Mar 182013

Sunlight in The Shaft

Many thanks to all those who dropped by to see me at OZTeK 2013 this weekend…I had a truly excellent time, and I hope you did too! For those who couldn’t make it, my photograph above won first prize in the cave category of the photo competition. I’ve been keeping it under wraps until the show and I’m very glad to be able to share it with you now.

In my talk on Saturday morning I walked through a little of the effort that went into creating this shot. After initial attempts at a tripod based shot in the bottom of the Shaft way back in August 2011, and two separate dedicated trips in summer 2012, this January I put it all together and finally nailed it. While the shots along the way weren’t bad and I was certainly happy with them at the time, this was a definite progression towards finally making the photo that looked like the cave feels.

On the last attempt last summer the sun finally came out and in the pre-dive briefing I directed the models to hang out in the beam. The sun through the hole meant the 30 second exposure from the previous shot turned into a 3 second exposure. Even that was too long for a diver hovering in mid water, and the narcosis at 38m/120ft where I set up my tripod was not helping. The beams were nice, but the final shot was not sharp.

With the sun out I took some great shots in the shallows while we were decompressing. One of those involved an off camera strobe going off into the water behind a diver, haloing him in light reflected off the just-slightly milky water. Looking through my shots after the dive, it occurred to me that a diver in the beam was never going to work. What I needed was a diver for scale, and a diver backlit by strobe light wouldn’t have to worry about holding still over the exposure time. They would hide in the dark and be lit by that sudden flash. With that inspiration, this plan was born.

This shot involved Heather up top in about 15m/50ft, staying very still with excellent trim and setting off a strobe into the water behind her when she saw the camera go off. The rockpile out in front has been lit by several strobe flashes from Stefan, hovering out of frame to the left. We dived without comms, so a detailed dive briefing and some underwater co-ordination needed to all come together. By moving the tripod position forward and removing the on camera strobes I eliminated all the messy foreground rock that distracted from the previous shot. Five seconds was enough to bring out the beam without blowing out the top of the picture, and ISO400 kept the noise down.

I really love this shot, and it’s fantastic to see that other people do too. First prize is a 7 night trip to the Phillipines courtesy of Atlantis Resorts and Diversion Dive Travel, and I can’t wait to go! Big thanks of course go to David Strike for organising a fantastic OZTeK show and giving me the opportunity to talk about my photography to a packed room for a full hour. After seeing some very cool presentations from the other speakers I can only hope that the two years to the next OZTeK are filled with great diving. I’m making a start with a return to Weebubbie Cave next week. Weebub has great photographic potential and I have a week of photoshoot diving planned….stay tuned for an update in two weeks’ time.

  9 Responses to “A winning shot in the Shaft”

Comments (6) Pingbacks (3)
  1. Great shot Liz! Congratulations, I am happy for you.

    • Thanks! I’ve concluded that after all the work required to get the shot, I’m in need of a holiday. Any tips for shooting in the Philippines?

  2. Very awesome indeed. The picture is really great but with the story it comes to life even more. Very impressed with the planning and execution of your dives mixing with the complexity of the photography and the teamwork required. Great job.

    • Yes, I think there’s a number of my shots that become a lot more interesting if you’ve either been there (unlikely for most of the population) or heard the background. I’m really glad I wrote up the photos as they were created, because it’s great to look back on my changes in photographing this site over two years.

  3. Hi Liz, Congratulations on winning the competition and this great shot. Thanks for publishing the story of the shoot as well. I couldn’t come to here your presentation at OZTeK. Totally agree that the “making of” brings the picture even more alive!

    • Thanks Dirk, and thanks for your sponsorship of the competition too. I think the Phillipines is going to be very productive for photography.

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