Webster Cave Imagery with the Sashalite Flashbulb

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Webster Cave Imagery with the Sashalite Flashbulb

Postby Darklight » Mar 9, 2010 7:44 pm

I have not posted here in many years. Guess I kind of made a slide away from caving. Kind of lost focus and direction, even as the mapping project of my favorite cave, the Webster Cave System, was nearing fruition. This weekend, I made a (surprise) return to Webster to embark upon a mission to photographically document the cave for our mapping project. It has been so long since I dabbled with my Olympus E-3 and 7-14mm lens (that I specifically bought for cave use) I wondered whether I'd be able to recall how to use it all! That fear, coupled with trying to remember the "feel" I used to have to matching flashbulbs to cave passages had me in a bit of an anxiety.

Curtis Beasley, Pat Mudd, and I, made a trip to Webster this past Sunday to start the photography project. There were several survey teams in the cave at the same time. I decided I wanted to concentrate on just a small section of the cave--to make a study of sorts-- rather than try and do too much too quickly. This was a good plan, as it took us nearly seven hours just to shoot three shots!

I have been a collector of flashbulbs since I started caving. There are many "Holy Grail" flashbulbs. The Mazda 75. Osram Vacublitz. Sashalite. Only a hard core collector would salivate at these. Many years ago I lucked into a cache of GE Sashalite bulbs circa 1930. I began to dream about a cave shot using these vintage and antique bulbs. Foil filled and similar in size to the Press 21, they sport an unusual bayonet base that was the same as British incandescent bulbs of the same period. I had to order several adapters to enable their use n my Mazda flash guns.

http://ic2.pbase.com/o4/05/388005/1/122 ... play01.jpg

Nearly twenty years ago I shot a section of the Epitome Lake in the Webster System using film and my venerable OM-2s SLR. I shot the image by myself, locking the camera into bulb and swimming down the passage setting off Press 25B bulbs along the way. I put glow-in-the-dark tape on the tripod so I could find the camera when I was done. That proved more difficult than I expected, and it took me over an hour to find the camera! Being alone in the dark for so long can mess with ones perspective and depth perception! Here is the original shot from so many years ago:


This day, I tried to set up a similar shot. Utilizing an Olympus E-3 dSLR and 7mm ultra wide angle lens, I wanted to incorporate the oldest light possible, the 83 year old Sashalites, with the new digital technology of the day. Now, these ancient bulbs were certainly not without their idiosyncrasies. Several just failed to fire. Rather than junk the whole shot, I opted to re shoot several "components" of the image with just the bulb that failed to fire. I also shot some fill flash, using old GE #5 bulbs. Ultimately, these four individual frames were then merged as layers in Photoshop CS4 to create this composite image:


This is the first time I've tried a composite layer image like this, and I was very pleased with the results. The components were shot exclusively in RAW format, which I will use from now on. The ability to manipulate the RAW image is fantastic, and I was able to squeeze a lot of detail--even blown highlights-- that would have been impossible otherwise. And, the RAW format gave me exclusivity when dealing with color balance; I had no idea what color temperature to expect out of the Sashalite bulbs. The original Sashalites were not lacquer coated, but these were sprayed by me to prevent explosion. My Sashalite was bare bulb; no reflector. So I had one eye closed and was hoping not to get a face full of shattered glass! The E3 was triggered via wireless remote, and a Firefly infrared flash slave was also utilized.

Some additional imagery, including several taken using the Meggaflash PF330 long-burn bulbs, can be viewed at http://www.pbase.com/darklightimagery/r ... em_imagery
Last edited by Darklight on Mar 22, 2010 6:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.
C.G. Anderson

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Re: Webster Cave Imagery with the Sashalite Flashbulb

Postby MUD » Mar 9, 2010 9:34 pm

Thanks for posting again. I miss your Webster trip reports. GREAT photos! :clap:
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