Jun 252012

Red rocks and blue water in Murra-el-elevyn

About the cave

Murra-el-elevyn begins as a large doline, or hole in the middle of the desert. Once you’ve lowered yourself 10m below the ground level, scrambled down a scree slope of tumbling rubble and picked your way through the boulders, the water is so clear it’s easy to miss. Stepping down from one rock to what looked like a good place to put the dive gear together gave me a wet foot, and even once I knew where the water line was it was hard to see. Despite my wet foot, it seemed like a good omen.

From the entrance pool seen in the photo below, tunnels extend in multiple directions. Several come back up to air chambers with white gypsum formations growing on the dry rocks above the water. Others extend from large chambers into small circular rooms, or have walls textured with the skeletons of long dead tiny sea creatures. Murra is a beautiful dive.

Mark surfacing in Murra-el-elevyn

About the dive

The main photo here was taken on our first dive in Murra after arriving from the previous week on the Roe Plain. Unlike the green tinted water, shimmering haloclines and dark passages of Olwolgin, the colour scheme here was blue and red. The outback location means the cave doesn’t see too many divers, and we would have been the first to disturb the water in at least a month or two. The colours and shapes in the rock and the brilliant water clarity meant I was in photographic heaven – combined with the shallow depths and lots of time to look around and the dive is almost worth the pain of carrying the dive gear down from the desert above.

About the shot

The shot above is possibly my favourite from the hundreds taken in the cave while we were there. By the time this was taken we had turned for home, and the water was still clear, but no longer had the stunning clarity of the outward journey. I’d managed to move past my initial “take photos of everything!” mania, and  was taking some more considered shots. When I saw a small dead end passage running parallel to the main line, connected by this small window, I jumped at the chance to frame the divers in rock.

With the strobes out and slightly behind the camera, the immediate foreground is gently edge lit. The red rock in the bottom of frame is close to touching the dome port of the camera, and you can see the diffuse shadow of the housing stopping the direct strobe light. This diffuse lighting has brought out the natural colours, in strong contrast to the water. Most importantly, enough of the strobe light was going through the window to trigger the strobes held by Ken and Mark on the other side. These do a great job of bringing out the blue water of the main passage and showing the shape of the wall behind.


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