Dry Port Technique for Surf Photography

Learn the dry port technique for keeping water drops from forming on the front of a water housing’s flat port.

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This video is about keeping your flat port of your water housing clear from water drops.

There are a few different techniques that people use to do this and I only really use one of them personally, so I’m going to talk you through that one and then I’m going to reference the others, and I’ll put some links below this video course for some resources that you can look out for people who use the other methods so you can learn about those as well.

Dry Port Technique Method 1 – Body Oil

Method one I picked this one up off of the Surf Photographers United forum, I don’t think it exists anymore, there might be a Facebook page or something but there’s no forum unfortunately anymore, but at the time Mike Wagner who is an experienced surf photographer and designer of Essex water housings.

He explained this method in detail and I’ve been using it ever since. It must have been, I don’t know, maybe five or six years ago. And it works for me better than any other method I’ve tried. And because it works, I haven’t really tried many others.

So, step one: get your lens port, get it all on, get everything in your port housing all sorted. You get to the edge of the water. Now you need to get some natural oil from your skin. Sounds a bit gross, I know. I’m talking about the wet port system, which is even grosser in my opinion. I’ll talk about dome ports later, but for this system, you need a bit of natural oil.

So, if you live in a climate like the UK, where most of my surf photography is not done in blazing sunshine, I don’t have zinc on my face and I don’t have lots of sun cream on my hands and things like that. So I find it’s pretty easy to do that. I have shot in Indonesia and Samoa and various other hot places where you’re covered in sun cream and it doesn’t make this harder. So that’s one factor to consider.

So, here’s how I do it. I get my finger and sometimes I’m going in behind my wetsuit if it’s winter and I rub behind my ears. I find that’s a good place to get some nice oil. And then you just rub that oil onto the lens port with your finger and kind of do it in horizontal stripes. Go up and down a couple of times and you can kind of see it because any water that’s on there will kind of bead up into droplets. So, do that a couple of times and then you put the whole housing with the port under the water so the water goes up and down. And then you slowly lift it out and it might not work the first time. You might have to do a bit more rubbing. You might have to get a bit more from behind your ears or whatever, beside your nose perhaps.

So, you’ve done that. Then you lift it out slowly and it’ll be free from water. You won’t see any water drops on there. Now, you do have to keep an eye on it. If it’s an offshore day and you’re getting spray back from the waves every time, then the spray is going to hit there. But you should just be able to dip it under and lift it out again nice and gently and it should just sheet off and you’ll have a nice clear port to shoot through. You might need to reapply that oil after a bit. And I found that works surprisingly well. You might find, like I say, if you’ve got some creamy things, it becomes difficult. You don’t want sun cream smeared on there. That’s going to cause problems. But I found that’s the best one. And if you’re stuck at the beach and you don’t have any of the other kit that you might need to do any other techniques, which I’ll run through soon, then this one at least you’ve always got, hopefully, some sort of oil around that you can use to do that with. So, yeah, a little bit gross, but it does work. I’ve used it for years and I definitely find it convenient. I never forget it. It’s always handy. So that’s one thing to try if you’re having problems with a flat port and water drops.

Really quick insert here. If you’ve got a GoPro, they’ve all got flat ports on them. But I don’t use this technique on a GoPro. I use the wet port technique on a GoPro. So I’ll go through that and that is in the next video: Wet Port Technique for Surf Photography

So that’s my/Mike Wagoner’s technique that I borrowed and have used since then. And I know other people do it. I’ll go through, like I say, underneath there’ll be some resources so you can see that it is a legit technique. I promise I’m not messing with you. That is a good way of doing it.

Dry Port Technique Method 2: Wax

The next technique that I know of, I haven’t tried, is using wax. So you can get some candle wax. I’ve heard surf wax as well, but again, I haven’t done it myself. And you kind of do a little crisscross pattern with the wax and then you rub that in with a cloth.

You buff it out, basically. And that essentially does a similar thing. It leaves a layer. What you want on there is a kind of hydrophobic layer, which prevents water from sticking to it and lets it just drop off naturally. You want that to be as clear as possible, because you don’t want to have a murky photo when you shoot through your lens port. So that’s one that’s really popular and I’ll link to a video below by Aquatech where they talk through that in detail and show you exactly how to do that, which I think is a great resource if that’s what you really want to go down.

Then another one that people use is a squeegee, just like you would use on your windows when you’re cleaning them. So people have little ones. There’s a great video of Ray Collins, famous Australian surf photographer. He’s shooting in Australia and you can actually see him use it at one point. I’ll find a link to that one below. But basically, the way I’ve done it before is I’ve got a little cheap squeegee and I trimmed it so it was just like credit card sized. And then I put a little hole in it and looped that through my leash for my housing. And then you just squeegee the water off. I couldn’t get it to work properly for me and it never worked really easily. I don’t think I really spent the time doing it. I probably didn’t have exactly the right squeegee. Or I think if you get on with it, I’d really love to hear what squeegee you’re using. I will try again. But for me, it didn’t work as effectively as just the normal oil. So I quit doing that and I just use the natural oil for my flat port dry port technique.

So these are the few techniques you can use. See how you go. And if you’ve got a dome port, don’t use any of those techniques. You want to use the wet port technique. And I’ll go through that with you in the next video.

Dry Port Technique Resources

The original quote from Mike Waggoner, from the surfphotographersunited forums is:

“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.” – Mike Waggoner

Lessons related to Dry Port Technique for Surf Photography

Water Surf Photography – Technique

    1. Water Surf Photography – Technique Introduction
    2. Dry Port Technique for Surf Photography
    3. Wet Port Technique for Surf Photography
    4. Positioning for Surf Photography in the Water
    5. Fisheye Techniques for Surf Photography
    6. Underwater Surf Photography
    7. Over Under, 50/50 or Split Photos for Surf Photography





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