Water Housing Users Guide – Part 1 – Basics

I’ve used water housings for years now, a lot of home made contraptions and plenty of other variations too (look out for the forthcoming post on all the housings I’ve had), I’ve used Canon point and shoot housings, Ikelite dive housings for SLR’s and obviously the whole range of GoPro housings too.

These tips have mostly been picked up through trial and error as well as some Google searching and first hand advice, so I hope anyone learning surf photography will read these tips and learn from my mistakes.

Me shooting a photo of a hollow wave with a water housing

Here I’m shooting a shorebreak with my Canon 60D inside my Aquatech Cr-60 water housing with a GoPro camera on top, shot by Andrew Jinman

You need to be proficient in swimming with swim fins on, as a long time bodyboarder I’m completely used to short swim fins and how they work best, don’t use dive fins, they’re not manoeuvrable enough, get a good fitting pair of swim fins and practice if you’re not comfortable with them.

Confidence in the water is absolutely necessary, if you’re not already used to getting rag dolled by waves you better learn, I think this is one of the big reasons why a lot of surf photographers started out as bodyboarders, getting pitched or pulling into close-outs is what it’s all about, a lot of stand up surfers I know would probably prefer not to get their hair wet if possible.

So assuming you are a strong swimmer with plenty of experience with swim fins, are comfortable taking a hiding in hollow waves and you’re keen to get into the thick of it and take photo’s, here are some pointers.

Here are a few general housing tips which have worked with all the various housings I’ve used:

  1. Always prepare the housing before you leave for the beach, so as to minimise any chance of moisture getting in and causing condensation to form on the inside of the port or get into the camera.
  2. If you have nuts to tighten on the housing start by getting them just touching the plate by hand then for the final tighten use your allen key or whatever tool you need to tighten them one at a time moving from corner to opposite corner.
  3. double check all the seals before taking it in the sea.
  4. do a quick dunk test in the shallows, study the seals and the inside of the housing for any leaks before swimming into the line-up
  5. put a tampon in the housing, if it does start leaking slowly this will absorb a lot of water.
  6. spit on the port, do it before your suit up, let it sit on the port until you get in the water then spit on it regularly in the water too, before a wave comes dip the port underwater, lift it out and start shooting, there won’t be any drops of water on your port.
  7. massage a very small amount silicone grease into your o-ring, I don’t do this after every session, probably after every 3 or 4, it’s good to get into the habit of doing it regularly, don’t stretch or pinch the o-ring, it’s delicate.
  8. double check all the settings are as you want them on the camera before putting it in the housing, it’s a pain to have to take it out again when you realise you left it in the wrong mode by mistake.
  9. rinse the housing out in fresh water after you use it.

If you haven’t got your first water housing yet, read more about where to buy one in my water housing buyers guide.

Once you’ve mastered the basics head on to the next part of the water housing users guide:

Water Housing Users Guide – Part 2 – Which Port Should I Use?