Jul 152015

Kilsby's in winter

About the site

After a weekend of hauling hundreds of tanks through Elk River cave, it’s nice to post these shots of Kilsby’s Sinkhole from the weekend before. Floating through huge spaces, effortless, clean and serene…a bit different to grovelling around in mud with heavy packs. I’ve been really happy with photos I’ve taken in mid-summer in Kilsby’s before. Through December and January big rays of sunshine pierce the water, illuminating the site. At this time of year Mt Gambier is freezing up top but roughly always the same temperature in the water. The lighting in the sinkholes is dramatically different however.

Backlit diver in Kilsby's

About the dive

On this particular day we had low, grey clouds with just a touch of drizzle. While I knew I would be shooting at high ISO and low shutter speeds, I was hopeful of diffuse ambient light. The difficulty of the sunbeams is the contrast they create between the lit and darkened areas of the frame. With less light through the picture I thought I might be able to pick up a bit more of the walls in these images. I was also hoping for a little bit of milkiness through the water to pick up the off camera strobes.

About the photos

The first image here was an opportunistic shot as Steve descended. It turned out to be one of my favourites from the dive, shot at 1/15 of a second, f2.8 and ISO800. The strobes were still turned off to reduce any haze in the foreground. I like the even light down the rockpile. What I was really looking to play with was the effect in the second photo here. With careful placement of the off-camera strobe on a hip D-ring and use of Hedwig’s improved triggerfish, I was able to get a fairly even halo around Steve with just one strobe. Setting off the flash required careful angling on the on-camera strobe to mostly remove their effect from the foreground. I moved around to find this nice little pile of rocks for a bit of foreground contrast and played with the on camera strobe positioning until I was happy with the result. The timing was also right – I like the effect of the cluster of primary lights coming over the hill in the background.

The contrast between water and sky was still fairly extreme and difficult to control. I was happy to be able to combine some of the ambient light with getting the off camera strobe to fire at this distance. A big hole with a halo’ed diver for scale? Mission accomplished.

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