Dec 172012

Leaving the Chasm

About the site

Piccaninnie Ponds is a sinkhole rated site out of Mt Gambier. With a permit you can snorkel there, and clear water means you can watch cave divers descending into the darkness. The dappled sunshine, white walls and green weed in the open sections means Pics is a regular feature in tourist videos of the Limestone Coast – it’s a very pretty dive.

About the dive

Usually I try and get into Pics for the first booking slot on Saturday morning. While the booking slots are spaced three hours apart to let the water settle out between divers, once a number of groups have been through on a weekend the water starts to get distinctly murky. On this occasion our other commitments meant Mum and I were diving on Sunday morning instead. The first pond looked clear from the pontoon, but as I swam over the reed curtain in the second photo to the top of the Chasm the water took on a distinctly fuzzy look. Tiny tendrils of algae were evenly distributed through the water column and despite the brilliant blue sky overhead I wasn’t too sure how the photography would go.

We descended down towards the dogleg and the water did get clearer deeper down as flow out of the system pushed the weedy tendrils to the surface. From there we swam along and up over the bridge into the Cathedral.

Reed curtain

About the photo

The brown silt resting on every ledge in the photo above is fine, dark organic matter. It rests very gently on the rock and the slightest touch or water movement causes grand explosions of backscatter-causing particles. As such I glided veeeery gently through this opening, before turning slowly around in the wider space on the other side to capture Mum coming through.

The thing I really like about this shot is the way the off-camera strobe has fired. The strobe is clipped to Mum’s right hip D-ring and hidden out of sight of the camera. It’s subtly lighting the wall behind her, a magical movie light that brings out the detail of the rock without calling attention to itself. The lighter area in the photo draws the eye to the diver and counterbalances the sunball up above. Hiding strobes is a great way to avoid viewers being distracted by the large, glowing strobe front and centre.

The fuzzy water can be seen in the diffused natural light filtering down the hole – a strange colour blue for Pics. By turning my strobes down and positioning them well out and behind the camera I managed to avoid backscatter in the shot. In the second shot here I turned the strobes off altogether, relying on sunlight to bring out the colours. Despite my expectations on descent I was very happy with both of these shots. Here’s to clearer water, next time!

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