This requires a special section. It is one of the most difficult parts of teaching photography as it is so easy to come across as patronizing. This is something that nobody wants to do and is certainly not the intention. My opinion is this - the protection of the caves come first. It just so happens that the people who are the most sensitive to such opinions have the biggest impact. Therefore, when training to have the minimal amount of impact on the cave environment, nobody should take any good advise personally, or see their current diving limitations as a personal attack on themselves. It is what it is, and the cave comes first.

As cave divers in the Yucatan we are exceptionally lucky. We live in a time when the water levels are at perfect depths, when access here is improving everyday, with multiple diving setups on offer, and in an age when air travel can put us anywhere we choose.  Such huge changes in our progress as a species comes with responsibility, and I, as a cave instructor, see the protection of our caves as paramount. The caves come first, and Underworld Adventures expects all their clients to embrace that. We should focus on and appreciate what we can do, not what we can’t, and the cave should never suffer for one person’s ignorance.  What can the photographer do? The following will help.

Always dive below your limits when busying yourself with a camera. A camera DOES task load, and that should be respected. Do not go to places and areas where you can damage and silt, and which don’t match your skill level. Where ever you go, do not use speleothems as target practice for your buoyancy and trim, as that is not the right environment to do that. The shot is not important, but the cave is. If the area is delicate, then practice the shoot first in an area where there is no formations. And if in doubt, wait until you are SURE you can leave no evidence of your visit. Learn the cave system. This will give the photographer better pictures, as they can plan the dive better. You do not have to take all your $40,000 worth of equipment with you on your first dive in the system. Its looks amateur, because, well, it is. (all the gear - no idea)

Learn awesome buoyancy control. The cave diver needs to stay stationary, helicopter turn, and most importantly, swim backwards. The frog kick should be second nature, and very very rarely should you have reason to not be horizontal. Touching is a big no no.

Taking pictures in low light needs a steady hand. I have seen mini tripods being used, but that is a cheat. It leads to cave contact, and means that other divers have to look at your unsightly marks in the silt. Its a good idea, but the picture not the cave comes first, and that breaks our rules. Don’t get into bad habits that disguise your actual training needs.

Plan the photographic dive, as William is doing above. Know where you want everybody, where you want every light placed, and for how long. Do not plan too much or make it over complicated. Surface rehearsal and position is an incredibly effective tool, and great fun to do, involving team work at its best. Achieving great shots from a well planned and orchestrated dive is a very rewarding experience. On top of this, you do not want too complicated an actual dive plan, or too much navigation. Most importantly, you do not want too many divers there, as that means more impact. Indeed, planning a dive means that you do not have to spend too long in the same spot, reducing potential impact. Ultimately, if you look after the cave, it will look after you. Words and good intentions mean nothing if the diver doesn’t follow through on their own good advice. Good photography IS about good diving.


The Cave Diving Photographic Environment

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