Making preparations….

So, like my life, I have yet another tangental post… Packing lists may be the most boring thing for many but I’ve actually found some people’s advice pretty helpful.  Having already noticed I’ve forgotten a couple of items I thought I’d do the odd segment on how I prepared for this trip and what I bought/where I bought.

Some context… I’m off to Indonesia (Labuanbajo) for a liveaboard trip with Wicked Diving in the Komodo National Park area, then I’ll take a PADI Rescue Diver and Dive Master training in Khao Lak in Thailand 🙂

Firstly, I thought I was packing light… then I lifted the bag that came in the mail with my newly ordered dive gear… I was already at 18kg… so much for that cunning plan!

So my first instalment I figured I’d do a quick gear check… a followup should be if the gear was worth it or not!

I actually ordered all my stuff online without really having tested it in person or really having the opportunity to make sure it fits… what fun.  But, I had some great help.

Something that both Steve at Mike’s Dive Store and Kat at Nauticam.co.uk / Underwater Visions had in common was the attitude of “you’ll see how it is when you get out there and use it”.  I really like speaking to people that are directly engaged in using the gear they sell.

DIVING GEAR
I have to say that Joe at Mike’s Dive Store was incredibly patient and helpful.  One of the prerequisites for the course is having your own gear (at least most of it)… I don’t need to be encouraged to buy new toys.  So after a fair bit of searching and relatively few decent online stores based out of the UK to choose from, I decided on a one stop job, which turned out to be a good idea.  Rather than just make the online order I emailed the guys at Mike’s Dive Store.  After many questions from me and a lot of thought as to what level of gear to go for (my normal philosophy is to go large as you end up paying more when you realise you want an upgrade).  My final choices were:

  1. ScubaPro – Xforce BCD
  2. Atomic T3 Regulator (with Ti2 Octopus, and Miflex dual console)
  3. Atomic Frameless 2 mask – which was perhaps not the best fit on my nose… I reckon this will be painful the bridge of my nose… let’s see how that works out..
  4. Atomic Cobalt II dive computer – I’m hoping that having it attached directly to the tank will work out better than my wrist
  5. O’Niell Sector 5mm wetsuit – because I get cold even in tropical water
  6. Typhoon Surfmaster II boots – because have mark II of anything must be better, right? 😛
  7. Mares X-Stream fins – because who doesn’t like punny gear!
  8. A pocket reel and SMB
  9. A dive knife – maybe just because I needed to look like James Bond…
  10. Dive bag – as sometimes you need to keep your gear together coming on and off the boat

I decided that a travel bag was a good idea (Mares Cruise Roller Bag Pro) because of the special fin pouches… but when I opened the box it came in and realised how enormous this bag is I questioned the wisdom of this.  I think I’d rather have crammed the gear in a smaller bag (that I already have)… never mind, now I have a case that doubles up as a portable home.

As I say… a followup on how this performs is probably more interesting.

CAMERA GEAR

Now this is something I’m more capable of making self informed choices… or at least when it comes to the camera.  Putting it underwater, and all that entails, is rather more complicated (and expensive) than I had hoped!

  1. Sony RX 100 IV – I bought this from Panamoz simply because it was the cheapest by far (685GBP at the time of writing) and it seems to be the best in it’s class (a horrid experience with SLRHut.co.uk would warn anyone against using them… they are American based and seem to be either highly caffeinated or just all nut jobs as within 30seconds of asking a simple question (if perhaps a little repetitive) they became abusive and just plain rude).  Not only is it small for everyday use, and thus also for travel, it seems to produce pretty amazing images.  I was fortunate in my timing as the Mk3 version of this doesn’t do macro and (in my opinion) the little things are often the most interesting.  That and Nauticam also very recently released a housing for this camera.
  2. Nauticam Housing for said camera – I went to Nauticam.co.uk and Alex and Kat are clearly passionate about what they do and making sure you have the right gear to do the job you want.  Lovely people, quick to respond to queries, very helpful, knowledgeable, and provide useful insights into what kit you need.
  3. I added the Sea&Sea YS D2 strobe because of the flexibility it seems to have (EV control as well as TTL).  I’m not one for using flash much on land but underwater is whole new world with red light drop-off and rapidly decreasing amounts of light.  Having made prior attempts at underwater photography with a basic rig it becomes clear very quickly that good dark light handling and fast focus are important for choice of camera, with adequate additional lighting is also useful.

Once I’ve figured out what settings I use (probably one of the most common queries I see around the subject of photography) I’ll write some on this…

Well… I’ve dribbled a little too long about things… back to some more stories shortly…!

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