When it comes to DIY hacks, there are some absolute beauties out there that demonstrate the wonderfully creative imaginations that people have. It’s no different when it comes to photography, and these hacks I’m going to share with you today might be some of the most outrageous you’ve ever heard.
The best thing about DIY hacks is that they usually circumvent the need for expensive and complicated procedures that many people neither have the money nor the time for. They most often come about because people have to find a way of doing something when they don’t have the means to invest in certain equipment that is supposedly necessary for the task at hand.
As a recent house buyer, I’ve had to scour YouTube on many an occasion to find out how to do something that I really didn’t want to call a repairman out for. Or sometimes, I have called the repairman out, and they’ve given me a quote that I thought was so ridiculously extortionate that I resorted to my own means to get the job done myself. Over the years, I’ve picked up some great DIY photography hacks that are right up there with the best of them. I’d like to share three of them with you today and hope that they might generate a discussion among us to share more wonderful and useful DIY hacks that could help all us photographers out there.
Using Sex Wax
The first hack relates to a technique used in surfing photography and more specifically relates to water housings and ports that hold cameras in the water and prevent them from getting wet. There are different types of ports, depending on what lenses you’re using and the position you’re shooting from in the water. If you’re shooting with something longer than, say, a 35mm lens, for example, then you would most likely use a flat port. For instance, when I’m in the water using a flat port, I almost always use my Canon 70-200mm f/4L, but something like the nifty fifty or even an 85mm lens would almost always need a flat port, too.
So what’s the DIY hack? Regardless of the port you’re using, you need to ensure that every time you take a shot, there are no ugly water droplets on the front of the port, because they will quickly ruin what might otherwise have been an amazing image. The housing manufacturers and the port manufacturers will tell you all sorts of different methods, but the best one that I’ve used, without a doubt, has been with a particular type of surfboard wax called Mr. Zogs Sex Wax.
Not only that, but it also has to be a particular type of sex wax, namely the red version. The different colors are used for different temperatures of water, but within the surf photography community, it’s definitely the red wax that gets the thumbs up. You simply smear a couple of criss-cross lines across the front of your port before you go out into the water and then gently rub it in with a microfiber cloth, so it leaves a smooth, clear, oily surface across the front of the port. This usually gives you a perfect hour at least of shooting without any droplets covering your port when you’re out in the water. After that, you can resort to using the oil from behind your ear or inside your nose, but the red sex wax is almost a standard now for many people using flat ports.
Use Your Tongue and Lick
The second DIY hack also relates to ports in surf photography. However, this time, I’m talking about dome ports or those that are used with really wide angle lenses such as fisheyes. You can’t use flat ports with these lenses, because they are so wide that the flat port would cause horrible vignetting. However, unlike a flat port, you absolutely cannot use wax or oil on the front of a done port, so for anyone reading this, under no circumstances should you try that at home. Rather, when you’re out in the water using a dome port, the best technique is to simply spit all over the front of your port or even lick it with a nice even coat of saliva. Then, just after you’ve done that, dunk your housing underwater, and the water will give you a nice, even surface spread across the front of your port.
The reason for doing this is because you need that very thin film of water across your dome port when you’re shooting. That’s why they are sometimes called wet ports (as opposed to dry ports, which is another name for flat ports). Put another way, you have wet versus dry, or dome versus flat. With the wet port and the saliva, you’re trying to keep a perfectly even film of water across the front of your port without any droplets. The saliva method helps with this. With the dry method and the sex wax, you’re trying to keep your port dry from any water, and that’s why you don’t dunk your housing under the water as much when you’re using that type of port either. Who would have ever thought sex wax and saliva could come in handy this much?
The final hack I want to talk about relates to creating fog. I live in a very mountainous area in the far southwest of Japan, and there are often times when I’m in the forest that I think I could really add some drama and atmosphere with some fog. However, oftentimes, that fog is not really available, and I’ve tried all sorts of methods to create a foggy or misty effect. Despite all kinds of attempts using different types of software and different types of post-production techniques, the best way I've found to create that fog is to simply use my breath.
I set my camera to interval timer and get it to take about 10 shots at one second apart. Before the first shot, I simply take a deep breath and then exhale all over the front of the lens. I then start taking my images, and as the condensation across the front of the lens starts to dissipate, I get different effects with different amounts of fog or mist in my images. You can play around with the strength of your breath, or the distance from your mouth to the lens, or any other wacky ideas you might have. It’s also a great conversation starter if anyone out taking a walk happens to see you mid-breath!
In summing up, these three DIY hacks that I’ve introduced to you today might not be specifically relevant to the type of photography that you do, but they do demonstrate how inventive people can be in coming up with unconventional ideas that get the job done. To that end, I’d love to hear about some of the DIY photography hacks you’ve come across or used in your time. Hopefully, we can all learn a bunch of new ones to use when this lockdown ends. Please share in the comments below.