps stealth mission

Scott

Surfing nightsurfing Scripps La Jolla stealth mission


Surfing nightsurfing board
Addendum

Grace shot a few from shore: