DIY DSLR Big Dome Port Underwater Housing

If you've done research into underwater housing (and their cost), you'll know how expensive they can be. In some instances, they cost more than the camera. Certainly, when you pay the premium price you're also purchasing assurance, functionality, size, etc. However, rebel that I am, I didn't want to pay the premium, so I built my own. They make cheaper underwater bags which I've used before, but the reason that didn't meet my needs is I specifically wanted a big-dome port. Since they don't sell those in any version except expensive housing cases, I knew my only option was to DIM (Do It Myself). 

This post shows you how I built it, and some sample images that have since come from it on two different shoots. I've been quite pleased considering it cost me less that $50 and has had no issues with water leaks.

First, the materials I used. Run to a few local stores and pick up supplies (images below). Such supplies include:

  • A sealable container (I got some Tupperware from Wal-mart that I measured to know was big enough for my camera and hand simultaneously. It was thick enough to maintain stability (unlike some types of Tupperware would have been), yet thin enough to cut with box cutters and drills. I could have bought a more expensive pelican case or something, but I was on a budget, on a time crunch, and wanted to be able to see the back of the camera. 
    For extra sealing security, rub a bit of Vaseline along the rubber gasket before using.
  • Extra lid or flat plastic. The Tupperware I got was a set of 3, so I had an extra lid. This will be cut to be the extension that attaches the 6" dome port to the 4" NBS.
  • 4" NBS or PVC male adapter and female adapter. This is for the lens port. I measured my lens and 4" was the best option for what I was using. You could also use piping and cut it to length, but I wanted to used threaded pieces so I could screw and unscrew the big dome port for if I wanted to collapse it better for travel. Mine were a white and black only because they didn't have both in black. Wish they did though.
  • 3" NBS or PVC pipe, cut to your appropriate length. You could also use an adapter again if it's the length you need. This piece is where your hand and glove inserts. 4" would have been too big, so 3" gave more flexibility in location placement and fit the glove better.
  • Chemical glove. This is where your hand will insert to function the camera. Getting a Chemical glove or similar is important, because you don't want it leaking or puncturing. Don't use a thin or non-water proofed glove. 
  • Plumbing fastener/gear clamp. This will go around the outside of the 3" NBS piece to hold the folded glove in place.
  • Silicone, this is what I used to seal edges and joints
  • 6" Big dome port (not pictured till later). I got this product off Amazon and could have gotten a 9". Not too sure if one would be better than the other, but I wanted the 6" so it would fit better with my setup. From my understanding, the larger 9" dome would help achieve better above-below images. But don't quote me on that. I need to experiment more first.
The majority of supplies used for my DIY underwater housing

The majority of supplies used for my DIY underwater housing

Once the tools are assembled, figure out what holding position is going to be most comfortable and starting cutting holes. I used a sharpie and box cuter for my holes. I didn't want to use any kind of jig saw due to how flimsy the plastic would be with that. Also, I know that I'm a meticulous and detailed person, so I knew my cuts wouldn't be sloppy. Make these holes as perfect, snug, and precise as possible. The goal of the silicone isn't to fill large gaps, but to seal and hold a tight fit. Also, I wouldn't suggest siliconing pieces in place yet. I waited to have everything together and tested before securing it.

You can also see here how the glove works. Insert into the 3" piping and fold over the end. I rubbed a thin layer of silicone under the folded section before putting the clamp on and tightening. Also, as you insert the pieces, be testing with the camera to see how far pieces should be inserted to be comfortable and in proper position. If the 3" piece was too far in, it would squish my hand while holding the camera, but if it's too far out, I wouldn't be able to hold the camera properly. These adjustments are why I wouldn't silicone anything yet.

Once the dome port arrived two days later, I took the extra lid and cut two circumferences from it; one for the 6" dome port and one to go over the 4" NBS. 

Once pieces are ready to assemble and have been tested, we can begin siliconing. One thing I did to ensure a better adhesion is I scraped and made a rough surface for the silicone to grip. That way it's not adhering to a perfectly smooth surface. You could used a rough file for this or just a blade like I did. 

Now add silicone to all joints, ensure a tight seal, and let dry. I gave a full 2 days of drying just to be sure before testing. 

After testing in the sink and tub to ensure it was safe to put my camera in, I used it for some actually shoots. Although I may not be able to access all buttons at any moment and it is big and clunky, it was still almost $1,950 cheaper and has produced some neat images thus far. The way I function it inside the case is by putting it on manual focus, a larger aperture for good depth of field since above and below the water will be different focal planes, and I have used it in both Manual and Aperture priority. I turn on the live view and can trigger the shutter whenever I please. 

Here are a few images from shoots to show it's results. Thanks for reading.

If you have any comments, thoughts, improvements, corrections, etc., I'd love to hear them. 

Roadtrip_Oregon & Washington

Outdoor and Adventure Photography In My Travels

When I was younger I always thought the perfect job would be one where I'd get to travel and be paid for it. Well, I've had that opportunity recently and I never would have expected it at my current job. It's allowed me to do my outdoor and adventure photography along the way. 

So this post covers my road trip from Los Angeles through Oregon & Washington and back. I currently work, though not for much longer, at a signage company and we've been rebranding for a client nationwide. As their main installer, I've been able to travel the U.S. doing these installs. This OR & WA trip was the first of numerous. 

First let me say this, I'd call this a true road trip because I never slept in a hotel; I lived out of my car and camped. I have a Subaru Forester that I've transformed into my little adventure home. I put down a pad in the back, have Tupperware to organize food and cosmetics, a large cargo bin on my roof for storage, and installed curtains on the inside for sleeping. If there is an interest, I can go into more detail on my setup later.

My first install was in Eugene, OR, so my trip really began there. Installs for my work always take place in the morning and evenings, leaving the day open for either driving or exploration. After Eugene I went up to Portland, then over to Spokane, WA (Side note, I don't know why anyone would live out there). From there I cut back west to Seattle and Tacoma. After finishing those installs, I was finished and had some time to explore, so naturally I went to Olympic National Park. It was here that I chose to do what the park deemed one of the 'hardest but most rewarding' hikes; Lake of the Angels. It is a 6 mile hike with almost 4,000' elevation gain. What I didn't realize is that most of that elevation gain is in the last 2 miles once it shoots off up the mountain. It was the hardest hike I've done. Every step was like doing lunges or squats or something. I've never had a cramp on a hiking trip, but in the last (and steepest) 400', one thigh was cramping with each step. But I pushed on and rounded the corner to see my camp spot next to the lake. At that moment, I realized it was all worth it. A beautiful lake surrounded by peaks, trees, and small streams. It was also at that moment that it started to rain (welcome to the Pacific Northwest). So I very quickly set up my REI Quarter Dome 1 and got inside. Most of that night I slept cozily in my tent while lighting storms illuminated the peaks around me. 

The next morning I woke up to hear grunting, snorting, and chewing outside my tent. The mountain goats had come down to eat around the camp area. I enjoyed greatly the photo opportunity from my tent door for a solid hour before I scared them off to make breakfast and begin my decent. If you're in the southern section of the park, I'd highly recommend this hike (so long as you are up for an exhausting hike). The rest of the day was spent traveling back down the coast to California. 

I've inserted a gallery of images from this entire trip below so you can enjoy the beauty with me.  

Adventures in Michigan and Chicago

Have you ever been out to Michigan during the summer? It's beautiful! I was out there this last weekend for a friend's wedding and it was the furthest East I've been thus far and I didn't want to leave. I also had a layover in Chicago so I have some awesome shots from that exploration as well. I just wanted to share some of these photos with you, because I think they turned out beautifully. In the words of Jim Richardson, "If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more beautiful things." That's how I felt about my photos from this trip. I left on Thursday morning, had a small layover in Chicago which wasn't long enough to go explore the city, and then, after our plane had a brake mechanical issue, I finally made it to Traverse City, MI at 12:45am. It was in a smaller town to the north that we had a rental home for the family of the groom and his groomsmen  (of which I was one). It was there that I spent a few days enjoying their company, sipping coffee on the dock in the early morning, and canoeing around the lake. Below are some of the photos I loved most from this area.

The steep hill in Sleeping Bear Dunes, that you can see people climbing up, my friend and I decided to time ourselves and push for a record. After nearly killing ourselves due to a heart attack, dehydration, passing-out, etc., we made the top in 16 minutes and 16 seconds. So difficult, but so rewarding and memorable. It only took about 3 minutes to run down it though at full speed and for me, I choose not to stop and just ran straight into the cold waters of Lake Michigan.

Then on Saturday, we had the wedding, which went splendidly, and although I wasn't the main wedding photographer, I was able to grab a few shots before and after and at the reception.

Then I had most of Sunday to relax as well before I left in the evening. My flight got into Chicago at 8:30pm and my flight to Los Angeles wasn't till 7:15am the next morning. So I took advantage of that spare time and I rode the "L" into downtown Chicago so that I could go visit Millennium Park and see "Sky Gate", or better known as "The Bean."

After almost getting lost trying to get back to the train station, I finally got back to the airport at 11:30pm to find that the security check-in closes at 10:30pm. So instead of spending the night on the carpeted floor of my boarding gate, I spent the night on some chairs by baggage claim. Aside from a crying baby nearby, I slept great! Fun fact, I can sleep most anywhere, and in this case I did. The chairs had armrests that didn't move, so in order to lie down and had to slide in underneath them and then couldn't move once in position. I had an armrest above my head, my stomach, and my legs; regardless of these 'annoyances' I slept great only waking up once at 3:00am because the baby again. I wish I had a picture of my on the chairs, but I don't... lame!

I woke up at 6:20-ish and went through check-in and got to my gate with an hour to spare. Then I slept some more, boarding the plane, then slept almost the whole way home. Once I was back in LA at 10:00am, I grabbed my car and headed straight to work. Needless to say, returning to my apartment, a shower, and my sweet loving bed at the end of the day all felt so great. My adventures in Michigan and Chicago however will remain fond memories and I have the pictures to prove it.

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