MASKS
I’ve been on a quest all my diving life to find the perfect mask, and I think I have. It used to be the Cressi Big-Eye, which was fantastic. Then when that got a bit old and the silicon a bit hard I spent a day at one of the Dive Shows looking at masks, and the best one for me was the one I have now, an Atomic.
Of course, being a photographer I use a black-skirted mask, but I always have a clear mask in my pocket for modelling – I’ll either pass it to a model or wear it myself. It’s an inexpensive Oceanic Shadow.

FINS
I get laughed off the planet, but I still have some Force Fins. I love them, though I know that they do have their limits.
In photographs they’re the most unattractive fin in the world, and in currents they’re not particularly good, but I find them small and light and easy for travelling and I’ve become accustomed to them.
When I put on other fins I find them a) too big and clumsy or b) too powerful. As a photographer I’m not worried about finning really fast but I do need to get around things, and these don’t stick out very far from the ends of my feet.
My Force Fins go everywhere with me, but what they’re not good for is snorkelling, which I have to borrow fins to do!

REGULATOR
I inherited an old Beuchat which is probably 20-plus years old, but I still use it in the UK and it suits me absolutely fine. I’ve got no reason to buy a new regulator until it dies.
For going away, just over a year ago I bought Apeks Flight regs, and I can’t believe how good they are. I’ve even used them in the UK in 12° water, but I don’t think you can use them if it’s colder than 10°. Absolutely brilliant, really good regs.
With us travelling divers it’s all about cutting down the weight and I don’t know how they manage to make regs so light without leaving something important out! The Beuchat is like having a little lead weight on you but you pick the Flights up and there’s nothing to them.

COMPUTER
I use an air-integrated Suunto D6i with the Flight regs, which cuts down on some weight. I like air-integrated because of the alarms. Photographers can get carried away and forget where they are, and setting those alarms at certain pressure levels gives me a bit of warning, and means I don’t have to be checking my computer every five minutes.
I also have a back-up computer, a Suunto Vyper, mounted on one of my strobe arms. It’s nice and big in front of me, so instead of having to look over I can just look up. I saw people doing it four or five years ago and thought that’s an amazing idea, sit the computer there and I don’t have to worry about it.
And the one of my wrist is giving me the alarms in case I forget anything.

BC
Controversially, I don’t take a BC when I travel. I’ve tried all the travel BCs and there’s too little to them – not enough rings to put things on, and I seem to slide out of them a bit more.
So when I travel that’s the one thing I hire. People worry that regulators aren’t serviced but BCs are simple devices and I haven’t hired a bad traditional BC yet. It could inflate but you would unplug it, and if it didn’t inflate I could still swim to the surface and orally inflate if I had to.
In the UK I use an old Sea Quest Pro. it’s about 15 years old and is getting really tatty, but it has enough D-rings, feels comfortable and the swivels are always really nice so it sits nicely on me.
I’m a weird person – people get really passionate about their BCs, but I’ll dive with whatever I get as long as it isn’t too big and doesn’t slide round me.
When the Seaquest finally rips and falls to pieces, that’s when I’ll buy a new one.

DRYSUIT
For the UK I have a made-to-measure Predator neoprene drysuit. It’s coming to the end of its life– it’s seven or eight years old. But I’ve just been trying out a Whites and I’m really impressed. I’ve only used it for a few dives but it’s the suit I’m about to buy.
The amount of movement you get is incredible. It’s trilam with the layer over the top. I haven’t tried it in really cold water yet but with a nice undersuit I can’t see that there would be a problem.

UNDERSUIT
I have a Fourth Element Arctic that’s incredible, really really warm. But my current Predator is such a warm drysuit that I don’t need a thick undersuit, so I just use non-diving undersuits, something thick and cotton. The Arctic is almost too warm with that suit.

WETSUIT
I’ve used quite a few but you can’t go wrong with Fourth Element. I’ve got three Fourth Element suits, including a 5mm, which I’ll wear in the UK in summer as it’s warm enough. You get all that freedom of movement and don’t need to carry all that weight, which I love.
I have a 3mm Proteus that I use when I go away, but last year I started using the fleece-lined Thermocline and I’m just blown away by it.
The beauty of it is that because it’s neutrally buoyant, I can dive without a weightbelt and still be warm, which is a first. It’s opened my eyes to a new way of diving, much freer.
I have a whole set that I can use in different conditions, and I always chuck one of the hoods in my pocket as well. When I’m away I prefer wearing no weight to being a bit cold, but if I am getting cold I can at least put the hood on if I have to.
The one thing I do struggle with is that as a photographer I want more pockets and most wetsuits don’t have them as standard. So I recently got some thin Scubapro slipover shorts with pockets, and wear those over the top to give me that extra storage for lenses and bits and pieces.
I prefer that to BC pockets you can’t see, as you’re never quite sure whether things are still in there. When they’re on your legs you can just tap them.
I’ve been banging on the doors of wetsuit manufacturers saying there are pockets on drysuits, so why not wetsuits I know Jim Standing at Fourth Element says he’s thinking about it.

BOOTS & GLOVES
Like masks, the best boots are the ones that fit you. Though I like Fourth Element suits I found its boots didn’t fit me very well. So I went to my local dive-shop and got some unbranded cheap boots – I think they cost £8 for the pair, but they fitted and they don’t give me blisters.
A great tip from John Bantin was to wear socks under them. They make all the difference.
I go through a pair of boots every two years or so because the cheap ones don’t last as long.
I use Fourth Element gloves – they’re really comfy and have a great grip on them.

LIGHTS
I use aiming torches made in Taiwan called FIT LED 2400s, which is 2400 lumens, so they’re video lights. I just mount one on top of my camera. They have different power settings but I usually have it on the lower setting.
They’re a bit like the little Light & Motion lights but much cheaper and much brighter. Also what’s really important for me is that they have a red light, which doesn’t scare all the critters. It doesn’t work on everything, mind you – I’ve seen lionfish starting to notice red lights, and they never used to.

CAMERAS SET-UP
At the moment I’m shooting a Canon 7D, which is a crop-sensor camera, in a Nauticam housing. I’ve had several housings but the Nauticam, especially for the price-point it’s at, is extremely ergonomic.
Everything is where I need it, and it now uses the pressure-test system which makes it even better – it’s brilliant. Before every dive you’d have that sick feeling, knowing that if you have a catastrophic flood even while you’re bubble-testing in the dip-tank, you’d still wreck your camera.
I know it’s not 100% but now you can do the pressure-test, the light comes on and you say yeah and go in. You’re not second-guessing. It was Hugyfot that started it, and it’s the best thing that’s happened to underwater photography for years.
I’ve toyed with sitting GoPros on my camera and just hitting “record” as I go in, but I spend enough time on my photos as it is, and then for every dive you’ve got an hours’ worth of video to edit It just doesn’t happen.
I was lent a GoPro to take to the Maldives, but apart from 10 seconds of mantas going over the top of me that I put on Facebook, I’ve got some 80GB of footage just sitting there, and if I haven’t edited it a year later I’m never going to do it.
If I had to do video I could just switch over on my camera, but I never have – I want to grab the still of that subject!
I use the same strobes as everybody else these days, Inon Z240s. They’re the universal strobe that works on virtually every system, whether tethered or fibre-optically. They’re really good, and I haven’t felt the need to have another.

SAFETY DEVICES
When I’m away it’s all about lightness, so I use just a spool with a small SMB. Someone in my club made me one of the old BSAC wooden reels – it’s big and clunky but exactly what I want in the UK.
I also carry a yellow flag and have found it far more useful than any SMB. I ascend with it up and find that the boat is there to pick me up every time.
I don’t know if that’s because everyone else has an SMB up and they know I have a flag.
Last year I was on the Elphinstone. The RIB had stayed at one end and I had drifted to the other end. I ascended with my flag up as usual and the guys on the boat said they saw it right up at the other end and came to pick me up.
Would that have happened with my small SMB
I don’t know if I should be telling everybody else to get flags, but it’s one of the best things I’ve got!
I’ve carried a CD in my pocket since I started diving – whether it works I don’t know. In the UK I carry in my drysuit pocket a Diver Flare in a little red plastic cylinder for worst-case scenarios.
When our club-boat puts people in the water locally mist and fog can come over really quickly. It disappears but by then they could have lost track of those divers, so I thought I needed some sort of bright signalling device.
I also carry a cheap pair of stainless-steel shears. I’ve lost quite a lot of expensive knives in the past.

WEIGHTBELT
I use whatever the BC comes with abroad and in the UK just use a pocket weightbelt, but a new mission for me is trying to find a decent belt that doesn’t slip off or undo. I’m not sure if it’s me or if the weightbelts don’t sit as easily as they used to do!
I’ve tried harnesses but they can make me feel I’ve got too much over me and I like to keep things simple. I’m going to try one of those kidney belts with the shot in.

PHOTO ACCESSORIES
Photographers should always carry a really small toolkit with watchmaker’s screwdrivers and that sort of thing, spare O-rings – and a tampon! If you’ve got space you can sit it in the bottom of your housing and if you do suffer a very small leak it can soak up some of that water. It’s handy and inexpensive and I’ve seen one save somebody’s camera.
I always carry Leak Insure bags of silica gel that soak up water in my housing. They cost more than a tampon but they will fit even in a compact housing. But if you can’t get hold of them a tampon is fine.

Saeed Rashid was talking to Steve Weinman.