Ela Elap is a Mt Gambier sinkhole, close to Little Blue and One Tree. It’s known for being deeper, darker and at least a couple of degrees colder than the other two sites. The bottom gets down past 40m and rather than the 13-15 degrees of the other sites my computer was reading 10. Ela has been closed for a few years. The last time I dived it is a distant memory (possibly due to cold narcosis on those dives) and I was keen to get back for another look.
About the dive
We arrived in driving winds and surprised a few ducks off the surface of the water. While they struggled to take off in the really bad weather, Lucas and I contemplated the green water. A new ladder is a nice addition for ease of climbing in and out. My recollection of the dive previously included a giant tree with branches suspended upside down and sheets of white algae hanging from them. I was keen to take some ghostly tree photos, backed up with off camera strobe glow.
We descended approximately in the middle, intending to hit the central debris pile before ascending slightly for a lap of the walls. On the way down Lucas pointed behind me – voila! Big tree located. It is actually sitting up off the bottom, perched on one wall and starting at about 35m. Unlike a few years back there was only minor silt sitting on each branch as opposed to major algal drapes. We circled through the branches a few times as I snapped away, then continued for our lap of the hole.
About the shot
I was fairly sure on the shot I wanted to get in here. It started with lowering the shutter speed right down so I could get the diffuse green background light. Both my buddy and I had our torches turned off for most of the dive and the vis was good enough that there was just about enough light to see what we were up to. Both these shots were taken at 1/13th of a second. On descent I discovered that I had knocked the housing button out of alignment and I was stuck on f6.3 – just lucky it wasn’t f2.8 or f22. Stuck buttons are one way of simplifying the creative camera decisions.
After positioning ourselves between the branches and with the off camera strobes going off reliably, I turned the on camera strobes right down. These gave a bit of colour to the foreground without causing milky haze through the water. The off camera strobes were neatly hidden behind my buddy, giving a diffuse glow without the overexposed point highlights. From out in the water we circled around to the branches next to the wall. The rock was white and textured under strobe light, and I’m sure something interesting could be done here with branch shadows reaching for a diver. A mission for next time.