THE PICTURE-MAKING KIT

CAMERAS
Every underwater photographer has his or her own arcane but very personal reasons for choosing camera systems. My partner Jennifer Hayes and I use a range of Nikon cameras, including the D3, D3S, D700 and an older workhorse, the D2X.
The new generation of digital cameras has an almost magical ability to record images in low light - a welcome gift in underwater photography, where ambient light is a limited commodity.
We have used Nikons since the beginning of time without the desire to jump brands each time a new and improved version surfaces on the opposite side of the fence.
We have watched in exhausted awe as colleagues chase the next-best digital camera. It is time-consuming enough to manage the assignments and make the images without reading every single consumer report on the next-best thing around the corner. The bottom line is that the cameras have to pay for themselves.

HOUSINGS
We wrap most of the Nikons in SeaCam housings. SeaCams are well engineered and beautifully machined housings, where exquisite form follows function.
They are a larger, stable housing with the superb glass optics that you might expect from a detail-oriented Austrian.
I am especially fond of their ability to manually focus and manually zoom, with control knobs within fingertip reach.

LENSES
There is no such thing as a favourite lens. Every assignment calls for the ability to make an image at a different size, from a shrimps eyeball to a shark. We use a range of Nikkor lenses, along with a few speciality lenses, such as a custom endoscope.
For many recent assignments, we have been using wide-angle rectilinear zoom lenses, specifically the 17-35mm and the 14-24mm, which cover a wide range of subjects.
We use these lenses with a 55mm extension tube and 10in SeaCam Superdome. The large dome produces extremely sharp images at the centre and relatively sharp corners, and the admission is worth the price.

LIGHTING
We light with Sea & Sea YS-250 strobes and carry YS-110 for extra light. We may use up to four strobes on one housing. Sea & Sea strobes produce a clear and slightly colder colour temperature than others.
I like their extraordinarily fast recycle time, with a large-capacity, fast-charge battery.
I have also used Sea & Sea strobes since the beginning of time, because I find them tough and reliable. And as long as were talking about strobes, we might chat about strobe arms. In strong currents, older arms exhibit ED, or erectile dysfunction. We have had good luck with Ultralight arms.
For night dives, we rely on the Hartenberger Nano Compact for a focusing light. It produces a soft, controlling beam that tends not to scare the s*** out of the subject.
For large-scale subjects, we use 1200W HMI surface-supplied lights with 90m of cable. They produce drama but require a lot of work, especially in any kind of current.

THE DIVING KIT

As underwater photographers, we dont want to concentrate on scuba gear. The bottom line is that it must be simple, robust and reliable.
We dont follow fancy; we follow function.

MASK
The most important piece of equipment is, of course, the face-mask. Without this small window of glass, there is no diving, no photography and no other rest-of-our-planet.
I use an ancient Nemrod Bali oval mask that is no longer in production, with optical-lens inserts.
The company went under a decade or more ago.
I have stockpiled as many as I can get my hands on, and they remain guarded in my studio by Snowball, our 18-year-old cat.
I like the mask for one reason and one reason only: it fits my less-than-perfect aquiline nose.

FINS AND SNORKEL
Fins are critical, and snorkels are important. We use Mares Plana Avanti Quattro fins in black.
I have found that when you need a snorkel, you really need it. On a recent trip to Antarctica, 70% of the images were made at the surface on snorkel.
No snorkel, no image - and thats a long way to go to miss a picture.
I use a Scubapro Twin-valve Shotgun.

REGULATOR
I have used Poseidon regulators for most of my underwater life. I have a stockpile of Cyklon 5000s that come and go from the workbench at National Aquatics in Syracuse, New York.
When you are really working hard and really need air, they really deliver.
For the ice, we use Atomic Aquatic M1s.

SUITS, BOOTS & GLOVES
Wetsuits are our uniform. Ours are black, simple and comfortable and made by Henderson USA.
We rely on their hyperstretch full jumpsuits in every thickness they make (3, 5 and 7mm) in black. They have a back-zipper with a 3.5mm hooded hyperstretch underneath.
I am addicted to Henderson Octoboots for their fit and humour, and always carry InstaDry boots in my bag.
I am also addicted to my Henderson neoprene weight-belt, and panic at the thought of losing it.
For coldwater work, we use the Waterproof Draco 3.5mm neoprene suit with a Waterproof H1 10mm hood and Waterproof APP 7mm three-fingered wetglove weighted with a DUI harness belt. The undersuit is from Fourth Element.

BC
For buoyancy compensators, we follow the mantra less is more. We like a BC to be simple, have streamlined pockets, swim well and have good lift. We use the Scubapro Classic Sport without weight integration.

COMPUTER
We use the Uwatec Aladin Pro Ultra. Its not air-integrated - we have stood by and watched as fellow-divers curse, tinker and rant about a failed signal.

WATCH
The last critical piece of gear is my wristwatch.
I have depended on Rolex watches for my entire diving and photographic career.
I religiously set the bezel of my Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date before embarking on each dive.

MEET DD AT WILDPHOTOS 2010

DAVID DOUBILET heads an impressive list of some of the worlds best nature photographers at WildPhotos 2010, held at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 October.
WildPhotos is the UKs largest international photography symposium dedicated to exploring the power of nature photography.
Compèred by BBC Springwatch presenter CHRIS PACKHAM (who has been both a prize-winner and a judge of the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition), WildPhotos 2010 features many photographers best-known for their topside work - although the lessons to be learnt by those who aim high in underwater photography are universal.
US photo-journalist MARK LEONG reveals some of his trade secrets; Italys STEFANO UNTERTHINER explains why it pays to fall in love with your subject; DANNY ELLINGER from the Netherlands looks at new technology and champions the importance of originality; and TIM LAMAN of the USA shows what in-camera video can do for you.
Other top photographers among the 20 experts sharing their tips and tricks include SANDRA BARTOCHA, JOE CORNISH, KAREN GLASER, KLAUS NIGGE and PETER CAIRNS.
Also scheduled to speak is one of the underwater winners from the prestigious 2010 Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition - although the winners wont be announced until 21 October, so his or her identity must remain a mystery!
A question that certainly applies as much under water as above it is this: Photographic deceit - how far is too far A discussion on this topic will be chaired by zoologist, TV and radio presenter, wildlife photographer (and one-time DIVER columnist) MARK CARWARDINE.
Also set for WildPhotos 2010 is a publishing forum involving editors from BBC Wildlife, National Geographic and Outdoor Photography.
The keynote presentation takes us firmly under water, however, as David Doubilet, the worlds most celebrated underwater photographer, charts a fascinating journey through his career. On the way he will cover his development of new ways to photograph marine subjects, and his discovery of the power that photography has for conservation.
WildPhotos is an initiative of UK charity Wildscreen. Tickets cost £110 a day or £180
for both days and are available now. Concessionary rates are available. Register online at www.wildphotos.org.uk