Jul 122016

Split shot in Oehani

One of the features of Timor is the very soft limestone that I talked about last week. As well as exploding cave ceilings, this also leads to large breakdown piles in the cave tunnels. Which means that the big blue passages are periodically interrupted by collapses both underwater and above. As you can see from these shots, air chambers provide a whole new playground for cave photography.

Underground air chamber

Taking split shots in the ocean means waiting for very calm days or finding sheltered spots. Underground, in a place completely enclosed by rock, there’s no need to worry about the weather rippling the surface. When the divers are still the water surface is completely flat. With a rock to stand on and not too much silt in the water, great split shots are not far away.

For the first shot here I used back button focus to force the focus point above the water. I chose a focus point nice and close to the camera, which also brings the underwater section of the image mostly into focus. The on camera strobes were one underwater and one above to spread the lighting around and be sure to trigger the off camera strobes. The two strobes on the diver have both fired and are giving that nice blue glow to the background. I like this first shot for the simplicity – blue water, white rocks, wetsuited diver hanging out with half an eyeball on the camera.

On the second shot I lifted the camera and tilted down, catching the refracted image of the floor below in the water’s surface. This means the light from the off camera strobes is visible both below and above the surface line and the hotspot of the strobe itself is hidden. The body of the diver is also lost, reducing the weirdness of two mismatched halves meeting. And my other buddies are waiting patiently in the background, giving some depth to the size of this chamber.

Splits are good fun when you have a bit of time to spare. Having some air space means easier communication with the models and more chance to get things right. It makes up for having to take twice as many shots for fear of droplets on the dome. Fix the focus, sort the lighting and away you go.

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