My first experience of using a waterproof soft case was not for shooting underwater photography but to photograph Songkran in Thailand. And my second experience was for documentary purposes about the Haenyeo in South Korea using my FUJIFILM XT2 for underwater photography.
Shooting with an underwater case with my FUJIFILM XT1, FUJIFILM X100T and FUJIFILM XT2
Songkran is Thai New Year’s National holiday on the 13rd of April every year. The holiday period extends up to three to five days. Besides all the cultural and religions rituals, it is also known as the water festival (water battle) in Thailand, which is very popular and wildly celebrated. For the Thai people, throwing water or getting splashed is like purification – cleaning the bad things and blessing one for good luck.
Few years ago, I was in Chiang Mai, the northern capital of Thailand for a few months which is one of the top and hot spot for the celebration.
Ever thought that the FUJIFILM system is specified water resistant, it is obviously not in the kind of condition.
You received splashes of water, water pistols shots, and the worst part is when people used ice water… Not worth for your gear but the shock that your body camera undergo from the projection.
For these few shots, I used the DiCACap and my FUJIFILM XT1, a brand from US which does waterproof cases that protect digital cameras, phone, tablets and others. I bought it directly from a thailand camera store in Chiang Mai.
It was very easy and save for me to use. I really love some of the shots. I wish I was shooting this festival a little bit longer but I was already busy doing other things.
That was my first experience. Back to the US after that, I bought a second one which was much bigger and hope to go back to Songkran again.
Underwater photography with my FUJIFILM XT2
My second experience of using my mirrorless FUJIFILM XT2 camera with an underwater case.
When I moved to Singapore, I was looking for a documentary photography subject or travel story and sport race that I could do in the same trip in South East Asia.
I really have an interest on people story and their lives. At this time, I was not doing any commercial photography job and was not contributing stories to the magazine.
During my search online, I chanced upon these incredible women called Haenyeo from Jeju Island in South Korea. They were women divers with very special identity and story. Most of them are between 60 to 80 years old and they are still doing this extreme and physical activity.
On my first travel, I was amazed about these women & love all about these documentary journey. Most of my shoots were in land and also on the boat. I did one dive/swim, it was more than just a swim but did not shoot them while working. It was difficult because I could not speak any Korean language and they neither spoke English nor French.
I did use the DiCACap underwater case to photograph these ladies at the surface or when they out of the water. I was in the water, just at the edge of the water and the DiCACap was a great protection from the water splash – just in case if something was to happen.
Back to Singapore, it was good because as the media were very enthusiastic about my photography series. That was very surprising but I knew it was missing something – Like a part of the story. That’s when I decided that i wanted to shoot underwater.
Ordered a underwater soft case for my mirrorless camera
Four or five months later, I went back to Jeju Island. I had to find a proper underwater system. Only a few companies or manufactures houses in hard material. For me, it was out of my budget and found another solution that would work which was the Ewa-marine . Ewa-marine housing gear is manufactured from a German company that does a lot of various underwater equipments for various camera brands and models. They even do it for broadcast and cine-cameras.
I faced another challenge. I was supposed to fly a few days later to Jeju Island, the Singapore distributor for Ewa-marine did not had any stock and they had to pre- order one from Germany. And by that time, I was already in Jeju. The under water case was shipped to the distributor and then shipped to my place of which my wife shipped the item to me in Jeju. You have to be very motivated…
The model that I purchased was EWA-Marine U-AX.
I felt more secure with the DiCAPac but not 100%. I told myself in order to make things more exciting and not be frustrated, you have to try it and take the risk.
The result of the XT2
For all my underwater photography, I used the FUJIFILM XT2 with my 10-24mm FUJINON lens, with Ewa-marine. I had access to almost all my setting. Most of the time, it was not easy to turn a dial or press a button.
In order to compose my photographs, I was using either the viewfinder or the screen.
The toughest thing was to shoot was up side down and most of my shoot was taken like this. This is because when the women went down, I tried to do the same but could not stay long keeping my breath. When they came back to the surface, they don’t exactly reach at the same precise spot and I would not know when. That is why it is more secure to get the shoot by following them. Also in free dive, up-side down or trying very hard to be neutral buoyancy – it was really hard to be stable. Now I can imagine doing the same shoot with proper diving gear and oxygen bottle because that would be very useful.
I did it and It was fantastic – of course much more challenging that any proper hard case I guess but it did the work.
I dived a few times with it. My diving method was like this incredible ladies with not the same technical or style, they were amazing. No oxygen bottle, free dive with weighting belt needed.
I shot a bit of video with the FUJIFILM XT2 but not much because my wife bought me a brand new GOPRO. The first time, I lost it at the end of my first dive with a couple of video footage captured. I was so sorry and embarrassed about the entire situation. I simply could not find it. The loss was my fault and I even bought an affordable stick and the lacet cordon brook to support it.
Overall I was really happy of how the underwater pictures turned out with the FUJIFILM XT2. To be honest, the Ewa-marine did a massive awesome job. As you can see, some of my photographs had the black vinette from the underwater case. This happens when my lens was not all the way to the bottom of the case.
I could have crop it or even some photographer retouched in but at the end, I really like it. It made the look even more special.
On this link you can see the overall series:
” HAENYEO, WOMEN DIVERS OF SEA – JEJU ISLAND, SOUTH KOREA “
Following all this work, we did a photography Exhibition at The Fullerton Hotel Singapore associated and sponsored by UNESCO, UN Women, Epson, Tourism South Korea.
More info on the link here:
” HAENYEO SINGAPORE – PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION “
Here was the video teaser for the exhibition:
Also the series was feature in interesting media as:
– Straistimes : https://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/travel/up-close-with-jejus-mermaids
– Asian Géographique : https://www.asiangeo.com/gallery/ancient-sirens/
– New York Times Singapore : https://tsingapore.com/article/south-korea-jeju-island-female-haenyeo-divers
– Lonely Planet : https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2017/11/09/mermaids-of-jeju-south-korea/
– SPIEGEL : http://www.spiegel.de/reise/fernweh/suedkorea-seefrauen-haenyeo-auf-der-insel-jeju-a-1190904.html
I hope to have more opportunity to shoot underwater and I have already had a few subjects in mind to explore in the future.
You can also find follow me on Instagram: @josejeuland