A knock at the door and here it is! The package I have been waiting for. Larger than expected. The content: a Nimar Underwater Housing for my Nikon D3200 camera. After several experiments with less prestigious equipment (that, however, allowed me to learn the basics of photography necessary for my activity of professional blogger and social media consultant, I decided to up my game and use a Nikon D3200.
I chose a reflex with a good price/quality relationship, as I really do not need a more powerful camera for my job; yet, it’s a solution that allows me to mount an external microphone.
Since I collaborate with a few scuba diving magazines and given my passion for diving, I have been using this reflex, first, together with a Canon model (the Powershot D20) which is waterproof to 10 meters without housing, then with a Nikon Coolpix AW101 (waterproof to 18 meters with built-in depth gauge). However, these cameras soon showed their limitations, especially when compared to the Nikon D3200. This is why I decided to order the Nimar underwater housing to maximize the return on media of my diving. I ordered an underwater housing for Nikon D3200 camera with AF-s Nikkor 18/55 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and eyepiece.
As soon as the package arrived, I spent some time studying my new purchase. Made of transparent polycarbonate, the Nimar 3D housing for DSLR NIKON D3200 covers the camera perfectly. The new stainless steel fasteners with clip safety catch ensure adequate waterproofing up to a depth of -60 meters. It is fairly easy to set the camera up for underwater use, but it’s better to try it once before actually needing to use it. Now all that was missing was to test the housing in water: at the Banco di Santa Croce.
After a quick Internet research and after crosschecking information with scuba diving friends living in the area, I identified the best diving site for my test: the A.S.D. Bikini Diving. I contacted the President, Pasquale Manzi, to express my need to organize a diving session to test my new equipment before leaving for Dubai. I also mentioned that we could take the opportunity to shoot some pictures for the magazine of the Emirates Diving Association (with which I collaborate), presenting the Banco di Santa Croce as a possible diving destination for all scuba diving enthusiasts in the Emirates. Pasquale was extremely available and proposed a couple of dates in which I could join the association in its diving.
On diving day, we had the pleasure to meet Eleonora de Sabata, journalist and marine photographer, who has been working for over 20 years at disseminating sea information in TV (BBC, Discovery Channel, Rai and Mediaset) and on major Italian and foreign magazines and newspapers, including the National Geographic and the Financial Times. She is also devoted to scientific research, environmental education and writing (she has already published a series of children’s books for De Agostini, in addition to scuba diving tourism books).
Eleonora has also been studying sharks that she related about in documentaries, books (as in the children’s book published by De Agostini “Cosa fanno gli squali tutto il giorno nel mare?”), articles, TV transmissions, conferences and photography exhibitions. In 2001, she devised the MedSharks project for the study of gray sharks in Turkey, of the elephant shark in Sardinia, of the sixgill in Sicily, as well as of the spiny dogfish and leopard shark. In particular, in the Banco di Santa Croce area, there is a monitoring activity of catshark eggs, the reason why Elena was diving on that day; the Banco is one of the very few sites in the Mediterranean Sea where the catshark and the leopard shark still lay hundreds of eggs. During the diving, you could see these eggs on the numerous red gorgonians as a testimony to the miracles of nature.
Many volunteers support this project and, taking the opportunity of the diving sessions, they tag the eggs to monitor their evolution.
The Banco di Santa Croce, “biological protection zone” established in 1993, consists of five tall rocky pinnacles.
The cliffs are more or less steep depending on the side you are on and can be 50 meters deep. There was some tension, as it happens any time you try something new (and, in this case, there were several new elements: the location, the equipment, the diving colleagues…); there was also the expectation of having a minimum number of pictures to be utilized.
The camera asset, lightly positive, wasn’t uncomfortable with the diving suit and immediately revealed the usefulness of the safety latch. After reaching a depth of 7-8 meters you can see beautiful sceneries that are hard to imagine in a stretch of sea so close to the mouth of the Sarno river. However, it’s actually the provision of nutrients carried by the river and the darkness (due to the surface layer of turbid water) that create the perfect environment for the development of a rich life of sciafili organisms. Red and yellow gorgonians and Axinelle cannabina peep out already within 18 meters, giving the chance to use the camera and take the first few pictures.
Deeper, we found a higher concentration of gorgonians, often covered with catshark eggs, a scenario that is almost unique in the Mediterranean. Below 30 meters, the scuba divers can see long branches of Gerardia savaglia and numerous ravines where catsharks and gronchi fishes hide.
Circumnavigating the main pinnacle, we see a vertical rift that splits the rockface in two; the light filtering through from above goes through the weaving of gorgonian branches, treating us to a striking scenario and giving us the chance to try some backlit shots. We saw large groupers, and we were lucky enough to see also (and photograph from afar) eagle rays hovering in the blue waters.
Occasionally, during decompression stops, it’s possible to see amberjacks, palometa and lampuga speed by. The diving gave me a great mix of emotions. Although I still have a lot to learn in underwater photography (and not being or wanting to be a professional photographer), I am satisfied of the test and of the quality of these first few pictures shot with the NIMAR housing. Maybe, after a few more tests when I return to Dubai, the next purchase will be a set of lights to couple with the housing.
I would like to thank again Pasquale Manzi of Bikini Diving for his availability and all the assistance and Eleonora de Sabata for the interesting and useful information she gave me on the nature that surrounded us during the dives.
Eggs of small-spotted catshark, or Scyliorhinus canicula, a catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae. They deposit egg-cases that are protected by a horny capsule with long tendrils.
The eagle rays are a group of cartilaginous fishes in the family Myliobatidae, consisting mostly of large species living in the open ocean rather than on the sea bottom. Common in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Adriatic Sea in particular.
Pasquale Manzi with me and some members of Bikini Diving