Jul 292015

Green water in ElaAbout the site

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.

The tree in Ela Elap

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.

Jul 152015
Kilsby's in Winter

About the site After a weekend of hauling hundreds of tanks through Elk River cave, it’s nice to post these shots of Kilsby’s Sinkhole from the weekend before. Floating through huge spaces, effortless, clean and serene…a bit different to grovelling around in mud with heavy packs. I’ve been really happy with photos I’ve taken in mid-summer in Kilsby’s before. Through December and January big rays of sunshine pierce the water, illuminating the site. At this time of year Mt Gambier is freezing up top but roughly always the same temperature in the water. The lighting in the sinkholes is dramatically different however. About the dive On this particular day we had low, grey clouds with just a touch of drizzle. [read more…]

Jul 072015
Three rebreathers in Tank Cave

After a productive Saturday morning on the Mt Gambier main street buying tiles for my kitchen floor, and a pleasant Saturday afternoon dive in Kilsby’s, Sunday brought a relaxed two hour swim through Tank Cave. The site was open for Sunday only and the four of us were the only ones there. This made getting in the water a lot easier – no rushing to clip on bailout with someone standing awkwardly hunched in dive gear (or the reverse). With three models in the water at the same time this was the first opportunity to test out all of my strobes on a single dive in a while. A couple of my inon Z240s have been playing up with electronic [read more…]

Jun 302015
Bobtail squid in the night

About the site Rye Pier is a long, shallow shore dive. The pier is probably most noted for the annual invasion of the spider crabs which I photographed in 2012. They’re in the area at the moment and have been spotted at Blairgowrie Pier recently. They’re now on the move and will likely be seen at Rye over the coming days. While we were hoping to see the start of the crab invasion on Sunday, it was a fairly slim possibility. It was nice to see the pier life before it gets overrun by crustaceans. The rest of the year, Rye is known for orange sponges and lots of pot bellied sea horse. About the dive We intended a Sunday afternoon [read more…]

Jun 162015
Draughtboard Shark at Phillip Island

I’m renovating my kitchen at the moment. Keen observation of other divers’ experiences of renovation tells me that renovating means not getting underwater for months at a time. I’m determined not to let my project about the house stop me from having fun. So after a productive day of pulling up tiles and with a forecast for Bass Strait of “light and variable winds”, Dad and I headed out of Phillip Island on Sunday. The light winds were a blessing and there was no surface chop. Unfortunately this also meant an absence of the northerly breezes which normally flatten out the swell. Despite a run of calm days a persistent one to two metre swell was showing no signs of [read more…]

Jun 092015
Itchy turtles at Julian Rocks

While I did consider a return to the annual Combined Clubs Weekend in Bicheno this June, after the temperature started to drop at home a flight north to Brisbane looked a lot more tempting. In the end we were somewhat foiled by the weather anyway with dives on the wreck of the Brisbane cancelled for the weekend for high winds. On Sunday we drove down to Byron Bay for a splash at Julian Rocks instead. The Rocks are a marine reserve a very short distance off the beach in Byron Bay. After a beach launch we jumped on the Sundive boat for a 5 minute run out. Two minutes later I was underwater. Given the weather situation I left my [read more…]