A Different Set of Rules

Cave diving is notoriously unforgiving to those prone to making mistakes. Indeed, the art of cave rescue diving is a limited one in terms of what can be achieved, and the training course in this field is still called Body Recovery. To avoid using these resources, cave divers require as much mental awareness as they can muster. Getting in is easy. Getting out is the important part. Cameras are amazingly complicated instruments, and have the potential to suck the concentration away from divers as they transfix their attention to the mesmerizing caves. A little loss of awareness to obtain the right shot can easily make the little seed of doubt grow huge, and then all hell can break loose. So there are some basic rules.

Learn and get trained to dive, as well as cave dive.  Great divers do two things throughout their careers. First, they learn to continually make good decisions. Good decision making is vital. Understand that on the dive the picture comes last, and safety comes first. Always. Secondly, always work at awesome flawless trim, buoyancy and propulsion. This is not reflected in open water diving, as the link to the following article explains.  Good technique reduces silting dramatically, and therefore improves picture quality by reducing back scatter. Your pictures in caves are clearer on the way in than on the exit  as the percolation from the ceiling produces potential back scatter. Basically, think about what you’re doing. Just because you are cave certified doesn’t make it a good idea to pick up a camera. Learn your craft well first before task loading yourself.


Never take in a huge piece of equipment without thought. Indeed, if the cave is new to you, take nothing for the first few dives, and scout out the area. Make notes of times, depths and air consumption at certain areas of the cave that interest you. On the second dive, you will know where to go, and how long you have to work,  and have better pictures as a result. Never use your camera with over complex navigation. A couple of jumps and a T intersection seem unchallenging to the experienced cave diver, but throw in a camera, and the mix becomes potentially lethal.  Always make sure the exit is a relaxed affair.  Make life easy on yourself, and only take the SLR and the strobes when you know exactly what you are after and where to go. A point and shoot is better for initial shots as they will tell you what is working and what is not, as well as giving you some good ideas for composition. Indeed, with cameras like the Canon SD range, or the Nikon, taking a point and shoot is a lot more fun. Good quality diving involves open and frank assessment of one’s realities. If you are on holiday, and you admitted to yourself that you are not a pro photographer, I can guarantee that you will have more fun with a camera like the SD, and get much better shots, than spending your time getting frustrated  over more expensive and time consuming electronics. More importantly, if you are on holiday, then you are not going to be overly familiar with the caves, and WILL need your total  concentration on the dive, and not the camera. Which is why I think point and shoot cameras are awesome. Watching amateur divers with their overkill equipment on dive one in a new system is not a pretty thing to look at, all pros agree, and my heart sinks thinking about the impact on the cave. A small point and shoot, with instant settings is ideal to start with, and can be clipped away easily with little drag. By the time you know what you want to do with your SLR camera in the area you are diving, your knowledge of the cave should be more rounded, and therefore safer and less stressful. This produces quality shots. Going in and hoping the shot will “JUMP OUT AT YOU” isn’t going to happen in caves. Unlike the ocean, in caves most good images come from good planning, not good fortune.

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A Different Set of Rules