About the site
Ewen’s Ponds is as close as you can get to cave diving with out being a cave diver. My assessment here is based not on the rocks or being able to swim through a dark zone, but entirely on the fact that the visibility is amazing. To discover the reason I go cave diving, go for a splash in Ewens on a sunny day. The experience of crystal clear water is like flying through space.
Ewen’s Ponds are formed where 8 Mile Creek widens out and there are three successive ponds with freshwater springs in the bottom of them. Between the ponds divers and snorkelers float down the green streams.
About the dive
I had dived here on Saturday attempting to get good split shots of the streamways between the ponds. It took me a while to enter the first streamway because I was so busy watching coots from underneath. The saying “look calm on the surface and paddle furiously underneath” is pretty apt – these guys rarely stopped moving. Every so often the group would stop swimming laps and start diving instead. When we returned on Sunday I was determined to get a shot of them underwater.
About the photo
With the wide angle 14mm lens I didn’t have a hope of getting close enough for a good shot. The coots didn’t seem too fussed about me underwater but they were definitely reacting to my bubbles hitting the surface. So I switched to the 100mm macro lens and took advantage of the clear waters in Ewens. With 5m or more between me and the birds I turned my strobes off and relied on the sun coming out. Grabbing focus was surprisingly easy but I quickly discovered the coots were frantic swimmers and I needed a much higher shutter speed.
I bumped the ISO up a little bit and tried a few different apertures. I moved the camera to continuous shooting, not something I usually use underwater because of strobe recycle time. After that it was about getting as close as possible. Once the birds started diving I would swim in at speed and grab shoots as they left the surface. Some of them were only teasing and would grab algae from the reeds near the surface, while others headed all the way to the bottom (and crash landed into it).
I’ve wanted to get shots of diving birds since I saw the amazing shots of cormorants diving on bait balls on the salmon run off South Africa. Vegetarian coots madly paddling after algae is not quite the same but I had a great morning chasing them around nonetheless.