Many of us take a few photographs of caves every year, but most of these pictures were taken in the cave’s entrance. This is often where we see the most amazing formations and the water dripping off the roof is always a highlight.
So why then do we rarely get far beyond the first few metres of the cave? The entrance is where the light source is usually strongest, so it means that our exposure time will be long, which can cause shadows and contrast problems. In addition, the rocks at the entrance are often covered in water, which is a real distraction and can blur images.
Cave photography can be a real headache, especially when taking multiple pictures. I tried to address some of the problems with my photo tips for cave photography.
1. Find a cave with natural entrances.
You should find a cave that has natural entrances, rather than man-made ones. Natural entrances, such as caves in cliffs or rock crevices, are much less likely to be blocked by tourists and visitors. They have a smaller footprint, meaning there is more room to explore and you can use the space more efficiently.
2. Take pictures of the whole cave.
We often only see part of the cave at a time. Therefore, it’s important to get photos of all areas of the cave. This includes the entrance, the cave walls, the pools and the stalagmites. Try to include some of the lightest parts of the cave, such as the upper chambers.
3. Try to stay still.
Staying still is difficult, especially when you are trying to get the perfect shot. However, taking pictures of moving animals, such as bats, is difficult. If you are in a position where you are able to get close to a bat, try to stand still. But, if you are not able to do this, then move away from the animal as quickly as possible, and get back in the cave.
4. Bring a flash.
A flash will reduce the time you need to expose your image, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the cave. The flash can also allow you to shoot at night, when it’s hard to see how long you should expose the image.
5. Get a tripod.
If you are not confident using a tripod, it can be a good idea to get one. It will help stabilise your camera and allow you to take pictures without worrying about your camera moving.
6. Consider using a remote release.
This will allow you to take pictures from a safe distance, without having to touch your camera. It can also prevent you from accidentally pressing the shutter button.
7. Consider using polarizers.
Polarizers work by blocking the light rays that fall onto your camera’s sensor. This means that, even if the subject of your picture isn’t very reflective, the light rays will be blocked. You can add a lot of interest to a photo by using polarizers.
8. Make sure your battery is fully charged.
It’s important to make sure that your battery is fully charged, as this will ensure you have enough power to keep your camera’s shutter open for the correct amount of time.
9. Look for patterns.
Patterns can be used to create a background. For instance, if you are taking photos of a large pool of water, try looking for a pattern in the water, such as reflections from the surface. This will help you to create a nice background.
10. If you are not happy with your pictures, delete them.
It’s important to delete the images that aren’t satisfactory. It’s easy to look at a photo and decide it’s not good enough. It’s important to not take pictures of the things you like, or those that make you feel good, and instead delete the ones that you do not want.
11. Try to plan ahead.
Planning ahead will enable you to take pictures that fit together well. If you have time, you will often be able to see the whole image as you take the photographs.
12. Use the right lens.
The size of your lens will affect your images. A smaller focal length will give you a wider angle of view and a greater depth of field. You will be able to get a good shot of the entire area, even if you are not as close to the subject.
13. Photograph the right time of day.
Some caves can look stunning at certain times of the year, when there is more light, such as after a snowfall. This will enable you to take a good photograph. However, some caves will be dark and gloomy, and some will be very bright. It’s important to take your time and choose the right time of day.
14. Keep your camera in a bag.
A camera bag is useful because it prevents it from being damaged when it falls down a hole or onto the cave floor. It also stops it from getting wet, which can cause problems with your camera’s sensors.
15. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
It’s important to try out new things, as you may discover new ways of using your camera or lens. Experiment with different settings, including shutter speeds, apertures, focal lengths and lenses.
16. Be patient and take your time.
Taking a few shots will usually enable you to get a good image. However, it may take longer than you expect, and you may need to retry. If you have an old camera, it may be worth upgrading to a better model, as this will allow you to take more and better photographs.
Ideas to Improve Your Cave Photography