Chase Jarvis TECH: Underwater Camera

I’m going to the bottom of a pool and I’m taking my Nikon D3 with me.

If you’re curious about taking your dSLR underwater, I assure you it’s safer and easier than you might think. In this vid, I lightheartedly kick off a new series of pictures (a fun and growing project) AND I show you the gear we use to get it done.

Bloody Marys optional. Watch the vid, details after the jump… [click the ‘continue reading’ link below]

Some hurdles and how to jump em:

1. Can’t get my camera wet: GET A HOUSING
I have an underwater housing for my Nikon D3/D3s/D3x made by AquaTech. It rocks. They’re a tad pricey, but worth it if you’re doing any underwater work on a regular basis. Here’a B&H; link to my AquaTech rig – different lens covers are optional. And Remember if you can’t afford to buy, but want to play around consider renting them from local camera shops like Glazers.

2. Don’t have a pool. CRASH YOUR NEIGHBORS
I don’t have a pool either, but I have some friends that do. Erin and Norman were gracious hosts – all I had to do was ask (and bring the BBQ fixins). Obviously, most lakes and oceans are free for you to swim in as well…

3. Don’t have scuba gear. JUST SNORKEL OR RENT GEAR.
I don’t own scuba gear, but I rented the whole tank setup for around $50 bucks.

4. don’t have a subject: FIND ONE.
Surfer buddies are good. Belly floppers are good too. Canine friends would be interesting. Big fish in a pinch.

4. Don’t know how to make a bloody mary. FOLLOW THIS RECIPE.
Get yourself some 42 Below vodka. Good stuff. Some tasty tomato juice or organic bloody mary mix, in a pinch, some Mr.T’s. Dash of tobasco. And for those who think the drink is complete, think again. Here’s the secret ingredients that my grandma taught me (I swear): tablespoon or two of dill pickle juice. Celery salt and pepper. Generous squeezing of lemon and/or lime. Pickled asparagus spear. And put some chunky salt on the rim if you can swing it, ala margarita style. Olives are gross and should be left out (and banished from the earth).

Hope this helps you enjoy some underwater shooting. Happy Friday – have a great weekend. Special thanks to Head Like a Kite for the music behind this track. Check them here on iTunes.

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Great Fun Chase, I actually did this with our local high school swim team 2 years back after a suggestion from one of the students. It's always fun to do something out of the ordinary.
Can't wait to see your results

Age says:

Great Vid. what a cool idea… love that track you have playing in the video… You have another interested photographer!
I love the fact u created the Apple iPhone App. I so agree with everything u've said!. . just downloaded it.. thanks! My goal for 2010 is to get all my interesting phone images into a book too. cheers. Happy new year Chase.

I made one of my own but its not as cool as that thing (or cost as much). If and when you get board with it feel free to send it my way. I always love a good hand me down:)


Haha wow thats really cool, would love to try out somma that underwater jazz one day! ;)

I just got a cheaper case for my camera, $150 verse 1000to 2000 for the real deal, its been real reliable, I'm stocked on it and have had a lot of fun. cheek it out. www.

Very fun! Looks a lot like an underwater video I made for a photographer friend of mine. It's challenging but the results are awesome:

Yes, underwater photography is no miracle!

Great tips – thanks as always!

P.S. happy holidays!

Mario Strim says:

Those belly-flop shots are great!!

David says:

lolol so awesome! x-D

mugget says:

hahahha i love olives.

Darien Chin says:

I did an underwater shoot a little while back for fun, but I used a bag instead of a solid housing. It turned out to be a pretty big pain in the ass. It was also night time and raining so I had to put garbage bags over my strobes so they wouldn't fry. Was a lot of fun to experiment with though. Vodka must be the underwater drink of choice, because we also drank a bottle of it while shooting.

Gregory says:

Woah woah woah… Okay Chase, so I agree with the no olives comment… olives are repellent…

But what kind of Bloody Mary's are you drinking in Seattle that you're not putting in any horseradish?!

That's sacrilege.

Sjoerd says:

Nice underwaterhousing, i am building one of my one for my d90
i think i'm going to test is a few times!!

A real source of inspiration, thank you for your many morsels of goodness.

If you have a moment or two, please amuse yourself with my new creation. I would greatly appreciate the brief moment of adoration and any suggestions.

Thank You.

Chase Jarvis says:

re: the depth of field/focus question.

I was shooting with a large depth of field 11 or 16 and was prefocused just below the surface of the pool.

Very cool! Me and my friend are trying to get into the underwater fashion photography. Being from Wisconsin it's hard to find a pool and ever harder to find an indoor pool in these cold winter months.

You can check out the underwater shoot we did at the UWM pool on YouTube.

Wasabi Peas says:

This is like therapy. I can come here, and besides getting some photography inspiration, I can wash away any guilt about how much *I* spend on photo gear!

No worries — I'm happy with the gear I've got, and with your hard work and commitment to the photo community, you deserve all your successes. It's fun to watch you play with all that SCHHHWWEEEEEET gear.


A great article and fun shoot.
What impresses me most is that you break down ways to do the shoot and give inspirational ideas and alternatives, rather than just saying…"This is how I did it".

Thanks again.

Dani says:

My friend Tommy recently did an underwater photography shoot. I am excited to see how your photos turned out because I loved his work as well.

Yo Chase, diggin' the series though I'd be interested to see more complex lighting setups underwater, using non-tethered strobes. Can you use housing-enclosed pocketwizards underwater?

I just read a big book on underwater photography that was not very helpful. It didn't add any knowledge to what I know from spending a lot of time assisting at a pool where underwater shoots take place. I'm looking forward to the next video in this series :-)

Patrick Briscoe says:

lol, love it. What's better than vodka, belly flops, and underwater photography?! Those were some pretty cool results.

jeff says:

Great Video. Inspired to drink Bloody Marys now.

Kyle Bowman says:

Great video and tutorial Chase and crew! I follow your blog and commend you on your passion. Next try would be underwater at night with lights shooting up at the belly-floppers!..right?

Chris Biele says:

Cool vid! That's a deep pool and a sweet location.

Bloody Mary tip for you… a splosh of Lea & Perrins (Worcestershire sauce) and a healthy spoonful of spicy organic horseradish sauce. Give it a vigorous shake in a cocktail shaker along with your tabasco, pepper and celery salt and serve, no ice. Enjoy!

Trond says:

Great Chase!

Been taking some uw with my compact-camera, but might step up to slr+housing after seeing this! How was your tactical plan for focusing? Did you leave the apperture small enough for a large DoF, or did you autofocus everything?

Doug says:

LOL, that was awesome!! Fun times!!

I shoot in the water just as much as I do out of it, and I can honestly say that aquatech makes the best housings BY FAR. Fun post. Brings me back to teenage years, messing around with the housing in a pool.

I must say that Im a bit disappointed. Where's the self portrait of you mid belly flop?? Don't tell me that you told everyone else to belly flop and you didn't!

I see no-one's mentioned possibly the most important piece of equipment to make such a day successful. 42 FREAKING BELOW VODKA. Made it FREAKING NEW ZEALAND, my very own lovely country. Its the best damn vody in the world made in the best country in the world and chase you know I'm right in making both those claims.

Is it weird to tell the world that I dreamt of meeting you last night? Like in all seriousness. It wasn't dirty or nothing, before you get all freaked out hahaha. You were on one of your many NZ trips.

chris dixon says:

I shoot with the D-35 Aquatech
great, durable well made product which is awesome in a rough surf environment.

C says:

That looked like a fun shoot, with or without the Bloody Marys. Next time your in Canada you should ask for a Ceasar. The canadian version of a bloody mary but with more flava!

Gregg says:

There are 2 types of under water photographers.

The one's who've had their cameras flooded, and the one's who will.

Congratulations on being in the first group. I hope you never migrate to the second.

Will says:

So Cool! Thank you for this Chase, Scott, Dartanyon, Kate, and who ever else helped put this together!

I'm assuming maybe wrongly that you had a second housing for the D300s?

In any case GREAT work, can't wait to see you do a commercial shoot using this kinda set up. If you have and are not silenced by NDAs I'd love to know about it!



point357 says:

In a thinking mood. How can other less experienced photogs charge such a mint for average instructional DVDs when you lot do it so much better, free? Heartfelt thanks to you and yours.

If i skip the bloody mary for 2 years I might have the money to buy a AquaTech….

Casey says:

Nice recipe I'll try it this weekend. Hopefully I can get that vodka up here…

Thanks for another great video!

Love the pics. So raw.
Cut the olives a break, although I don't want them in my BM either. Thanks for the recipe by the way.
Not sure I remember how to swim.

Josh says:

I've been down to 30 ft with my ewa marine bag and my 5d mark II. Freaked me out but it worked and video is fantastic. I'd definitely recommend snorkeling with it to 15' as you'll be able to see if it was leaking and surface quickly.

Bloody Mary tip- Clamato makes the best base.

i'm glad you share my disdain for olives!

kevsteele says:

Ewa-Marine: about $450 to fit my D3 with a shoe-mounted SB-900. The model is the UBXP100 to get the 77mm glass port. You need to plan ahead with your settings as you do not have much control of the buttons once the camera's inside. Perfect for in the surf/triathlon/paddling/in and out of salt water shots. You can dive with it but I don't go there.

E. Collins says:

IKELITE makes more reasonably priced UW housings – rated to 200 ft.

Also, you usually have to be scuba certified in order to rent gear – or at least should be.

Dude don't be hatin on olives…keep on the Kalamatas and you'll get hooked eventually.

Photobby says:

Looks like a blast. Humm. Guessing you shot this 1-else where 2- like two months ago. That ain't no shorts weather outside right no Yo!?!

rbphoto says:

Cool video and pics. The idea is novel.

Kinda surprised that the videographer missed the focus – everything seemed fuzzy, as though someone had already been into the bloody mary's.

btw, banishing olives would be tantamount to shooting without a housing. But never put them in a Bloody Mary.

Sreejoy says:

and everything was pcfeert no bubbles, means no water in the housing. The pictures from my first time tackling underwater photography were shot with the same camera I have (5dmk2) it was Gia’s though. This time we did

Tyler Green says:

So cool, I've been wanting a housing for my G10 for a long time now (way cheaper than a housing for my 40d). I love the belly flop, awesome subject. Rad!

Fun project, thanks for sharing..

What justifies a camera housing? I understand if I was a marine/wildlife enthusiast, or a photographer who actually gets underwater projects. Other than that, the cost of the housing is prohibitive for many people.


Bill says:

How can you forget the horseradish in the Bloody Mary?

Hey Chase I think it can only work underwater up to a depth of 10 metres, so carefull with your D3!!
Fun video.

Jim Powell says:

seems like a fun shoot, but I think i was imagining some cooler results. Especially knowing that it was chase taking the pictures.

I did liked the shots that were taken from above water just before they went in.

Give it up for Grandmas!
Cool video.

pixelmixture says:

ewa marine bags is a much cheaper solution for this kind of "one time underwater photography" …

Nice. Lots of fun to read and watch that one!

Les Doerfler says:

I used to do a lot of UW photography back in the day with a Nikonos V camera. Lots of fun and super challenging.

For people still shooting film, the Nikonos might be a good option if you can find a cheap one on eBay.

I'm going to have look into a D3 housing or at the very least go mix up some Bloody Marys.

Antoine R. says:

Great post. Count on me to try the Bloody Mary recipe!

Ben says:

If your consuming vodka, do you still need to wait 30 minutes before entering the pool?

Smudge Chris says:

Olives are not gross! Cool idea with the camera though! :)

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