About the site
The photo above was taken in Tank Cave, although it could easily be taken in almost any tunnel of about the same size. Tank has shallow depths allowing plenty of time for photos, and with over 8km of interconnecting tunnels there’s a lot of clear water to play in. The cave also shows a lot of variation between different areas of the cave with white walled breakdown chambers giving way to orange tunnels and dark brown rooms.
About the dive
This particular dive was the first of the weekend, without any particular photography goals in mind. We travelled down the Gold Line to visit an offshoot tunnel known as the A extension. This area of the cave is currently a dead end and doesn’t lead to further tunnels, so it sees less traffic than other areas. I planned the dive hoping for some photographic opportunities in unscratched areas of cave. To get there however, we first had a long traverse through frequently travelled areas. Not being one to waste dive time just swimming along, I employed my standard method of taking photos on the move.
About the photo
As described in some earlier posts, the method for taking “down the tunnel” shots is relatively straightforward. I lead the dive, and at appropriate intervals stop and turn to capture my buddies swimming towards me. Off camera strobes, good timing from everyone and interesting cave are all key to good images. A vital element of the “tunnel photo” is good buddy separation. Recognising humans wearing a lot of dive gear is already difficult in cave diving photography – two humans stacked on top of each other become an amorphous blob of arms, fins, hoses and bubbles. Depending on the cave however, it can be hard for the rear diver to navigate themselves far enough to the side to be clearly seen.
In this photo I hovered carefully over the silt floor and held the camera below me. By changing the perspective to look up at the divers as they approach, this image provides more space for the second diver while also giving a better view down the tunnel beyond. It also reduces the view of the historical diver impacts in the silt (instead giving a view of the ceiling scrapes).
It’s a small variation on a theme rather than a whole new approach. Given that good trim tends to leave us looking at the floor as we swim through frequently travelled areas, I like taking this opportunity to showcase the ceiling above. I think this angle also gives a better view of each diver’s face and expression, especially if they’re looking down to concentrate on guideline or gear. There’s also more space for diver separation in the shot, showing one diver beside the other rather than over the top.
Lastly, for backmounted divers with off-camera strobes mounted in the standard position between their tanks, taking photographs from below hides these tools of cave photography. Hidden strobes provide the magical “light from nowhere” so familiar from Hollywood caves – it’s all about the movie magic.