Dec 032012

Weebubbie Railway Tunnel

About the cave

Weebubbie Cave is out on the Nullarbor Plain, a long way from anywhere. The brilliant white limestone and huge water filled passages are the incentive for cave divers to drive across half a continent with half a tonne of dive gear to camp in the red desert dust.

The water tables lies between 80m and 100m below the Nullarbor. The trek with dive gear starts by lowering the lot over the edge into the doline, and continues with a hike into the darkness. Tanks, weights, dive gear, cameras, lights, lunch and everything else make the trip up and down the rocky slopes to the water’s edge.

Weebubbie tunnel

About the dive

I was visiting Weebubbie for a filming trip for the ABC – look out for the February 21st airing of Catalyst. With filming complete and the footage safely away, we bid the crew goodbye and hopped back in for two more dives before hauling the gear out 24 hours later.

The filming had been conducted in the lake zone, so this dive was a chance to descend into the tunnels that Weebubbie is renowned for.  On this trip I was lucky enough to meet and dive with Stefan Eberhard of Subterranean Ecology. Stefan features in the group shot from the 1983 Cocklebiddy expedition I posted here. In the past few years I’ve followed his maps through Junee and Great Nowranie Caves, so this chance meeting and opportunity to dive together was fantastic.

About the photo

The huge challenge here is the huge space. Even in the crystal clear water I found the off camera strobes weren’t triggering beyond a distance of about 30m. Although the walls are white, they’re too far away from each other to get light bouncing from one to the other. Triggering distant strobes required pointing the on camera strobes directly at Stefan, lighting a lot of water between him and I rather than lighting the cave itself. I upped to ISO to 800 instead of my usual 200 or 400 and tried to point light at solid surfaces to avoid blue haze as far as possible. From there it’s about the space and angles between the camera and the model so the distant diver explains the size of the passage.

We moved down the tunnel as I tested the distances, arriving at this point where it curves slightly to the left. For the top shot here I moved to the top of the tunnel to silhouette Stefan against the white floor – possibly the only good time for a diver to wear a black suit. Shooting the off camera strobes down at the floor haloes the diver in white, and avoids lighting up too much water. I love the darker shades of the tunnel ahead here…an enticing invitation to find out what’s around the corner.

  7 Responses to “Lighting the tunnel in Weebubbie Cave”

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  1. Awesome shots as always Liz – looking forward to seeing what you have in store for us in December Guidelines – and again in March issue – AND, of course seeing you in all your cave diving gear on the Catalyst program on Feb 21st.

    • Thanks Dave. I’ll send a couple of shots through to you tonight for this issue. As for Catalyst, I won’t be on film because I was behind the camera, but I’ll definitely be in the credits!

  2. Hi Liz,

    I just finished reading Anja’s Catalyst blog about her Weebubbie dive & was searching for a few more pics;

    Weebubbie sounds like an amazing place & your lighting / photos are beautiful. I get the feeling Anja loved the experience of cave diving with you, Ian, Peter & Stefan.

    Looking forward to seeing more of Weebubbie on Catalyst.

    Best wishes,

    • I always enjoy being able to show off a beautiful cave, and we had a great time showing Anja around Weebubbie – almost as much fun as she did! I’m glad you like the images, and hope you enjoy the show.

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