Thursday, August 28, 2008

Surf housings

Hi folks:

I got interested in surf photography years ago but the technology was not quite there for someone who was a only a serious amateur. My first surf housing was for a Canon EOS-1N film camera. It was a nicely done Watershot housing made by a man named Steve Ogles, who has since moved on to doing housings for Hollywood. He is no longer bothering to make housings for us little folks.

The Watershot housing worked fine, but what a hassle! You would put the film in the camera, screw on 12 bolts with an allen wrench, swim out through the surf, take 36 shots, then have to come all the way back to the beach and reload your film! It was so exhausting that I shot about two rolls with this housing before giving up.

With the advent of digitial cameras and the ability to shoot 400 RAW images on one battery, surf photography became viable for me again. So I looked around to find a surf housing for my Nikon D200 cameras.

I do not wish to take my usual underwater housings into the surf because:

1. they sink, and the surf will often rip your housing away from you even if a lanyard is attached. Something that sinks in the surf is basically lost forever. I’ve lost two treasured ScubaPro frameless masks in the surf in the past year.

2. The sand in the surf will quickly ruin your underwater housing. Sand grains will embed themselves in your O-rings and glands, and this is probably the absolutely worst thing you can do to an underwater housing.

Surf housings have a minimum of controls, and they float. My present housing for my D200 camera is has shutter speed, and that’s about all I need. I preset focus to about 3 feet, aperture to f8, and the shutter speed is all I need to control. I also set the viewing options on my LCD screen so that it only shows overexposed highlights as blinking white. I don’t want any more complexity than that when in the surf.

I was astounded by how hard it was to find a surf housing manufacturer. So I have been urging wetpixel and Eric Cheng to get a surf photography forum up and running.

Here’s a list of housing manufacturers I have found in my research, listed in alphabetical order.

AquaTech Water Imaging Technologies, USA
18685-A Main St, #359
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
phone number: Office: 714 968 6946

Erik Hjermstad
Delmar Housing Projects
4051 Riverton Place
San Diego, CA 92130
phone number: 858-259-5830

Chad Stickney
669 Bolsana Dr
Laguna Beach, Ca 92651
phone number: 949-200-7658

SPL housings
8535 Arjons Dr. Ste N
San Diego, CA 92126
phone number: (858) 349-9037
These are very popular housings judging from what I have seen on the North Shore. Perhaps 8 of 10 photographers has an SPL housing.

Hope this helps. Thanks to Phil Colla for his help in my initial stages of research on surf housings. Please note that these manufacturers range from largish companies to one guy in a garage. The above is only a listing of sources; I cannot guarantee the accuracy nor the honesty of any of these operations. I have heard from more than one other photographer that at least one of the manufacturers on this list does not have a great reputation for timely delivery of housings and even returning borrowed cameras and loaned funds! Be careful before sending a camera for a housing. Hopefully the talk on this forum will help keep manufacturers honest!

Norbert Wu

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