Summer Madness:
Crossing the Air-Water Interface
by Bjørn Rørslett 

As in any other photographic area, Nature Photography is all about getting the shot. Sometimes this is straightforward, sometimes a dedicated setup or thematic insight has to be brought to bear. And there are the rare occasions in which only ingenuity, madness, or a well-tempered mix of them, will save the day.


© Bjørn Rørslett/NN

Don't Ever, Never Try To Do Such Summer Madness

An R-UW AF lens, the 50 mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor in this case, grafted onto one of my my digital cameras

I spend some weeks every summer at my cottage, near the lovely city of Risør on the coastline of southern Norway. Any Norwegian with respect for himself will own at least one such humble abode, which is usually located either along the coast, on an inland lake, or well up into the mountains. Here we gather together and snivel about the summer being too cold and the winter too mild. Whenever the weather is perfect, we flock to travel abroad instead. I love being a Norwegian.

Every year I do a lot of planning to ensure I’m preoccupied exploring photographic avenues instead of weather contingencies, the latter outside the scope of my influence anyway. I’m not claiming all shots can be planned in advance, far from that, but you can turn the odds to your favour. And you’ll seldom, if ever, see things you’re not looking for. Familiarity with the lie of the of the land, local vegetation, and prevailing wildlife, all contribute to increase the likelihood of getting the shots you’ve envisioned. I firmly believe you should visit good shooting locations over and over again, as they improve each time around.

This year, I added a barnacle assignment to my summer agenda and accordingly packed a Nikonos RS outfit with 28 and 50 mm lenses. The RS rig is the least used of my underwater setups and since my first serious trouble with asthma prevented me from doing SCUBA, it has largely collected dust. My Nikonos V system is more versatile for my currently limited underwater outings, but the RS offered true close-up capability with its impressive 50 mm R-UW AF Micro-Nikkor lens so was the logical option this time.

The summer weather, predictably, turned really bad so the barnacle project seemed more promising than ever. After all, the RS system should take the downpour in its stride. That is, if I only had thought of bringing some film along. Modern Digital Times disaster struck. Film, remember, those round canister-type objects capable of storing up to a whopping 36 exposures on a not-so-compact media? Frantic rummaging of the fridge did not bring forth any hibernating CF ("canister film") media, nearest film supplier was many miles away, and the appalling weather prevented a film raiding expedition anyway. To top it all, winter storms and ice scouring had wreaked havoc on the barnacle communities. This obviously was the time to project. reappraisal. Tidal pools nearby provided an alternate rich field for marine photography. I couldn’t care less about the change in plans and the barnacles shut up, too. Even the weather commenced to sober up.

A close scrutiny of the RS 50 mm lens disclosed an internal mount superficially similar to that of any "F" bayonet, and indeed I could mount the lens directly on my D1X camera. The CPU contacts of the RS lens did not compare with those of the ordinary AF Nikkors, however, so neither AF focusing nor aperture settings functioned with the D1X although the contacts powered up the internal light of the R-UW Micro-Nikkor. By mounting the lens temporarily on the RS camera, focusing could be taken care of, and I solved the issue of stopping down the RS lens by judiciously inserting a number of match pieces into the lens flange (see picture) to allow me to shoot at a more suitable aperture.


Lens Mount is Attached and the CPU Print Provisionally Laid Out

Presumably, this can be called "matching aperture" ? Something to prevent the lens from stopping down to its f/22 minimum setting all the time was needed and this invention did the trick neatly.

I ended up with mounting the lens on a CPU-outfitted extension ring, to provide a little more working distance between the water surface and the terrestrial-designed D1X camera. Don’t even try to contemplate doing something similar unless you are willing to take the associated risks.

I spent days in and around the tidal pools with my makeshift system, enjoying the joint benefits of a superbly performing underwater lens and the high-quality, highly responsive digital camera. Since I employed my CPU-fortified extension ring, there even was full matrix metering available for my cross-over contraption. Ah, the marvels of Modern Times.

Tidal Pool Disaster

Tidal Pool Disaster
© Bjørn Rørslett/NN

Here is a sample of the end results of the project, taken with the 50 mm lens.

The need for keeping the underwater lens submerged and the digital camera simultaneously emerged entailed some clever twisting on my part, but I did get some remarkable shots this way and the entire experience exists to show the inherent truth of "carpe diem". I can learn to live with my physical disabilities, but not with a detached and non-responsive frame of mind.

Summer Madness: Crossing the Air-Water Interface  

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Last Update 12 July, 2003