A few weeks back when I went up to the film school to take pictures at their Gala, I was invited to tag along to go swimming with dolphins and film it. Um, awesome.
Gabrielle has been swimming with this same pod off the coast of Panama City since she was four. They’re completely wild dolphins and they love to hang out in this area and check everyone out. I think it was as much fun for them as it was for us.
Before anyone goes off on how there’s some law against this or you’re not supposed to touch them (even if they rub right up against you), I’d like to point out that Fish and Wildlife Management was in the area, and they did come to us only to tell us that our diving flag needed to be higher so boat wouldn’t run over us as we swam with the dolphins.
I should probably insert some bit here on how you should see The Cove. I haven’t seen it yet, but I only hear great things, so I’m sure it’s good. But you should watch my video first.
I shot this on a Sony EX1, Flip Ultra HD, and Flip Ultra SD in a Flip underwater case. That was a whole fiasco.
So I had less than 2 days to sort out the camera stuff. First I looked into getting an underwater case for the EX1. I found a rental house that had an EWA-Marine splash bag and would give me a good deal. On their website they said it was rated to go down to 10 feet underwater. As I was finalizing the details at the rental house, he asks “Are you going underwater with this?” Yeah, that’s why I want it.
“That’s not such a good idea. We have no way of testing these things and they’re only good for splashes or brief submersion.” So the underwater bag doesn’t do so well underwater. And any of the larger housings were at least $600 a day. So the EX1 going underwater was out.
Then I found that the Flip had an underwater case. But here’s where it gets complicated. There’s the Flip First Generation camera (which I have), and the Flip Ultra Second Gen available in both HD and SD. The housing on Flip’s site is only for 2nd Gen cameras. The housing on Amazon and everywhere else (which isn’t that much) is only for 1st Gen.
I had been wanting to get the Flip HD, so I figured I would get that and the newer underwater case designed for it, and have an HD underwater camera. Logical? Yes. But in Flip world, they like to flip logic upside down.
When I said no one carries the newer case (or even the older one), I mean no one carries it. I called every camera and electronics store from Miami to Orlando. Overnighting it would have been just as much as the case, which just seemed wrong, plus there was no guarantee I would get it in time.
I finally found a store in Orlando that said they could special order it in time.
“The Flip Ultra case for the newer cameras?”
“Yes, right here it says Flip Ultra.”
Great. So I stop off in Orlando as I’m driving up to Tallahassee and pick-up the case (I also picked up a Flip HD).
When I get to Tallahassee I try it out with the HD. The case barely closes.
With a lot of force I can get it down, but then once locked it pops open. I then try it out with my older Flip and it fits perfectly. Upon looking at the box I realize that the older Flips were also called Ultras and this in fact was a first generation case. Fuck.
So that’s how I ended up with all three cameras going, and no HD underwater footage. As for usage, the case works great with the proper camera. You can access every button via the case.
After about an hour of on/off submerssion, I realized there was some moisture in the case. It didn’t do anything to the camera, but I wiped it down and let it dry out for a bit. I don’t know if this is because the housing is just not that great or the seal got ruined when I tried to squeeze the HD camera in there. So for the rest of the time I would just squueze the housing when it was underwater and that seemed to work.
The biggest issue is the lack of weight. You’re underwater, waves beating you, trying not to drown, and you have this super light camera designed to float to the surface. So everything is super shaky, as you can see in the video. In the future I’ll try to attach some sort of weight to it and figure out how to stabilize it and myself.
So that’s my Flip woes and warning. I’m going to call them and see if they’ll sort this out, because the store can’t take it back since it was special ordered.
This trip did inspire me to get SCUBA certified, which I figured would be a good skill to have in South Beach for underwater photography and cinematography.