Mar 112014

Straw decorations in Junee Cave

About the cave

Junee is the master drain and resurgence for a wide swath of the Junee-Florentine karst area. Many of the large, deep caves in the vicinity have had their waters dye traced to arrive back on the surface in the river flowing out of Junee. The tourist walking track through the State Park leads to a viewing platform in the forest. A quick clamber over the edge lands you knee deep in the chilly river, and three trips upstream into the dark zone put our dive gear at the edge of sump 1.

About the dive

Sump 1 is dark and silty, with greenish water and black walls. We had relatively good vis on the way through and I’ll share the underwater photos next week. The underwater scenery, pretty though it may be, is not the reason people visit Junee. After the short sump we surfaced into the internal air chamber called For Your Eyes Only.

Straws in For Your Eyes Only

FYEO is highly decorated with stals and straws over about 300m of large streamway passage. A few years ago I took my compact digital camera through the sump in a dry tube, and used Dean’s off camera strobes to make some passable pictures. Perhaps the greatest achievement was that the camera survived the experience, despite nearly tumbling off the mini-tripod at least once. The decorations had me keen to come back with the right equipment. For this weekend the right equipment included the heated vest from DKG Drysuits which I tested last weekend and which did a fabulous job in the cold water.

About the photo

A photography session in FYEO had all the challenges of dry cave photography (even lighting, natural modelling poses, good angles) with additional diving challenges (8 degree water and an underwater camera rig which weighs 12kgs and should be held at arm’s length for the best angle). Early shots showed it was hard to light the straws without lighting the light brown roof. The image I wanted had pure white straws against a black background, which meant the both the camera and the off camera lighting needed to come up higher to cut the roof out of the picture.

In the first shot I managed a higher camera angle from a small muddy inlet into the main stream, complemented by side-lighting the straws from the right. I was particularly pleased with the gentle off camera lighting so white straws are gently glowing rather than drastically overexposed. The second shot has the straws backlit by a strobe placed behind Andreas and pointing directly towards the camera. There’s a little more roof here but the lighting from behind helps the straws stand out. In both cases Andreas is doing an excellent (and very patient) modelling job.

Surfacing in FYEO some years ago is the reason I kept sump diving in Tassie. It’s not about the underwater, it’s about what might lie on the other side. Fingers crossed for the next exploration trip.

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