Cave Diving Progression

Casa Cenote final shoot

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Casa Cenote is an incredibly photogenic dive site, although fairly unchallenging it was still very satisfying to take my camera here as part of getting the final shots for the Cavern promotional video. Issac came along to both act as my model and also continue to train on his twinset. In comparison to filming with a buddy or people you know as opposed to the cavern tours I found I got much more rewarding footage, it’s easier to encourage the diver to interact with the camera and the dive is based around the shoot as opposed to shoot being based around a dive which is difficult because it feels as if your in a constant rush to get shots and not become separated from the group. As I am diving more in the dive sites here I am beginning to learn the lines, this also makes a big difference on the tours as I know the places I can get shots and which angles to shoot divers from so it’s not all just fins in my viewfinder. Knowing the site I feel gives room for more creativity.

Now I am on the final edit for the cavern film which is exciting!

Cave Diving Progression, Filming Development

Underwater Film Post production

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katy editing
It occurred to me that I write an awful lot about the diving and filming that I am undertaking but relatively little about all the work that goes into producing the result.

I will put it in some perspective for you ‘non-adobe premiere users’ out there! Each dive I do is on average 60 minutes long, once the footage is edited down to the beat of the music and put in sequence I am lucky if I get a minute worth of usable footage out of each dive I do .. This isn’t because the rest of the footage is no good but more so that if I included the full length of each shot, then my videos would be extremely long, each clip wouldn’t match the the beat and everyone would get extremely bored.

So what is editing? well for me editing is inspired by the music I choose. For the promotional videos I am filming at the moment I am looking for inspirational, motivating music with a good beat I enjoy listening to, as I will have to be listening to it for hours while I work! This brings me onto the first time consuming hurdle when editing … finding music. This is an extremely long and tedious process because unfortunately you can’t just choose your favourite main stream track and throw it on the timeline because of copy right issues, so you have to scroll through free music archives praying that you come across something decent soon. I have spent hours searching for music and now I have quite a nice library stocked up but it really does take time as each video is so specific and your looking for what feels like that one track in a million to fit.


What music archives do I use? Here are some links to a few of the sites I use/have used ..

I began using this site however you have to pay $18 per track and to be honest the thought of searching through that site ever again makes me feel ill. It’s crammed full of that type of awful music you listen to when you’re in an elevator or when your waiting on the other end of a commercial phone call for customer services to pick up, I could go on. Finding anything half descent on this site is next to impossible and painfully time consuming.

The Vimeo Music Store

This is pretty cool and very cheap and very fast … There are thousands of tracks on here available under a CC license for free! and even the ones you have to pay for are only a couple of dollars, however I did find it quite a pain to navigate and search through tracks but there is a lot of usable music on here for sure!

Free Music Archive.

This site has a huge library with many CC licenses and easy to navigate in terms of genres and styles of music you are looking for. I would say this site was my favourite if it wasn’t for my new find ..


This website is huge and crammed full of awesome music under various creative commons licenses. Some of these licenses require attribution, or don’t allow for derivative works, so you must always check that what you are wanting to do with the music applies to the license it has been shared under, this applies for all the sites above too! The thing I Iove about this site is that the people sharing music are real groups and artists, it’s not computer generated rubbish, its people with a passion and talent for what they do and it reflects in the work! The site is great to navigate and the drum & bass/glitch/dubstep music I tend to lean towards in my editing is on par to what is out there today on iTunes and its for free!! I am very happy with this find.

So now you have found the music its time to start putting everything on the time line, I usually have three different tracks I think I might want to use. Sometimes the track just doesn’t work with the footage even though you liked the sound and sometimes the footage actually brings what you first thought was quite a mundane track to life, so it’s always nice to have a few options.

The editing itself is my favourite part, I love how you are able to take the footage you have and present it in a way thats personal to you. A lot of my friends and family don’t dive so it’s great to be able to show them what I am doing and the things I am seeing as sometimes words just aren’t enough.

I feel it is very important to edit to the beat of the music it helps amalgamate the clips and the song so the film flows. The length of video is also key in my opinion as with commercial underwater films you are trying to sum up the best of what you have to offer in a short exciting sequence and I find anything longer than 1:30min – 2min people get bored and stop watching. Basically it has to appeal to all audiences and so the main aim is to sum what you are trying to promote as efficiently as possible, the more aesthetically pleasing and exciting the better!

Occasionally the footage needs a bit of colour correction I tend to add a bit of contrast to my shots regardless. Before I invested in video lights loosing the colour red was the main issue especially at the depth (below 30m), shots turned out quite blue despite the fact I was white balancing underwater and I found I used to have to adjust the RGB curves quite frequently, now I hardly do it at all. Once you have done all this you have the great pleasure of waiting for the footage to render so you can play it back in real time. Luckily I invested in quite a powerful Macbook so it’s not quite so time consuming as it used to be.

Deciding when your finished and to export can be a tricky decision to make. At the moment I am diving with my camera almost daily and therefore always getting more shots that are better or different to add in. There is a marked improvement on the footage I am producing in the caverns and caves now as apposed to when I started so it takes a bit off discipline to say when to finish a project because I know it will keep getting better. However I think it’s nice to have record of what you have done to compare to your later work because you can see what you have done differently and if I took a totally perfectionist stance I would never finish anything.





Cave Diving Progression

Into the bird cage

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Nohoch Nah Chich Is part of the Sac Actun system. The Mayan translation means ‘the giant bird cage’ which is very fitting due to its beautiful decoration! We drove down jungle road for a good while before we came across the Cenote. It was the first time both Markus and I had dived the site which was quite exciting however connecting to the cave line took some time.

On studying the map and talking to one of the Cenote workers we came to a general conclusion about where the line was.  On diving in I made my primary tie off, secondary tie off and we went to the left and came across a line, it wasn’t cave line like the previous caves I have dived it was still the explorer line and although we were still in the cavern zone when we hit the line I couldn’t see where the line started. After making a temporary T and placing my cookie we went right and headed into the cave. The passage was relatively small compared to what I had done previously but very heavily decorated with lots of small white stalactites, after finning for a few minutes the line ended on a jump, this wasn’t in the plan and as I am only intro to cave I could not complete the jump so we turned the dive as we had clearly taken the wrong line. I reeled back and we surfaced, we were still well within our 6ths so we descended this time to the right, under where all the snorkelers were swimming. It is a long dome of that goes back far into the cenote, we were under it right until we found the correct cave line. The line again was still explorer line which is the same thickness as my reel line, it had the original knots on it the person had made which was pretty cool.


Nohoch map


Although I didn’t spider web my line all over the cave I didn’t take the most direct route to the cave line this was mainly because I had never dived the cave before and therefore wasn’t 100% sure where it was. It was funny on reeling in on the way out a group of divers also had followed our slightly convoluted path to connect in, perhaps it was their first time too.

The dive was beautiful and has made the filming list with its big open white rooms and intricate decoration. This list seems to be ever expanding at the moment there are just so many beautiful dives here and each cave system seems to have it’s own unique quality.  The average depth for the whole dive was 6m! so we could easily do a 40min penetration well within both gas allowances and NDL.


Film Shoot, Filming Development

Rhino Poaching short film completed!

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Whilst in South Africa during 2014, teaching some diving courses with Geko Divers. I got the opportunity to visit a friend Rabbo on a 26000 hectare farm he is managing in the Bushveld. I took some photos/video and planned to edit together a compilation from the trip. Whilst editing I started to listen to what the camera had picked up Rabbo talking about as I was filming .. it was really interesting and so I decided to do my piece for nature and make a short cause film on the Rhino poaching in South Africa. Excuse the wobbly footage in places … I was filming out of a Landrover

Cave Diving Progression, Film Shoot, Filming Development

Filming in the mangroves today

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Today I’m at Casa Cenote to get some shots of the mangroves. This is a very special Cenote at it is pretty much right on the ocean front and is littered with floating mangrove islands. Their roots create a very beautiful cavern zone scattering shafts of sunlight left right and centre. It was a lovely dive and very unique can’t wait to come back and take more shots


Cave Diving Progression

First cave dive with my Camera

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Yesterday I ventured just outside of the cavern zone for the first time with my Camera. We have been diving these selected intro cave lines repetitively to start building up to filming that way. This has the benefit of confirming the layout of the cave in my own mind, allowing a lot of time to choose shots and areas I know I want to film, note down the times I reach those at and plan the filming dives accordingly. On the first dive with no camera, we laid the line and calculated my SAC rate going for a regular cave dive and I also made notes of the places I would like to stop and take some film and photos. The second dive the camera came too, we repeated some safety drills and agreed on the importance of dropping the camera in the unlikely even of an emergency. Although distance wise into the cave the dive was shorter we happily spent 50 minutes in some of the first rooms containing halo-cline and stalactites. The dive went very smoothly. Arrows were placed on the line pointing towards the exit at points I stopped to take some shots. It was very useful to see how communication could be lost with large video lights like mine as on the turn around if diving in a normal formation, where roles are reversed and I lead out, any signal Markus would of then tried to put forward with his light to get my attention would be drowned out in my light. We dealt with this by planning the points on the first dive were I was going to film so I didn’t need to have my lights on all the time and Markus being in my view or very close by when I made the shots. My air consumption came out the same with and without my camera which was interesting. The difference between diving in caves and caverns is large and I am eager to take my time on this transition especially when taking the camera. At the moment just outside of the light zone is good enough for me, you don’t need to penetrate extremely deep in the caves here to see some of the amazing sights they have to offer.



katy filming chikin ha sdt

Cave Diving Progression

Old friends

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Yesterday I went on my first cave dive after my course with good friend Markus who I did my courses with and Jeff who I met for the first time three years ago from my days as a videographer on Koh Tao showing my videos to open water students in his bar! and again in Dahab last year when he came to do 170m with Team Blue Immersion. The dives were incredible the first was a 30 minute dive in past Cenote Little Joe and up to Cenote Zacil. On the left between the two Cenotes there were these rooms where air had collected making it look from the angle we saw them at like the ceilings were huge iridescent mirrors and the Cenotes themselves added this eery green ambient light from their hydrogen sulphide layers. The second dive was my favourite dive so far. We penetrated further than the first dive on a different Cave line and it was a large underground vault with no cenotes to pass by just pure cave and a beautiful thick undulating halo cline throughout the whole dive. We managed to stay under it for most of the time but there were places that it became too close to the line and the fresh and salt water merged from our fin kicks sending what you could see into an oily blur. This was the first time I popped up to fin above the salt water layer and for a second it was if I had surfaced and was flying on top of water. Very surreal and I wish I could describe it better with photos! all in good time 

Cave Diving Progression

Line laying

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More line laying practise today in preparation for my full cave course coming up! I left a month between my intro course and full cave, because I wanted to dive and master the skills I have learnt before adding more on top and also become comfortable with the distance I am travelling into the cave. My initial ties offs and connects into the cave have become faster and so the dive into the cave is further. I catch my self at points, especially when I am 25 minutes into the line and I am no where near my turn around point on gas, having strange realisations of the reality of where I am and what I am doing. I guess in many ways it is unnatural for humans to be underwater to start with, add darkness and no access to surface for long periods of time to that equation and it equals one hell of a lot of respect for the environment your in and the safety procedures you have learnt 🙂