Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

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Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

Postby Glican » Jun 26, 2019 3:18 am

Hey guys, not sure which sub forum to stick it in so I am putting it in general.

I am going to be doing some caving again and would really like to be able to get some good shots of the interior this time. Now this cave is actual caving and not a tourist cave. Meaning you cant freely walk in it. It involves sucking in your chest at times to get through things, crawling, sliding on your back, some rappelling, and all sorts of weird positions as someone who has done it can contest to.

Gear wise what I would be bringing would be my 500D without grip. Tripod from my sig. The Tonika and probably/maybe the Tamron for a lens. And for flash all I have is the 580ex II.

Challenges that I for see would be .. one, dragging all this stuff. Since you cant walk or crawl at times, all you can do is drag most of the time. I have a Lowepro nova 170 aw at the moment. I will be putting all the stuff in that thing. Then the bag will go inside a dry bag. The tripod will be in one as well.

Second.. There is no light. none. ziltch... head lamp can be turned off for an hour and your eyes will never adjust to see your hand 1cm from your face since there is absolutely 0 light.

So to get a decent shot that shows more depth ore texture in the wall then the normal flash on a P&S. I figured I put the camera on a tripod and do OCF and possibly blend a few exposure together? or light paint with the headlamps on the wall to get the light...

All the articles that I can find on the net deal with full blown huge caves that you walk through so I am not to sure on any other ideas.

What do you guys think? will the gear be alright? what about the light?

Any suggestions or ideas would be appreciated!
Thanks.
Last edited by Glican on Jul 19, 2019 12:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

Postby NZcaver » Jun 26, 2019 4:18 am

Welcome to the forum.

You might consider a waterproof hard case (e.g. Pelican Case) for transporting your camera through the cave. A soft case, even with a waterproof bag over it, may not protect your camera equipment from hard knocks.

A tripod and light painting with LED lights is one option, but for the best results you'll want lights with a smooth even beam and good color temperature. Flash photography is another option, but you'll want to get the flashgun off the camera. Using multiple flashguns and diffusers will often yield better results, especially with close-ups. If you're shooting photos of the cave wall try experimenting with lighting from different angles. Also think about adding a person to many of your shots for scale/interest.

Good luck!
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Re: Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

Postby bobby49 » Jun 26, 2019 12:01 pm

Decades ago we used to carry our film cameras in Army ammo cans with a shoulder strap. That did a good job of protecting the camera, but it was highly inconvenient. With modern digital cameras, it is advisable to use one with RAW image recording. You can "pull more" out of a dark shadow. Alternatively, when I am going through a "belly crawl cave," I find it necessary to go with a shirt pocket size camera. That minimizes the need for a Pelican box.

One of the first standard problems is not getting enough light on the subject. You can go with more powerful strobe flashes if you can get the beam wide enough. Alternatively, there are some 10,000 lumen continuous LED lights, and those can be useful also for video. One good side effect of such a powerful LED light is that it doubles as a hand warmer.
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Re: Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Jun 26, 2019 6:43 pm

Good advice, guys. I think that 580 Speedlight should be PLENTY for small passage. LED lights would work as well. Personally, I'm an idiot with a Speedlight, but can take night shots w/ LEDs.

The 500D has RAW and I'll bet Glican uses it. Well I hope he does! :woohoo:

The DSLR + Speedlight won't fit into any pockets and will need more protection. Unless Glican wants to switch to a smaller camera, I think he's gonna have to go with a Pelican or Otter box sort of thing.
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Re: Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

Postby bobby49 » Jun 27, 2019 6:33 pm

A Canon 580ex II strobe is good, but you really have to know what you are doing with it with respect to your camera settings. In other words, there are several ways to get it wrong.
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Re: Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

Postby Squirrel Girl » Jun 27, 2019 10:21 pm

bobby49 wrote:A Canon 580ex II strobe is good, but you really have to know what you are doing with it with respect to your camera settings. In other words, there are several ways to get it wrong.


And I have gotten it wrong many times. At work, because I do reasonably good nature shots, they think I can take pictures of people. Wrongo! That requires flash indoors. Ugh. The ways I can get that wrong!

Other people have figured it out and have no issues. Maybe they do it often enough to remember.
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Re: Looking for advice - Photography in small caves?

Postby captnemo » Jul 11, 2019 11:02 am

Small caves can be challenging since bright lights will easily overexpose your image - consider trying a test shot(or 20) in a closet before you go to see what settings work best for you.
Image This picture was taken in a tiny cave. There was barely room for me to squeeze into the spot I'm shooting from and having the lights (a vivitar flash and a smaller generic flash) off camera really helped.

I don't carry a tripod instead I use a 'pod' https://www.thepod.ca/ The one I have is yellow which i don't see listed on their website, If you're handy with a needle and thread you could probably even fashion your own and attach a tripod mount.

A good pelican box is a great idea- I have yet to find one that is a reasonable size for camera and strobes together so I usually use separate ones.

For strobes these days I'm using godox https://smile.amazon.com/Godox-AD200-0-01-1-8s-Recycling-Lightweight/dp/B07QM6RWPY/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=14PA9R5RAWXYB&keywords=godox+ad200&qid=1562859383&s=gateway&sprefix=godox%2Caps%2C198&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&smid=A3P9EAC3KD93H7 I love the rechargeable battery but it is heavier then the vivitars I used to use.
Hope that's helpful and good luck- look forward to seeing the results
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