By Becky Kagan
As an avid cave diver, I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to dive cave systems all over the globe. I’ve probably logged more dives inside the Devils Cave system in Florida since I began diving there at age 14 than anywhere else. I never imagined the clear springs would spark such a passion for freshwater diving and unique photography possibilities.
Ginnie Springs is located in High Springs Florida. This is where you will find Devils Cave system, a popular cave with thousands of feet of passageways. The gin clear fresh water is fantastic for photography, and i t often looks as if the diver is flying in air.
The cave entrances are located right on the Santa Fe River, which occasionally floods over the cave when water levels are high. When you look at the river water it almost appears black, but it’s really a deep red color from all of the tannins. Sometimes only a slight amount of river water mixes above the Devils Ear cave entrance creating a pretty rainbow of colors- myriads of reds, yellows, greens, and the clear water that allows you to see the leaves on the trees above.
One challenge I love is the inability to plan these shots. Every time I dive this site it changes and different amounts of river water mix with fresh water creating different color combinations. You really can’t get the same image twice! My goal for this dive was to capture a shot that almost looks like a diver is swimming though an underwater sunset.
I captured this shot after a cave dive with my friend Dave Oldham, who just completed his full cave course. Being a technical diving instructor, he looked great in the water as a model. Our plan was to take it easy and take my camera along.
After our dive we swam around in the clear basin checking out turtles and fish in the spring. There was a tarp fence put up to block the river water from protruding into the spring because the river was high. It was cold and nasty ice tea colored water, but we swam over the fence anyway to check it out. At first I couldn’t see much in the tannic water, but as I descended to about 20ft it cleared up enough for me to begin shooting.
The red tannic water swirled around Dave as he swam though it. I sat there mesmerized just watching the surges of color above me. Sometimes so much river water swirled above that everything went black as it blocked the sunlight. As we ascended and swam back to the fence I was in about 5ft of water and pointed my camera up, used his silhouette to block the sun, turned off my strobes and took this shot.
NOTE: There was no photoshopping- all of the colors are natural! This shot was taken with a Nikon D700 with 14-24mm lens a few feet underneath my model.