Shore Diving with a Camera

Shore diving with a camera can be a challenge, but with the right gear it doesn't have to be.

If you ask many divers if they want to do a shore dive, they’ll often look at you as though you were crazy — add in a big camera rig and the looks get more pronounced. But shore diving with a camera has many benefits and is definitely worth considering. If it’s a good shore dive, you’re on your own schedule. You determine when to get both in and out, the focus of the dive, and the dive time.

Also, when you spend enough time at a dive spot, you get to know the critters regularly, which helps when taking photographs. Shore diving with a camera can be a challenge, though. Here are a few of our best tips to make it easier and more enjoyable.

Doing your homework

First, find a spot and do a little recon with the local dive shop and other divers. Research what the site is like, and determine the entry/exit point logistics. Note any potential swell, surge, topography, and critter life. Once you’re ready to go for a dive, organize your dive and camera gear for the walk to the entry point. Shore dives can be very simple or complicated, depending on the parking and your walk to the entry point. Some sites feature stairs and a nice beach, while others may require a climb down, so evaluate the best route to the shore before you gear up. Using the tailgate or back area of your car allows you to don your gear easily and your buddy to check you over.

Managing your camera

The biggest issue when shore diving with a camera is managing not only your scuba gear but  also the camera while you’re trying to get your fins on and time the swells. What do you do with it all? About 15 years ago I added a shoulder strap to my camera rig, which has made the process easy. I added a shoulder strap to my camera rig, which has made the process much easier. The shorter version is great for carrying your camera to and from places as it keeps the strobe arms in place. My strap is longer because I wanted to be hands-free. When I’m shore diving, I sling my camera on my shoulder or across my chest  and have my fins on a carabineer that’s attached to my BCD. Now I needn’t worry about my camera while I manage my entry/exit. 

So, how do you make one of these straps? The shorter version consists of braided fibers and trigger snaps or a carbineer on each end of the braid. I went with a trigger-snap clip, which does not open easily, and I chose all brass for wear and tear in the ocean elements. For the strap, I used thin parachute cord doubled up and looped through the first clip’s ring and fed it through flexible plastic tubing pulled tight. At the other end, it’s attached to the second clip’s ring. I purchased all of the parts at a hardware store, which makes it convenient and affordable. My current strap is over 15 years old and still going strong. Length is a personal preference, but I wanted the camera to sit at my lower hip when hung across my chest.

Entering the water

With a strap as described, your camera is secured to your body once you’re in the water. You can now inflate your BCD, watch the swells and get your fins on to kick out of the surf zone.

I usually swim on my back to my drop spot, leaving the strap slung around my neck. When I’m ready to start my dive, I unclip one side of the strap and clip it to my BCD’s left-side lower D-ring and begin my descent. Once I’m at depth, I detach the second clip and attach to my upper left-side D-ring.

Ending the dive

When I’m ready to ascend, I do the reverse of my descent and reattach the camera to my body with the strap and D-rings. This allows me to begin my exit from the water knowing the camera is secure. You can use this process on a boat too, and I also hand my camera rig to the crew with the strap so they can easily carry it back on to the boat.

Shore diving with a camera presents unique challenges, but don’t be intimidated. Diving this way means you can easily jump in for a dive on your own schedule. Once you know your camera is secure on entry and exit, you can relax and enjoy the dive.

You can find more of Michelle Manson’s work on her Facebook page.