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.

Comments

    1. Hi Nick,
      I’ve removed the link you posted in your comment.
      The site had an annoying pop up and I wouldn’t recommend using a product like that when there’s a simple, free alternative that works just as well.
      Thanks.

      1. It’s your post, so you’re completely entitled to that! I can’t agree with you that “it works just as well” though, as both of the techniques in your article require you to keep checking and re-applying… The hydrophobic lens protector solution is a lot more convenient (and consistent).

        If you’d have any interest at all, I’d be willing to send you a free one. We’re brand new at this and it would be phenomenal to get some folks like you sharing your experiences with it. Send me an email: info@gohydrophobic.com and I’d be happy to hook you up :)

        Thanks for the feedback on the pop-up. It only does that when you go to leave (just in case users would like to stay in the loop), which is a pretty common practice on ecommerce sites. It also won’t nag you the next time you visit the site, as I totally DON’T want it to be a pain in the arse. I understand where you’re coming from though – and maybe we should reconsider having it altogether…

        Cheers!

        1. Nick, here’s a link for you:
          https://www.nngroup.com/articles/needy-design-patterns/

          I like the common sense approach to both web design and surf photography.

          If something annoys me, like a needy pop up, or a needless extra product for a gopro, then I avoid it.

          Spit is gross, but it’s free, always readily available, and I don’t have any drops on any of the thousands of gopro videos and photos I’ve taken. Nothing could be more convenient and consistent than that.

          Checking and reapplying is good practice, this guide is for all types of lens port. I want to encourage my readers to get into good habits, not pay extra for a shortcut.

          No need to try any other options, thanks.

          1. Fair enough Ben. I use email pop-ups because they work. Doesn’t get much more common sense than that :) I can definitely appreciate the argument for not being annoying. It’s a bit of a fuzzy line, and there’s absolutely a time and a place. We’ve got a brand new, very little-known product here, so every little edge helps!

            Regarding the lens protectors, I’m glad your approach works for you. I think there are a lot of situations where this “shortcut” might be really helpful (maybe more so in helmet-mounted applications than surfing?), but you’re obviously not really not open to it if you’re unwilling to take a freebie!

            Nice chatting with you and happy surfing :)

          2. Your product is definitely more useful for applications where you’re not continually in the water.
            My site is about surf photography so it’s not the best solution for my readers.

            I don’t want to encourage people adding one comment to my site that promotes their products, especially if it’s not the best option for my readers. That’s not what my site is for.

            I think the last couple of paragraphs are the most important in that link I provided:

            “As a thought experiment, ask your brand manager whether “we’re desperate for attention” is one of the company’s stated brand values. If not, why signal such desperation to customers?
            These kinds of tactics are often embraced and accepted based on better conversion performance in A/B tests. However, there’s a big tradeoff that comes with being needy and annoying — the degradation of your relationship with your users.
            Prioritizing conversions or short-term metrics leads designers to pressure people into doing things they don’t actually want to do and can easily cross the ethical boundaries towards dark patterns. It’s time to reassess priorities and long-term goals: you may be getting a few extra clicks now, but in the long run you’re losing your users’ trust and respect. Nobody likes a needy website.”

            I’ve refused free samples of products that aren’t right for my readers before.

            Usually I do it in private emails where I’m happy to explain in detail why I don’t think it’s right for my site. Having to deal with public spam comments is a new and annoying development for me.

            Also, when a new person adds a comment I look at their comment history, when they are mostly on SEO blogs and recently include other spam links, it’s a red flag.

            Marketing is harder than it looks, especially when you forget you’re dealing with actual people, not just email addresses.

          3. It’s a little unfair to call my comment “spam” Ben. I’m not that kind of marketer, and I resent that characterization. I’ve spent my career avoiding that kind of garbage at every turn, and teaching others to do the same.

            When was the last time a spam comment resulted a lengthy, earnest discussion like this? I commented on your article because it’s 100% relevant to my product and it’s a perfectly reasonable extension to your article. Yes, I’m looking to increase awareness of a product. But in a sensible, honest, and transparent way. I’m not spamming anything. Also, a quick lesson in SEO, Disqus comments have virtually zero SEO value.

            I’ve got a good product that helps prevent water droplets on your gopro footage. You’ve got an article suggesting a few ways to address that. I added my two cents. The comment could easily have come from someone who doesn’t represent my product. Spam comments don’t add to the conversation. Mine did, until you censored it. You’re obviously entitled to that, but all you did was remove the link making my comment completely useless. I wonder why you did that instead of just disapproving the whole comment…

            Was it so you can give me a public browbeating from upon your high horse? I can’t think of any other reason.

            PS, you really need a responsive theme or your blog. It’s 2016. Talk about annoying users…

          4. Nick, you’ve come to my website and posted one sentence and a link to a website. I call that spam. To me it means an unsolicited message promoting a product, but I’m not part of the SEO community and likely have a looser definition. No offense intended.

            “The comment could easily have come from someone who doesn’t represent my product” – I assumed it had, that’s why I reasonably removed the link and gave them some advice that could save them money and help them take better surf photos.

            Why didn’t you mention that you represent the product?

          5. I did mention it, in my first reply to you. Right out in plain sight for all. I’m not trying to hide my affiliation, but my original comment was a simple “hey, those are good options – here’s another.” I didn’t make any claims that would ethically beget a disclaimer (until after I made it clear that represented it).

            I still genuinely think my comment is a functional, meaningful addition to the information on your article. Why not let folks know about all the options available?

            And again, regardless of who you thought was commenting, removing the link removed the entire value of the comment. You left it there so you could make some sort of point about pop-ups.

            A more appropriate course of action might have been to leave my comment, and then have a constructive debate about the product’s merits. Now no one even knows what we’re talking about. Or, of course, you could have just removed it altogether.

            As it stands, I don’t see any value in this thread for your readers, so we should probably just remove it altogether.

            One last thing, I criticized your site not being responsive earlier. I’m not sure if you’ve made the switch already – or if it just didn’t load properly on my phone… If it’s the former I apologize for my unfounded remark. It seems to be working now.

            Welp, I’ve got a busy day ahead. I think we’ve both made our points. Feel free to get the last word in or just remove the thread as you see fit. Best of luck with your blog and take care.

          6. I agree that your first comment is a reasonable addition to the post, that’s why I left it there and explained why I removed the link (it had an annoying pop-up, feedback you graciously accepted) and why I wouldn’t use the product (not as good as saliva in my use case, as discussed).

            All useful information is still here, including the solution we’ve been talking about. No value is lost to my other readers by removing the link to your website.

            I’m happy for this comment thread to stay up. If you want it deleted send me an email and I’ll take it down for you.

      1. Sure thing Jim! I’ll email you shortly.

        I’ve got your email address if you want to redact it from your message – just to avoid potential spam, up to you :)

  1. Thanks for the post– guess it’s another good reason to stay extra hydrated when shooting with a dome port in the tropics! Ben–have you ever had success with domes ports by using anti-fog drops or similar?

    1. Hi Katie,
      I only use the wet port technique for the outside of the dome port. Do you mean using drops for preventing fog on the inside of the dome?

      I don’t have that issue very often, if at all, with dome ports. There are a few things to try – basically making sure there’s no moisture in the housing to start with, and setting up the housing and camera in a dry environment, that will help.

      I haven’t used anti fog drops myself, I’m not sure how effective they are.

      1. Hi Ben,

        Thanks for the response– I also meant for the outside of the dome port. I’m just starting out, so thus far I have been trying to protect the pristineness of especially the inside at all costs. I’m currently traveling but when I get home I’ll try some drops on the outside and let you know how it goes! If you are interested in some of my first shots, I am on instagram @keiti_mar …cheers! Love your blog.

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