About the site
St Leonards pier sits on the western side of Port Phillip Bay, just outside St Leonards (surprise!). While I’ve dived a number of piers on the eastern side of the bay, this was the first shore dive I’ve done west of Melbourne. After expeditions to exotic places, it’s nice to enjoy diving around home. Unlike the neutral coloured hard corals of the tropics, the soft sponges in temperate waters come in an amazing array of colours. With easy access to the water from the car park and with fish peeping out from the weed, this is a nice easy shore dive.
About the dive
I took this photo on Saturday, and those who dive in Melbourne will know the seas have been very flat indeed. Despite being close to the middle of winter the last few days have seen a huge high pressure system hovering over the state. With clear sunny skies and almost no wind the ocean has flattened out beautifully. My buddy and I waded out under the pier and it was only as I lowered a hand into the water that I realised how cold it was. The dive computer later registered 10 degrees – definitely time to bring out the gloves.
Chilly waters notwithstanding, we had a lovely dive. We swam to the end of the pier and did a lap of the breakwater with the late afternoon sunlight filtering through the calm surface and twinkling between the pylons. I especially liked the colourful pylons, and this giant cuttlefish who shot out of a crevice and immediately tried to camouflage himself as a piece of kelp. As I moved towards him with the camera his skin stood on end – totally believable as a piece of weed.
About the photo
Despite the calm weather, the vis was still only 5m or so and there was the usual amount of sand in the water. This meant I needed to be very close to the things I wanted to light with the strobes to try and avoid backscatter. The angled sunlight looked great for certain shots, but too much light down the middle of a picture was only highlighting the floating speckles, rather than the subject. Finding angles that worked took patience, especially as my hands froze and changing f stops became a chore.
I love the messy aggregation of colourful life on each pylon, and getting up close helps with the lighting by bringing out the third dimension. From this distance my strobe is sidelighting the orange sponges, getting the right amount of light without blowing them out. The white balance is adjusted for the foreground, making the water seem more blue than green. Lastly, you can see the top of the pier in the background, with the surface ripples on the water giving an almost tropical feel to the picture…except for the splash of colour in the temperate water sponges, and my frozen hands.