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Ewa Marine U-B100 Underwater Housing

During previous trips to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac, in the Cayman Islands I used a Sony RX100 in a dedicated underwater housing with very good success. On my most recent trip I decided that it was time to take my Nikon D800 & Nikon D500 into the ocean, however, I could not really justify the expense of a dedicated housing for these cameras at this point in time. Since I would only be using the cameras while snorkeling, I was planning to rely solely on ambient light for underwater photography. After a bit of research I decided that an Ewa Marine underwater housing would be my choice of housing for the recently concluded trip to Cayman Brac. I purchased the Ewa Marine U-B100 housing which is designed for use with professional cameras and for lenses with a filter diameter of 77mm or 82mm. The housing comes with the 77mm adapter (the 82mm adpater is optional) that allows you to firmly position the lens inside the lens port and flush against the optical glass element. The Ewa Marine housing is made from special, multi-layered, laminated PVC to ensure safety and durability and all seams are double welded. Two rails are fastened together by means of three thumb screws to securely close the opening to the housing. There is a sepcailly designed pocket molded into the design for your finger to reach the shutter release button on the camera. All other functions are accessed through the thick laminated PVC – a difficult but not impossible task.

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 32mm (48mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/125 sec

On my first snorkel trip with the Ewa Marine housing I quickly discovered that I had left too much air in the housing and was subsequently very hard to dive down with the housing. I opened the housing and using a straw sucked out as much air as I could and then re-sealed the housing, which worked perfectly.Ewa Marine does sell an optional lead weight that goes inside this housing and after using the housing for a couple of weeks I believe that the weight would be an added benefit to using this housing.

Southern Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 23mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1250 sec

As I researched this particular housing via blogs and You Tube videos there was a common theme. One was that the lens adapter was very difficult to fit against the optical glass port and the other being virtually impossible to operate camera controls and zoom lenses. I had no difficulty whatsoever fitting the lens into the lens port and while camera functions are more difficult to adjust I was able to make exposure adjustments and zoom the lens as required while underwater.

Peacock Flounder, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 32mm (48mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

I used both my Nikon D800 and Nikon D500 cameras with no issues at all. My lens of choice for use in the housing was the Nikkor AF-S 18-35mm lens which did vignette slightly, at 18mm, on the Nikon D800. When the lens was zoomed to about 20mm the vignetting disappeared. I chose to use the 18-35mm lens as it focuses down to 12 inches throughout it’s focal range. In underwater photography the closer you can get to your subjects the better the image quality will be. You must minimize the amount of water between you and your subject for better clarity.

Octopus, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/160 sec

I am looking forward to using the housing on Horseshoe Lake this summer where I will use it for frog photography and freshwater fish imagery too. If you are curious about trying your hand at underwater photography I would highly recommend an Ewa Marine housing to get you started. I purchased my Ewa Marine U-B100 housing from B&H Photo. Please note that I am in no way affiliated with Ewa Marine or B&H Photo. I simply wanted to provide you with an honest, real-world review after my experience with this housing.

I am often amazed by the ability of ocean fish to superbly camouflage themselves. This is especially evident in the highly venomous Spotted Stonefish, a member of the scorpionfish family. Fortunately Stonefish only use their venom as a means of self-defence, however, accidentally stepping on one does mean a trip to the nearest hospital!

Please do remember to click on each photo to see the larger, sharper version. Which one is your favorite?

Barracuda, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 28mm
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/320 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/200 sec

 

Southern Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm (51mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/320 sec

 

Octopus Inking, Cayman Brac
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 24mm
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/400 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D800
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 34mm
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/400 sec

 

Spotted Stonefish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
Nikon D500
Nikkor 18-35mm @ 24mm ( 36mm effective focal length)
ISO 500
f16 @ 1/160 sec

 

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Octopus Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 200, f8 @ 1/320 sec

Octopus
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 200, f8 @ 1/320 sec

The Cayman Islands is a well-known must go destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. During my two-week stay on the island of Cayman Brac, which is the most easterly of the three islands known as the Cayman Islands, I explored the world beneath the sea for several hours daily. I do not scuba dive, but do love snorkeling and often I am most interested in the aquatic wildlife that can easily, or not so easily discovered in the shallows. I will define the shallows as water to a depth of about 20 feet. Either way I find entering the ocean an exhilarating experience because there are fishes that can eat you 🙂 Essentially you are entering the food-chain, and even though such risks are minimal you should be aware of what fishes may be encountered.It is not only those fishes with large toothy mouths that you need to be concerned with, but often the smaller species of fish that can inflict painful stings if one is not careful. My choice of camera for my underwater photography to date has been the Sony RX-100. This amazing point and shoot camera is teeny-tiny and will easily fit into a shirt or pants pocket, as a zoom range of 28mm to 100mm (35mm equivalent), is capable of capturing image files in RAW and produces a 20MB file which translates to a native image size of 12.16  18.24 inches. Impressive! Note: I found RAW capture to be most beneficial as I was able to make adjustments to the White Balance in Adobe Camera RAW to realistically match the scenes as I saw them. Often the Auto White Balance setting on the Sony RX-100 produced image files with a strong green cast, which was easily correctable in ACR. My choice of underwater housing for the Sony RX-100 was a polycarbonate housing from Meikon, This housing is rated for a depth of 40M (131 feet) and allows me to operate all of the essential controls underwater. I initially purchased this housing as I began my interest in the underwater world. I would however, highly recommend getting one of the housing available from IkeLite. The housing from Meikon works great for snorkeling, but I am not sure I would dive to deeper depths with it. One of the biggest problems I encountered using a polycarbonate housing with the Sony RX-100 was viewing the LCD screen underwater due to the reflective properties of the polycarbonate material underwater. The Sony RX-100 has no viewfinder, so images are composed using the LCD screen. In the photo below an easy solution to this concern can be overcome by creating a bracket to hold a small section of plastic downspout over the area of the LCD screen to act as a shade.

Underwater Housing with Plastic Downspout to Shade the LCD Screen

Underwater Housing with Plastic Downspout to Shade the LCD Screen

To create many of the underwater images ISO 200 or ISO 400 was selected and the Aperture Priority mode too. Creating underwater images while snorkeling is a bit of a challenge to our buoyancy, however, for fishes that were resting on the ocean floor I found it easier if I exhaled while diving to the bottom, and with less air in my lungs I was able to stay at the bottom long enough for 2 or 3 images before the need to re-surface again. For some subjects I repeated this process numerous times to create various compositions, such as the photos below of the Stonefish – a true master of camouflage! Note: the spines on the dorsal fins of Stonefish, a member of the Scorpionfish family, can inflict a painful sting – exercise caution!

Stonefish Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 200, f8 @ 1/100 sec.

Stonefish
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 200, f8 @ 1/100 sec.

Stonefish Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 200, f8 @ 1/100 sec.

Stonefish
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 200, f8 @ 1/100 sec.

Stonefish Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000 sec.

Stonefish
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000 sec.

As you read the captions for the images in this post you will note that many of them were created at a focal length of 28mm. Often in underwater photography a wide-angle lens used in close will produce the best image. By reducing the distance between the camera and the subject the risk of particulate matter in the water column is reduced, producing a cleaner, sharper image. The Sony RX-100 will focus as close as 5cm at the 28mm setting. On rare occasions I would zoom the lens out if there was some interesting action occurring in deeper water that I would not have been able to dive down to capture.

Sand Diver Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/800 sec.

Sand Diver
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/800 sec.

Often repeated attempts to photograph some species was required, as was the case with the Sand Diver above. This specimen was roughly 2 feet in length and very skittish. After many repeat dives I was able to get this one close up that allows us to see its very toothy mouth. Below is a selection of Stingray images that were created at various reefs along the coast. Scott’s Dock and Radar Reef produced the best photographic opportunities for them.

Stingray Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Stingray
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Stingray Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Stingray
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Stingray Interaction Sony RX-100 @ 65mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Stingray Interaction
Sony RX-100 @ 65mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Below is an image of a Sharp-tailed Eel. I was thrilled to see this specimen out in the open. In 2014 I had seen one of these very interesting snake-like fishes but it was in too difficult of a location to photograph. Fast-forward to March 2015 and I was presented a second opportunity whereby the specimen was most cooperative. This was photographed at the Buccaneer (Tibbett’s) dive site.

Sharp-tailed Eel Sony RX-100 @ 100mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Sharp-tailed Eel
Sony RX-100 @ 100mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Other species that I was able to photograph along the coast of Cayman Brac were Caribbean Reef Squid, Octopus, Barracuda, and some underwater ocean-scapes. Below are my favorites of these. If you ever make your way to Cayman Brac be sure to snorkel the Scott’s Dock, Radar Reef, and the Buccaneer dive sites as these are equally productive for folks that prefer to snorkel.

Caribbean Reef Squid Sony RX-100 @ 100mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

Caribbean Reef Squid
Sony RX-100 @ 100mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

Octopus Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Octopus
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

Octopus Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 200, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

Octopus
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 200, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

Barracuda Sony RX-100 @ 100mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/800 sec.

Barracuda
Sony RX-100 @ 100mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/800 sec.

Ocean-Scape in B&W Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/100 sec.

Ocean-Scape in B&W
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/100 sec.

Coral Details Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8@ 1/100 sec.

Coral Details
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8@ 1/100 sec.

Octopus Sony RX-100 @ 28mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000 sec.

Octopus
Sony RX-100 @ 28mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/1000 sec.

Please remember to click on each of the photos to see the larger, sharper version.

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Aerial View of Reef System in the Cayman Islands

Aerial View of Reef System in the Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is most noted for its amazing snorkeling and scuba diving and when I was making arrangements for my recent trip to Cayman Brac I made certain that I would be prepared to photograph life in the deep blue sea. The above photo was created on my departure as I began the long journey home. I created this image through the window pane of a Twin Otter aircraft using my Sony RX100. This amazing, yet tiny camera that will fit in a shirt pocket was my go-to piece of photo gear for my underwater adventure. The camera captures a 20 mega-byte image file when set to its RAW image capture mode. To find out more about how I used the camera underwater and for a few tips on underwater photography please read my recent article Into The Deep Blue Sea in the Creative Photography eMini-Magazine, a completely free and very informative on-line magazine and resource published by Denise Ippolito.

In the seascape image below I have encountered a little backscatter within the water column. Backscatter is the result of debris in the water and since I was photographing facing the sun, the effect of the debris was exaggerated but I do love the sun’s rays of light penetrating the surface. I do wish that a shark could have been swimming out of the depths for this image though 🙂

Cayman Brac Seascape, Cayman Islands

Cayman Brac Seascape, Cayman Islands

On one particular afternoon I came across a couple of local fishermen that were cleaning their catch and throwing the blood and guts back into the ocean, which attracted a great number of Stingrays. I grabbed my camera and immediately jumped into the water with the rays to create numerous images of them.

Stingray on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Stingray on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Stingray at Rest, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Stingray at Rest, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Stingray, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Fishes that are found within the oceans have always amazed me with their superb camouflage skills and during my numerous snorkeling trips I came across a few Peacock Flounders. Check out the image below to see how well they blend into their surroundings.

Peacock Flounder on the Ocean Floor, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Peacock Flounder on the Ocean Floor, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

One of the most commonly encountered fishes were Parrotfish. Their colors were so intense, often resembling colors you would expect to see in neon signs.

Queen Parrotfish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Queen Parrotfish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Yellow-tailed Parrotfish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Yellow-tailed Parrotfish, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

I found some of the corals and sponges to me most fascinating too, especially the tube sponges that were most often encountered in deeper water of about 30-40 feet. Upon taking a breath I would dive down to create images of them. I found this to be most difficult to do as I would be fighting the body’s natural tendency to float back up to the surface. Often it would take several attempts to create the image I was seeking.

Tube Sponge, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Tube Sponge, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

I was quite pleased with the Sony RX100’s performance below the sea in a dedicated housing and am looking forward to diving into Horseshoe Lake to experiment with some freshwater imagery.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Octopus, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Octopus, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

I returned home from the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands. Cayman Brac is a small island, which is 12 miles long and averages 1.5 miles wide with a population of approximately 1200 very friendly people and fabulous Conch Chowder. Leaving the island to head back to the snow and cold was hard to do. Throughout my 12 day stay on the island I experienced numerous very special photographic opportunities on land and in the deep blue sea. One such opportunity took place when I reach forward, grabbing a rock to steady myself in a strong current when the rock moved and out shot a small Octopus. I was delighted that the Octopus only swam about 5 feet away before coming to rest on the sea floor in about 6 feet of water. I was using my Sony RX100 in an underwater housing with ambient light, so this shallow water setting was perfect for retaining color within the scene (more on this in a future post). I snorkeled around the octopus for about half an hour creating numerous compositions before it slowly moved to a less photogenic location. The Sony RX100 is a powerful point and shoot camera for underwater photographic applications and I shot with it in the RAW mode (which creates a 20Mb file) the entire time so that I would have full control while optimizing the images upon my return home.

In the coming weeks I will share many more images from this trip and my rookie adventures into the wonderful world of underwater photography.

Please remember to click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

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