Water Housing Users Guide – Part 3 – Prevent Water Drops, Wet Port Vs Dry Port

There’s nothing more frustrating than a good water shot being ruined by a water drop on the front of the port.

Depending on the type of port you’re using (find out which port to use for your lens here) there are a couple of basic techniques that require no extra equipment or special skills that will help prevent water drops in nearly every situation.

Chris Levi at Spot M, with water drop ISO 100, 10mm, f5.6, 1/1000

Chris Levi at Spot M, with water drop, follow these tips to avoid this problem. ISO 100, 10mm, f5.6, 1/1000

GoPro & Domes – Wet Port Technique

Before I go into detail on the techniques I’ll mention GoPro cameras specifically, whichever GoPro housing you have, whether it has the old style curved front element or the newer flat element, you should use the wet port technique.

The wet port technique is fairly simple, the aim is to shoot through a very thin film of water on the front of the dome, because you’re shooting a wide angle lens and the focus is often set manually the thin film does not affect the focus or quality of the image and you’ll never get any water drops.

To do this you want the film to be nice and even with no breaks, luckily it turns out if you spit on your port and spread it around a bit, then dip the port under the water just before you shoot, the water will spread out and not start dissipating for a good few seconds.

Here’s some tips:

  • If possible spit on the port and leave it facing up while you get suited up or prepare your self, the longer you leave it the better the effect.
  • Spit often, as much as you can, once you’re in the water your spit kind of mixes with the salt water and you’ll be able to get it spread out more easily, you want to cover the whole area that the lens shoots through.
  • You need to dip the port under the water to get the film of water on the front, so spit, then dip before the wave.
  • Keep your port under water until the last second, the water will eventually drain off the port and start to break up, causing visible breaks in the film of water, so shoot as quickly as possible.

Flat Ports – Dry port technique

If you’re shooting with a flat port you want to keep the port dry when you’re shooting through it, this enables the focus to work properly, also the longer your lens the less the drops on the port are going to show up so it’s actually more forgiving than shooting with a wide angle lens in a dome port.

The problem is, water tends to bead into drops on a flat surface, so unless you can hold your housing above the water for the whole session, you’re going to need to do something to get rid of the drops.

This is where the dry port technique comes in, there’s a few ways to get the water to run off without beading, you can use things like Rain-X (apparently Rain-X or other types of window cleaners are a bad idea ebcause of the solvents in them) and turtle wax, or you can opt for a mini squeegee (a piece of wind screen wiper blade can work well apparently), or you can follow the advice of Mike Waggoner (maker of the excellent and innovative Essex water housings) on the surfphotographersunited forum like I do:

rub your middle and index finger on a part of your body where you can get some body oil transferred to the tips of your fingers. Behind your ear is a good place and another is the crook of your nose where the nostril meets the bridge of your nose. (If you have lots of sunscreen on this may not be a good place) Once you have body oil on your fingertips, hold the port lens element half in and half out of the water. Rub in an up and down motion from one side to the other agitating the water. Dunk the housing and pull it out and the water should bead right off. If not then do it again until it does. You will constantly be having to do this while out in the water. It is work but it is better than spotty images.

It’s as simple as that, repeat as needed and just keep checking the front of the port, try and keep it up out of the water, it’s a real pain when shooting in the rain, but usually it will work well enough to get some good shots.