About the dive
Piccaninnie Ponds is one of my favourite sites for cave photography. As well as the crystal clear water and very white rock, there’s the novel aspect of being able to get natural light in the shot. The main drawback is that, once inside the Cathedral, you don’t have very long to experiment before silt starts to drift down off the roof. Naturally, taking advantage of the opportunities is also dependent on the sun coming out to play.
I previously talked about a photo taken in the Chasm of Pics, looking up through the scalloped limestone walls. Swimming forward from here divers move under a limestone ceiling, and enter the Cathedral. Large rocks sit across the path between the Chasm and the Cathedral, and there are three obvious entrances at different levels.
The standard dive plan for this site is to drift down the Chasm, possibly all the way to the 36.5m depth limit, before swimming up the far slope to the bottom entrance to the Cathedral. From here you can either descend to the bottom of the Cathedral, or gently ascend through the limestone formations to exit through the smaller middle hole or swim out the large zone in the top 8m of the cave.
What this plan means is that by the time most divers reach the shallows and swim for home, there is a moderate amount of silt disturbed by bubbles in the Cathedral. As such, this view is often a little obscured, despite being photogenically awesome in a way that should be a lot easier to capture than some other aspects of the cave.
As mentioned, despite being a beautifully framed shot, the standard dive plan for this site doesn’t lend itself to taking this photo. My shot here was inspired by a photo of myself and Lucas Wheat, taken in early 2008 by Dean, and it took 3 unsuccessful dives before I was able to get a shot I was happy with. This successful instance was a dedicated photo dive, where the first thing I did was swim into the top of the Cathedral and take a series of shots as my buddy Ken Smith swam towards the camera.
One of the earlier attempts is on the right, stymied by the murky water discussed in my earlier post. Taken from further back in the Cathedral, it includes the top of the limestone block between the Chasm and the Cathedral. The tannin in the water and diffuse sunlight gives a completely different feel to the shot which is interesting, but not quite what I was looking for. A following attempt suffered from a model with gear difficulties that caused distinctly interesting buoyancy.
I love the framing effect on this shot, with the strobe lighting on the white walls balanced against the bright sunlight coming in. Ken swimming through the top of the Chasm in the distance gives a sense of scale, and the green weed against the blue water gives a splash of colour not seen in a lot of underwater cave photographs. The whole picture gives me a feeling of space and freedom, and brings back memories of floating through space in this beautiful site.