Some Things I’ve Learned about the Uses of Duct Tape
Writing blogs is an education. Why, just today, I learned some interesting and important things about “duck” or “duct” tape. The first and of course most important thing is that the California Energy Commission says, “Duct tape is good for many things, but not for ducts” Go figure!
The second thing I learned is that a couple of guys have written books and made videos and t-shirts and a wacky website on duct tape! It’s a weird national phenomenon! I’ll give you their website at the end. No, don’t scroll down yet..why? Because I know you want to check it out but I don’t want you to leave my blog yet! People have done unbelievable things with duct tape like make prom dresses (SERIOUSLY!) and stick babies to the wall and made cars! There is even a flickr group for duct tape (REALLY I DON”T MAKE THIS STUFF UP!)
The third thing I learned is that it was originally developed during WWII as a water resistant sealing tape, perhaps the reason for the name “duck” because it’s like water rolling off the feathers of a duck (that’s one theory at least!). It is also sometimes known as “100-mph tape” because it is supposed to be able to hold up to 100mph winds. Hmmmmm. Either way, it failed to make the grade when I needed it most! Here’s my story…and my advice.
Being Prepared for Dive Travel so you don’t need to find out the Many Uses of Duct Tape!
I’ve been writing and writing and writing about preparation for travel and planning and packing and lists and all kinds of great info on making travel easy and fun. Here is one of the most important things for preparation if you are a traveling photographer. First, keep ALL of your camera parts in one bag and if possible, I highly suggest a carry on! Now the exception to this, of course, are any tools that can AND WILL be scarfed by TSA. So, if you keep all your parts in one bag they will always be in that one bag…duh and you won’t forget anything.
The second part to this is to completely build your camera and test it before you depart. I mean attach all the arms and synch cords and filters and viewfinders and strobes and whichimacallits and whoseywhatsits, EVERY last part, just like you are about to get in the water with it. Now you know you have everything. Just one little eentsy-teensy missing part can cause headaches, arguments, frustration and general longing for o-rings on your vacation. It can be the difference between shooting and not shooting. The worst thing is to haul 80lbs of camera gear halfway around the world and not be able to use it. OUCH!! That will leave a mark!
So, now I say to you, “do as I say, not as I do”. Underwater housing lights seem to be the bane of my existence and I have had endless frustration with them (but that’s another post for another time). So I have a housing I have never used lights with and decided it was time to take these particular lights with this housing. I knew my batteries were defunct. So in plenty of time, I called my dear friends at Light and Motion and ordered new batteries in exchange for a couple of c-notes. Then I packed up the new batteries, lights and charger into my camera bag. I had everything I needed in my camera bag because I had prepared it…just add lights and go!
It Can all Be Solved with Duct Tape and Whiskey
So I arrive for my first dive, all the batteries are charged, the tapes are striped (I’m prepared!) and I get ready to attach the lights and it’s then that I realize I don’t have the right connectors….oops!
Well, for years I have told my traveling guests that there isn’t any problem that can’t be solved by whiskey and duct tape. Time to pull out the tape! Ridlon helped me and we went to work with a good 1/3 of the roll wrapping and wrapping the lights to the housing, checking and re-checking and testing. Ok, problem avoided…..SAVED BY DUCT TAPE ONCE AGAIN. I’m now thinking, when I get home I’m going to buy one of those Duct Tape Pro t-shirts. Water resistant and 100mph, we’re good to go.
We dropped into the water and the current hit like a slap in the face…yes, bring it on..current in Fiji is your best friend. This is what brings out the engorged soft corals and the anthias and I started swimming up current as I quickly set the white balance and got the camera rolling. Now, ready, camera, lights, action! Lights? Lights? they seemed to be on and working but no light was illuminating the kaleidoscope of reef in front of me. I peered down to find one light hanging by a thread of duct tape like a wilted flower. My heart wilted as well. But as I looked over, the second light was doing well. Ok, I can shoot with one. I made it through the entire dive with one surviving light.
On the next dive, we re-engineered the duct tape to give it another go. I had faith in this tape that held together airplanes….or so they say! This dive the current was REALLY strong. We dived down onto the pinnacle and quickly ducked behind out of the current. One of my favorite places to dive in Fiji is the top of these pinnacles where the soft coral life just abounds! This is where the current sweeps over and becomes extremely strong. A good place for a reef hook. Ok, duct tape, show me your stuff.
But then I made a dive changing move. I looked over to my left (probably instructor instinct) and noticed many of the divers having severe trouble in the current. I had to go help, I wanted them all to enjoy their dive. So I clipped off the camera and shot off to drag a few flailing souls to safety. Once they were safe and I was again behind the reef I went to ready the camera only to find duct tape disaster again. But, it was sunny and I could probably film without the lights. So I worked my way up against the current pulled out my reef hook, and while holding my dangling lights in one hand and hooking into the reef with another and inflating my bc with my other hand….oops, only two hands, I began shooting. Oh my….what a dive to remember. I looked war torn when I surfaced from the dive, my lights dangling, my long hair twisted and tangled in my regulator yoke and my reef hook tucked in but hanging out as well. I just laughed….
Saved by FedEx and $62
Now here is some good information to know. There is a Fed Ex office just on the SW side of Los Angeles Airport. From Fiji, I was headed straight to Cocos Island, known for it’s current and I was NOT going to duct tape my way through Cocos. Once again, I called my saviors at Light and Motion and they overnighted the parts to me….cough cough….$62 to overnight a couple of little plastic pieces!!! What a difference it made, however, to just snap on the parts and snap on the lights! It’s ALL about being prepared. I had prepared the camera and the lights but had not prepared them together. Lesson learned.
Be Prepared…but bring the Duct Tape too!
But sometimes, being prepared is just not enough. Things happen when you travel and dive with oodles of gear. So I asked my friend and pro shooter, Marty Snyderman about field fixes. He told me he once used dental floss to repair a broken viewfinder while out in the field on a shoot. He chuckled as he explained that “while it fixed the viewfinder, I didn’t get much flossing done for the next three weeks!” He also travels with duct tape…I wonder if you could floss with it??? We’ll have to check that out. In fact, the duct tape guys may even know the answer!
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