Oct 172011


About my buddy

As I mentioned last week, following the CDAA AGM and symposium I was lucky enough to spend a week over in Mt Gambier diving in Tank Cave and Piccaninnie Ponds with our international speakers. The first of these was Brian Kakuk who runs Bahamas Underground, a cave diving oriented training and adventure facility in Abaco, the Bahamas. The Bahamian caves are highly decorated with some extreme stalactites and other formations, so it was no surprise to discover that Brian’s buoyancy and awareness of the cave were better than excellent. If you’re looking for some tales of adventure and cave discovery, Brian writes these up in the “Exploration” section of the Bahamas Cave Research site.

After a break of a few years from underwater photography, Brian is also just picking up his camera again, and I did my first dives of the year without mine as  I modelled for him. Luckily I had some strobes to hold, so I wasn’t completely empty-handed. The next day our roles were reversed, and I had the pleasure of diving with someone who knew exactly what I was trying to achieve behind the camera without having to ask. Having another underwater photographer prepared to put down their camera and model for you is a blessing that shouldn’t be overlooked.

About the dive

The objective for this dive was to head down the A tunnel gold line in Tank Cave to a place known as Lake Ayre. A trapped air pocket, it’s possible to surface while your computer still reads 5m depth, and have a brief chat with your buddy. My attraction to it was my previously mentioned desire to take photos of divers and their reflections in the air/water interface. I’d previously discovered that calculating the angle of reflection becomes much, much easier if your subject is close to the mercury surface. With the large surface area in this chamber, I thought I was in with a good chance.Snell's window

After reaching the room, I moved back from under the air pocket to try and stop my bubbles running into it and creating ripples, and Brian did a very good job of slow breathing. In the second shot here I’ve come closer to Brian and the effect of Snell’s window is starting to kick in, showing the white limestone roof 6 inches above the water. The rippling surface in the second shot removes the reflections of the diver, but gives much more of a sense of movement.

About the shot

Out of all the photos I took on this dive, this shot shows the reflections in the ceiling above most clearly. The red of Brian’s nice new Otter suit shows up well in the cave, and I like the contrast from the yellow helmet. While the big air pocket gave us more space to work with, the size of the chamber increased the difficulty of getting light down on the floor at the same time. An off camera strobe mounted on Brian’s back has done a good job of lighting the feature rock on the floor behind here. I’d like to have another photo session in here with multiple divers, and the second model further back and closer to the floor for perspective. Alternatively, placing off camera strobes on the floor might improve the depth in the picture.

The second consideration is the bubbles – it’s hard to get reflections when you’re creating waves in the surface. Normally I find bubbles a helpful way of providing a reference point for up and down in underwater cave photos, but in this instance they make it hard to co-ordinate models. It might be a shot that works well with a rebreather diver.

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