Taking part in the 2023 Rio Torretta Expedition has been definitely a challenge. Luigi Casati is a veteran of underwater speleology and he’s indeed highly knowledgeable about this unique cave in North Italy. We couldn’t ask for a better team lead.
The cave appears equally beautiful and insidious. Three siphons are separated by air-filled tunnels, forcing divers to make slow progress crawling and climbing among huge stones and multiple bottlenecks. Some relatively smooth sections alternate with extended segments presenting very low clearance sometimes as low as 80 centimeters. Moving forward with heavy equipment is incredibly hard work on such a clog up path.
The cold (water temperature is around 9 C°) is a factor and it must be carefully considered.
Even a simple task such as pushing a button can’t be taken for granted when operating in the pitch-black darkness of the cave. Everything must be carefully planned and tested.
The narrow passages make us hobble along the way.
The camera housing is relatively easy to handle underwater but it needs to be carried on across the air-filled sessions with considerable exertion.
Taking the underwater camera up to the 2nd and third siphon seemed to be barely doable since day one.
Our goal was set in picturing the real scenario in which Gigi is used to operating, spicing up the images with some photography technique somehow unusual for this naturally hostile environment. During multiple dives, we supported each other handling off-camera lights and pushing angles for the best framing.
Lighting for the extreme:
We wanted to push things a bit more than what would be normally considered appropriate for this extreme environment.
Most of the times, when operating in such hostile conditions, all you can do is find a good ‘point and shoot setup’ and just stick with it.
Unfortunately, such an obvious choice would have easily ‘killed’ the rocks making them too bright when up close or too dark in the distance. On the other hand, using just a couple of headlights would have left the subject soaked into the darkness leaving the Nature’s amazing architectural work heavily underexposed.
For such reasons, we dared to use both off-camera and in-camera strobes, also blending in the diving lights. This mix required continuous exposure adjustments on the fly, but the outcome seems to be worth the effort.
Exploration leader: Luigi Casati
media production: digitalmovie.it
underwater filming: Andrea Mescalchin
underwater photography: Matteo Mescalchin