About the site
We’re very lucky to have the easily accessible and stunning Mt Gambier sinkholes so close to home. Piccaninnie Ponds, the Shaft and Kilsby’s are all huge spaces filled with crystal clear water. In all three you can hang mid-cave and see from one side to the other (unless the sun is too low or your torch isn’t big enough). From a diver’s point of view, they’ve got clear water all year round.
From a photographer’s point of view, all three get silty and milky (although non camera holding visitors might not think so). By the time a bunch of divers have been through Kilsby’s on a weekend the water takes on a hazy quality.
About the dive
We were in Kilsby’s a couple of weeks ago to refine some scootering techniques for an upcoming trip. By the afternoon we had the whole hole to ourselves, and the sun had come out to create rays of sunlight through the water. The milky water was especially evident as I tried to take huge natural light shots and hit the “foreground” with strobe light. Given the distance to the foreground I needed a lot of strobe power, and this just created huge blue/white haze across the bottom of the shot.
About the shot
For me, this dive was a case of if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. When the water is crystal clear, there are some stunning photos that can be taken. When the water is milky, there are some completely different shots that can be taken. Instead of complaining about not being able to get the shots I thought were on the agenda, it was time to take advantage of the haze.
There’s a great technique where a second diver, hidden behind the primary diver, shines a strobe forwards towards the camera and creates light rays around the model. You can see an example of this in Tank Cave here. This works well with a little bit of silt in the water to give the light something to refract off. Of course, it also takes two willing divers instead of one and a more than a bit of co-ordination.
When the water’s milky like this you can cut that down to one diver and still get the halo of light rays. By pointing the strobe backwards into milky water it flares out into the water behind and outlines the diver. This works best with the on camera strobes turned down slightly so there’s relatively more light off camera. For the photo above the on camera strobes were already on very low power, with the camera aperture right open to show up the sunlight. With the diver-mounted strobe on full power, the light is nice and obvious even though it’s hitting nothing but water.
I like the effect here, especially when combined with scooters (well known for making divers at least twice as cool as they already are).