Getting to Know the Camera: Exposure

Cameras, whether the newest digital wonder or the (becoming old quickly) film cameras, share a lot of basic ideas and functions. If you know one, you can find the same functions in the other. Understanding how your camera works is the first step toward controlling it to get the pictures you want. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll talk about film cameras. The concepts are the same in digital cameras, it’s just the way digital cameras achieve each of the elements of exposure that vary.

Cameras are all just light-tight boxes that control the amount of light that falls onto a piece of film or digital sensor. They’re nothing magical, just a box. This controlled amount of light is called the “exposure.”

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Dive Insurance

Whether traveling to an exotic dive location far from home or diving only a few miles from home, diving accidents can happen. Diving accidents such as decompression illness (the bends), over-expansion injuries, ear problems, or any other type of diving malady can all result in medical treatment and in severe cases require medical transport to a hospital or medical facility. A diving accident can involve major medical and related expenses, all of which you’re responsible for unless you have proper insurance. The expense of hyperbaric treatment for decompression sickness can run from $5,000 to over $10,000 and many times, more than one treatment is required to solve the problem. Transportation to a medical facility via aircraft can also run thousands of dollars.


Diving insurance can be a lifesaver, literally. Decompression illness or an over-expansion injury requires prompt and immediate treatment. With the proper diving insurance, you can receive medical evacuation, prompt help from your insurance agency, and the ability to contact medical personnel 24/7/365 to answer questions and lend assistance. It goes without saying, knowing you have insurance and help to count on if something were to happen, especially when traveling to a foreign country is priceless and can be the difference between life and death.

The insurance and assistance programs that are offered by companies like DiveAssure, PADI, and DAN as well as several others are designed specifically for divers, and give you full coverage in case of a diving accident. Every dive insurance company has different policies and different levels of policies, meaning the “fine print” and limitations of each policy should be thoroughly reviewed prior to purchasing a protection plan. Knowing the details and limitations of each company’s policy can greatly help you to make the right decision for your needs. The following are a list of policy categories that you should pay close attention to:

·         The plans level of coverage
·         Benefit maximums, limits, and coverage
·         What isn’t covered by the plan
·         Depth and breathing gas limitations
·         Additional insurance coverages that may be included in the plan
·         Costs of each plan (annual fees, membership fees, etc.)
·         Whether primary care insurance is required or not
·         Does the plan pay upfront or do you have to pay upfront and be reimbursed afterwards

Comparing these items as well as other key elements of an insurance policy is a must if you want to make sure you get the coverage you require. Take your time researching each plan and always read the small print because your life may depend on it someday.

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is scuba diving?

Scuba diving is an underwater adventure sport. Scuba diving takes you into the underwater world for glimpses into an exciting environment for exploration and discovery. “Scuba” stands for Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, and allows you to descend below the water’s surface for an exciting and rewarding experience. Divers are generally hooked on the sport after their first dive!

 

Why get involved in scuba diving?

Because you want to participate in a sport that is exciting, rewarding, fun, relaxing, and a great way to make new friends and see the world. Every venture underwater is a new and exciting opportunity for exploration and discovery and a chance to enter a world that is full of beauty, wonder, and adventure. Every dive offers you a chance to see something new by providing a glimpse of a unique and fascinating world. Learning to scuba dive can become the beginning of a lifelong adventure that takes you to many fascinating places.

 

Scuba diving is an extremely diverse sport that you can participate in many different ways. Whether diving is just a fun hobby, a way of life, or a career decision, there is something in the sport for everyone.

 

What are the different types of diving?

Diving can be broken down into a number of different groups: recreational, technical, recreational/technical career, commercial, scientific, and military.

 

Recreation diving represents the largest group of divers. These are generally individuals who take up the sport for the pure pleasure of it. Once you are certified, there are a number of skills that you can specialize in through further training and education. These include: night diving, wreck diving, advanced diving, rescue diving, photography or videography, fish identification, and many more.

 

Technical diving is a quickly growing side of the sport. Technical diving requires special training and education to learn the many advanced skills required to safely participate. Types of technical diving includes nitrox diving, trimix diving, cave diving, advanced wreck diving, deep diving, rebreather diving, ice diving, DPV diving, side mount diving, etc. It is important to go through the proper training before participating in any of these types of diving.

 

Recreational/technical career involves continuing your training and education to begin a career in the diving industry. Careers include instructors, instructor trainers, dive masters, resort or dive center personnel, photographers, leaders of scuba training and certification agencies, as well as several others. A career in the diving industry can be very rewarding, challenging, and exciting.

 

Commercial diving is another type of career diving. Commercial divers build underwater structures and oil platforms; salvage ships and treasures; construct and maintain boats, bridges, docks, dams, nuclear power plants and coastal structures; conduct engineering and scientific surveys and inspections; operate and maintain complex remote operated vehicles (ROVs), air and gas supplies, and life-support systems; provide hyperbaric first-aid and diving emergency medical care. Commercial divers go through extensive training, many times in commercial diving schools.

 

Scientific diving is carried out exclusively for research purposes, or in support of research activities that involve marine life, the ocean, underwater archaeology, hydrology, etc. Most scientific diving is conducted by scientists trained in diving for the collection of data in support of their research projects.

 

Military diving is conducted by members of the military who are trained in the type of diving that fulfills their needs. Military divers perform tasks such as underwater ship repair, underwater demolition, rescue, salvage, construction, and dive medicine.

 

Where can you go diving?

Scuba divers dive wherever there is water: oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, quarries, waterways, canals, springs, etc. The important thing to remember is that each of these diving environments can require diverse skill sets. Make sure you are properly trained before diving in an environment that you are unfamiliar with.

 

How old do you have to be to scuba dive?

You must be at least ten years old to receive a Junior Open Water Diver Certification. Ten and 11 year old Junior Open Water Divers must dive with a certified parent, guardian or Professional to a maximum depth of 40 feet (12 meters). Twelve to 14 year olds must dive with a certified adult. At age 15, the Junior certification upgrades to a regular Open Water Diver certification.

 

How expensive is scuba diving?

Scuba diving is no more expensive than any other hobby or recreations. You can invest however much you want, depending upon your interest level. Because most dive centers and resorts rent equipment, you can invest in equipment over time, renting what you don’t have. Travel costs can be flexible enough to accommodate even the tightest budget. Most people find the costs of scuba diving similar to the cost associated with snow skiing, golfing, or biking.

 

Is scuba diving a dangerous sport?

Scuba diving is not a dangerous sport. There are potential hazards when diving, which is why you need proper training and certification for any type of diving you wish to participate in.

 

Can I try scuba diving without signing up for a course?

Yes you can. Some training agencies offer a dive discovery program that introduces you to the sport in a shallow and controlled environment. Instructors take you through a short pool session that allows you to what diving is all about.

 

How fit do you have to be to scuba dive?

Generally, anyone in good average health can participate in scuba diving. As a safety measure, most training agencies require you to fill out a routine medical questionnaire. If anything on the questionnaire indicates you might be at risk, you should get a medical checkup to make sure you are fit for diving.

 

What is the basic dive gear you need to go diving?

Mask: This is essential for good visibility underwater

Fins: Propel you through the water

Snorkel: To breathe through at the surface

Booties: To protect your feet against cold water or rubbing against you fins

Gloves: To protect your hands against abrasion or cold water

Wetsuit: To protect your body from cold water or marine life

Buoyancy compensator: To maintain your buoyancy underwater and at the surface

Regulator with safe second, pressure gauge, inflator hose, depth gauge: The regulator allows you to breath the air in your tank. The safe second is a backup breathing device. The pressure gauge indicates how much air is in your tank. The inflator hose is used to add air to your buoyancy compensator, and the depth gauge indicates how deep you are underwater.

Weight belt: Helps to keep you underwater so that you don’t float to the surface

Tank: Holds the air you breath underwater

Other accessories include a knife, collection bag, dive float, and dive flag

 

What if I’m nervous about getting started?

Being nervous is a very natural, normal, and expected feeling when you begin. Entering a new world and environment filled with exciting, strange, and exotic creatures can make anyone a little nervous. If you feel apprehensive or are excited about your first dives, this is normal. These feelings can be a good and a positive thing; look at them that way. Once you get used to your new equipment, understand the proper procedures and safety measures, you’ll relax and the nerves will turn to excitement and joy. Your comfort level will expand as you get more and more dives under your belt.

 

I usually breathe through my nose, how do you get comfortable breathing through your mouth?

This is a very common question and a problem that many people must overcome. It you’re a nose breather, breathing through your mouth can be very difficult, especially with a regulator in your mouth. Make sure your instructor is aware of the difficulty you’re having. There a number of techniques you can practice to get used to breathing through your mouth. Floating on the surface of a pool, breathing through your snorkel is a good way to practice. This will build confidence and help you to “feel” what it’s like breathing through your mouth.

 

How do you equalize your ears? I hear this can be very painful?

Some people can equalize the pressure in their ears more easily than others. If you descend to quickly without equalizing along the way, the pressure can create pain in your ears. There is a proper and very successful way to clear your ears that you will learn during a certification course. Don’t let this worry you too much, as you will learn how to and when to equalize your ears.

 

What about sharks and other dangerous creatures?

Divers have to worry very little about sharks or any other creature in the oceans. You do need to understand, respect, and appreciate the areas you are diving as well as know the types of creatures you may encounter that could be dangerous. Sharks and other creatures are usually very shy and more scared of you than you are of it. Most of the time sharks will just ignore you and swim on by as if you weren’t even there. You look strange to a shark, so they will avoid you and keep there distance. Avoid sticking your hands in holes or touching anything on the reef. Leave only your bubbles and take only pictures as you pass through and enjoy the beautiful environment you’re in.

Choosing an Underwater Video Camera

There is an almost overwhelming choice of consumer and pro-sumer video cameras available on the market today. The most popular are models from Sony, Panasonic, Canon, and JVC. There are also at least a dozen camcorder recording media formats out there. They include 8mm, Hi-8, VHS-C, S-VHS, miniDV, DVCAM, DVCPro, HDV, microMV, DVD, SD, and MicroDrive. All of these cameras are designed primarily for topside use in mind. Only a subset of them are well suited for use underwater. We’ll show how to whittle down the list of formidable candidates.

The first thing to consider is which cameras even have underwater housings available for them. Details of housing selection are covered in this section as well, but if you’re going to use a camcorder underwater, it needs to be in a reliable housing. Most housings are made by third-party companies, not by the camcorder manufacturer. Housing companies target primarily Sony, Canon, and JVC makes of camcorders in their product lines, with Sony being the most supported brand of camera.

The next thing to consider is recording format. With digital video gaining traction since the late 90s, the analog formats (8mm, Hi-8, VHS-C, S-VHS) are quickly becoming obsolete. Some of the new MPEG-2 based formats such as microMV, DVD, SD, and MicroDrive are OK for some types of use, but they have the major drawback of being ‘lossy.’ This means that you permanently lose video quality due to the MPEG-2 compression performed by the camera as it stores to tape or disk. The DV (digital video) formats store much better quality video to tape than MPEG-2. DV formats include miniDV, DVCAM, DVCPro, and HDV. The last three are professional flavors of DV. miniDV is considered a consumer and pro-sumer (professional/consumer) format and has become widely embraced in the market place and user communities. For that reason, miniDV is the recommended format for underwater video here. If you’re convinced you want to shoot video in Hi-Definition, HDV is the Hi-Def flavor of DV. However, HDV technology at the pro-sumer level is in its infancy, so choices are limited and expensive.

Low-light sensitivity, resolution, and color depth are next on the list. There is typically less ambient sunlight available underwater as compared to above, so one should look for a camera with acceptable low-light sensitivity. Light sensitivity is usually specified by a camera’s LUX rating in the specification. The lower the LUX value, the more sensitive the camera is to light. However, the method used in computing LUX is left open to interpretation by the manufacturers, so this number can be somewhat useless in comparing cameras of different makes.

Resolution is the total number of pixels (dots) used to define the image. This number seems to keep increasing with every new model of video camera. It’s a marketing game like processor speed is for PCs. Just keep in mind that DV is stored at 720×480 pixels, or 345,600 total pixels per frame. Resolution of three times this (about 1 mega pixel), helps to reduce noise in the image, but resolutions higher than this are pretty much unrecognizable in DV.

Color depth (or bandwidth) is the dynamic range of colors supported in the frame. More depth gives more vivid and saturated colors. This is where 3-CCD (aka 3-chip) cameras outperform single CCD cameras. 3-CCD cameras have a separate CCD sensor for red, green, and blue, instead of just a single CCD for the whole spectrum of color. Color is more true and vivid with 3-CCD cameras, but these cameras cost significantly more.

Camcorder size is another factor. A big camera requires an even bigger housing. This can result in a large and heavy system that’s cumbersome to travel with. However, going for the smallest camera isn’t necessarily the best solution either. Cameras with small diameter lenses suffer from more optical distortion than those with larger ones. A 37mm lens thread is a good choice on the small end of the range. Cameras that are too small also lack enough mass to benefit from the ‘smoothing’ effects of inertia while hand holding the camera underwater.

Finally, camera control and input/output features are very important. The camera should allow for the option to at least lock focus if not switch between full manual and auto focus. Manual white balance capability is a highly desirable feature, although not mandatory. LANC control capability is required by housings that have electronic controls. A FireWire (aka IEEE 1394 or iLink) port is pretty much standard issue on DV cameras today. Just make sure yours has it if you plan to transfer DV video to a computer for editing or DVD authoring.

Jennifer Stone – Aug 06

Jennifer, a diver for only two years, has just recently had the opportunity to fulfill a longtime dream of capturing the mystery of life underwater during an underwater photography course offered at Brooks Institute of Photography. The class took numerous trips to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, visiting Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Catalina and San Clemente islands. During this time, Jennifer logged thirty dives. She now travels back and forth from the Channel Islands to the Florida Keys in hopes of getting her dive master certification as well as to pursue a career in underwater photography. All of the images below are from the Channel Islands. If you would like to see more, visit www.JenniferStonePhotography.com.