Sep 032012

Backlit diver in TankAbout the site

I realise I may be beginning to repeat myself in talking about Tank Cave again, but there are a few good reasons for it. Primary among them is that it’s winter in this part of the world, and the ocean gets particularly lumpy and hard to get along with. Mt Gambier is a great option for weather-independent diving, and Tank Cave is a fantastic playground for a fun weekend.

I think one of the great attractions for me is the shallow depths through most of the tunnels. Narcosis makes me the best photographer in the world, right up until the moment I return to the surface and begin to review my shots. The high price of helium in Australia makes it cheaper to stay shallow to keep a clear head, a requirement for photographic success when trying new things.

Distant backlighting

About the dive

One of the joys of really getting to know a site is the boredom factor. When I dive a new cave, or visit one that I see infrequently, I usually spend my dive trying to capture a representative sample of images. These include the entry, standard tunnel shots and making sure I get special features like clay blocks, formations or sunbeams. Which is all well and good but cuts down on available time for trying something new.

On this dive we headed down the gold line, a place I’d been lots of times on the way to somewhere else. After capturing the pristine silt piles at the back of the cave, we played around with light beams and reflections under Lake Ayre. With two buddies in the water and Ken very kindly bringing his own strobes I was taking advantage of having a lot of light.

About the shot

Usually I try to avoid the temptation of taking shots on the way home because the milky water reduces the impact of the final image. On the other hand, there are images that can only be taken with silt in the water, and this is one of them. With two models in the water and lots of light, Ken took advantage of the situation to turn his hand held strobe around. Triggered by my on camera strobes, the light from Ken’s strobe at the rear is flaring out around the front diver, Tim Payne.

In clear water there’s nothing for the light to bounce off and this effect is fairly minimal. With slightly milky water it becomes dramatic. The key here is distances between the two divers to get the right amount of flare, and lining everything up so the strobe doesn’t appear around the sides of the front diver while pointed directly at the camera. there’s also an aesthetic choice for the photographer to make – light the diver’s face as in the first image, or leave them almost silhouetted as in the second image? Personally I prefer to see the details in the diver, but I can see the attraction of anonymity as the hero swims towards the camera haloed by light.

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