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Author Topic: Cave shooting & curse of the green box  (Read 4234 times)

FunPhotons

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Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« on: August 07, 2012, 04:18:08 PM »
So I was doing some shooting while in a lava cave, not knowing any better I stuck two 600RTs in my pocket and away I went (5DMKII 24-105 lens). I was surprised at how difficult it was to take pictures (I shouldn't have been).

First problem, the camera can't focus (duh). I finally stuck it in MF and tried to focus to what it should be - tons of blurred shots.

Second problem; not enough light (duh). I had one flash on top and one in my hand, and it still wasn't enough to light up some of the big spaces most of the time. A few shots worked out more or less, must have been an accident.

Third problem, in desperation I went to the green box to try and get something, guess what I found? The 600RT wireless turned off. Of course its dark so you can't easily see everything going on with your camera (and I was walking along at the same time), but that green mode is so blindly stupid that it even turns off wireless and the flash goes into no RF master mode (might as well have had a 580 up there). WTF ... half the reason I want a 1 series body is so I don't have to see that awful green box anymore.

Anyhow, you want a challenge? Go shoot in a cave. I'd recommend trying ...

  • Bring some high powered flashes, two 600's at the minimum
  • Put the wide angle barn door on the flashes (I did this eventually and it helped). I'd be curious to try a small softbox too but that might kill too much light
  • Use a MF prime lens light a Zeiss or Voightlander for precise manual control
  • Manual mode, f/9 1/100s and let the flashes to the heavy lifting
  • Wide angle seemed to work better, shorter focal lengths just made it look like a bad picture of a rock face
« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 04:24:36 PM by FunPhotons »

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Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« on: August 07, 2012, 04:18:08 PM »

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2012, 10:50:53 PM »
The local cave wardens would string up anyone using a flash.  They supposedly do a lot of damage.
There are low level lights though, so my 5D MK II/ 35mmL worked just fine.
Gardner cave in NE Washington State up near the Canadian Border.  Sorry for the poor photoshop job, I removed some obstructions from the image, and its a poor job.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2012, 12:10:21 PM by Mt Spokane Photography »

Menace

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2012, 06:09:55 AM »
Well you came across a real challenge, tried various things and now you are better prepared for the next shoot down a cave  :) good lesson learned.

Have fun and show us your next set of cave pics.

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neuroanatomist

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2012, 08:20:46 AM »
Depending on the size of the formation(s), a handheld flashlight (ideally held by someone else) can do the job.  These are from Actun Tunichil Muknal, in the Cayo district of Belize.  We stopped there on our way to Guatemala, and I highly recommend a visit if you're in the area (and don't mind swimming with your boots on and slogging through mud)...
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FunPhotons

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2012, 08:24:38 AM »
The local cave wardens would string up anyone using a flash.  They supposedly do a lot of damage.

I have a hard time believing that. From what exactly, a few microseconds of photons? Open a cave to the noonday sun for a week and it will change things, but a flash doesn't make sense. And if so, then how is a headlamp supposed to be OK?

Quote
There are low level lights though, so my 5D MK II/ 35mmL worked just fine.

I probably would have done better if I could have stopped. I was with a group that was marching forward.

Quote
Gardner cave in NE Washington State up near the Canadian Border.  Sorry for the poor photoshop job, I removed some obstructions from the image, and its a poor job.

Nice, I'll have to visit it next time I'm up there.

friedmud

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2012, 10:11:36 AM »
The key here is a tripod.  Now, maybe you couldn't bring one on this particular tour, but next time try to sneek in even a small tripod.  You won't need the flashes at all and you will be able to manual focus using live view and use small apertures to get large rooms in focus.

Secondly, if you're going to shoot with flashes like that then you definitely want to be in M (Manual) mode.  Set the shutter speed to something you know you can handhold without blurring the photo (for that lens I would go with 1/150 to 1/200... Smetimes when moving with a group like that you don't have time to stand completely still and / or you are breathing hard and need a faster shutter speed).

Next, set the aperture to wide open... It's the only chance you have while handholding.  For this reason it may be useful to buy or rent a fast lens... That will help with focusing as well (focusing is always done at max aperture).  For your 5D... and if you want to capture wide angle shots of the cave (which will be easier handheld) you might think about a 16-35 f2.8 II...

Next, select an ISO that when combined with the output of your flashes gives you the amount of background brightness you are looking for.  For instance, if you are near an object and use ISO 200the background behind that object might be totally black.  As you increase ISO the background will "fill in" with more light (the flashes will automatically "tone down" so the near object is not overexposed).

Finally, dial in a little positive manual flash exposure compensation.  You should be able to do that by pressing one of the buttons on your 5D near the LCD and then rotating the dial on the back.  Refer to your manual. This will give you a little extralmlight to work with than what the metering system is telling the camera.  You might end up with a slightly overexposed near object, but you'll probably be able to pull back the detail in Post.

Finally (yes, again!)... Make sure you are shooting RAW.  That will give you the most latitude in post to pull shadowmdetail and push back highlights....

awinphoto

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2012, 10:18:06 AM »
I would have to say, well duh...  Seriously, you are dealing with reflective light...  Depending on the distance of the flash to it's nearest wall or ceiling so the light can hit it, get absorbed, and bounce back the remaining light beams back to the camera lens in order for it to autofocus, you may not be able to... many pro's will shoot tripod in this situation, live view with exposure compensation on, set the ISO to a high setting until you see something... focus the wall, and lower the ISO in exchange for a longer exposure/shutter to compensate for a good exposure...  Then you may or may not come into problems with long exposure noise, but it is what it is...  The 600's if i'm not mistaken have a modeling light, but really it's so low of a frequency and time the it's doubtful in a large cave the light will be seen in the walls to reflect back to the camera...  Plus, the IR focus assist may have the same problem.  I've seen (in large cave openings where you can drive a car in, using the cars high beams to light the scene, turn off the car with it in focus and work out the proper exposure if you want the natural look, or keep the lights on if you want the lit look...  The closest thing to a cave i've been in lately was about a mile long abandoned train tunnel outside of truckee, where you can see a pinpoint of light on the other side, and darkness throughout...  my 5d3 worked like a champ, although it probably focuses on the beam of light, i.e. infinity, but it can be done, but you need to be well prepared going into really tough environments. 
« Last Edit: August 08, 2012, 10:20:51 AM by awinphoto »
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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2012, 10:18:06 AM »

dlleno

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2012, 11:05:04 AM »
I recently encountered similar experiences in one of the ND caves (Wind). Fortunately in my case, low-level incandescent lighting was provided along the way because I was on a guided tour; I brought my flash in but never used it -- it just wouldn't have captured what I saw,  and since I was on a tour I didn't have time to set up anything usefully creative anyway.  I had to shoot quick, look for opportunities to rest the camera on something like a handrail, utilize wide apertures, IS, and got few keepers. 

I had a lowepro sling so I could change lenses without taking the backpack off, and utilized the IS WA most of the time (17-55). I got my 70-200 f/2.8 out just because I wanted to, and got a couple of surprisingly acceptable close-in shots of some features by resting the camera against a handrail.  next time I'll bring a monopod.  In my case, a tripod wouldn't have been practical;  no time or space for set-up.

if you are not on a guided tour, and you really do have the time and space to bring in lighting and tripod, all the better!  its just that a single, straight-on flash won't capture what you really see.  without installed "tourist lighting" already in place, and with the time to be creative with a tripod, I think I would be tempted to experiment with "painting" light manually with shutter open -- assuming you have the time of course, and freedom to move about the cave.  For example: open shutter, paint light, then move to another location -- paint more light, lather rinse repeat, then close shutter.  remote shutter release would be useful.    Another alternative, if you really have the time and freedom to be creative, is to place some flash slaves strategically around various places.

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2012, 12:09:42 PM »
The local cave wardens would string up anyone using a flash.  They supposedly do a lot of damage.


I have a hard time believing that. From what exactly, a few microseconds of photons? Open a cave to the noonday sun for a week and it will change things, but a flash doesn't make sense. And if so, then how is a headlamp supposed to be OK?

Quote
There are low level lights though, so my 5D MK II/ 35mmL worked just fine.


I probably would have done better if I could have stopped. I was with a group that was marching forward.

Quote
Gardner cave in NE Washington State up near the Canadian Border.  Sorry for the poor photoshop job, I removed some obstructions from the image, and its a poor job.


Nice, I'll have to visit it next time I'm up there.

You are right, its my poor memory.  They prohibit you from touching the delicate formations, not from using flash
If you are ever up here, drop a e-mail and we might be able to meet.
Here is some damage, I thought the guide said it was from bright lights letting the alge grow.
 

 
 
Setting up a tripod - just too many people in a group, and not enough room on any flat places.  Mistly, the descent is on narrow and steep stairs cut into the rock, or steel stairs.  A  monopod should work though.
The 35mm L and 5D Mark II worked very well, but in some places, a flash would have been needed.  I restricted my photos to areas close to a light.

 
A small side vent that probably goes to the surface somewhere in the trees and rocks above.  The cave has been pretty well explored and documented over the years, but I only have my recollection of what the guide said. 
 

 
« Last Edit: August 08, 2012, 12:25:15 PM by Mt Spokane Photography »

Drizzt321

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2012, 12:45:22 PM »
How about a monopod? One of those fancy ones with the small 3 legs with a ball at the end, plus a ballhead on top? Don't have one, but that might have worked well. It's gotta be a lot better than pure hand-held at least.
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dlleno

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2012, 01:01:19 PM »
I wish I had brought a mono into wind cave.  gitzo 3551 for example, on a belt clip, can be set up in seconds, and it can be protected by you making it less susceptable to someone kicking it.  I'm not a fan of ballheads on a mono, but find great happiness with the RRS MH-02 on the gitzo.  personal preference of course.

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2012, 01:22:53 PM »
Wow, that's a nice looking monopod! I think I might have to check it out when I get my next round of support purchases. Not likely to be soon, but I think this and a new (light!) tripod are in order :)   And then I have to consider what head(s) I want to get, and if I want to go RRS plate or something else. *sigh*  It's only money, right?
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dlleno

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2012, 01:39:37 PM »
lol yea.  I went through a number of cpu cycles before arriving at the 3551.  I didn't want to regret my purchase ever.  and I do mean ever :D    There were things I just was not willing to compromize, such as setup speed, durabiilty, weight, and LENGTH.  so many 'pods are too short for tall dudes to use correctly and in all anticipated scenarios.  for example, shooting up at birds.  and resting the leg behind yours to obtain additional stability, not just straight vertical in front of you. The gizto is just the way to go!

The RRS required firing some some neurons to.  for $100 the kirk version of the manfroto is ok, but I sent mine back without even opening the package.  too wimpy.  the RRS was like wow finally someone knows what a stable head means.  and the "02" version allows you to switch the orientation of the head itself.  anyway sorry for the thread drift - I just like my gitzo :D

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2012, 01:39:37 PM »

caoko

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2012, 02:53:51 PM »
No tripods, power flashes (they say the flashes can blind the bats), monopods here. They have special tours just for photography. This is where they they go fast through the tour and spend a lot of time around the more interesting parts.

you need a fast wide lens. crank up the iso. use a backpack + gorillapod for stability.
if the walls are kinda close the AF assist lights on the flashes help a lot. otherwise it's just MF from the distance scale. take a picture and correct.

naturally going wild caving is the best. freedom to setup your shots.



oh yea, they switched to some sort of low power LED lights to help reduce algae growth.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2012, 02:55:55 PM by caoko »

PhotoCharlie

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2012, 03:40:57 PM »
The local cave wardens would string up anyone using a flash.  They supposedly do a lot of damage.
Depending on the cave, you will often be told not to use a flash in the first room or two of the cave to protect the bats which are sleeping during the day while you invade their territory.  Once you are deep enough into the cave where the bats don't visit/sleep, you can flash away.  Ask the guide when it's OK if they don't automatically tell you.

As for photo techniques, I agree with bringing and using a small flash light.  I prefer the 2-3" multi LED lights that are so popular right now.  Using the other suggestions provided to take advantage of the lights in the cave you will get reasonable shots.  But they're the same shots everyone gets because the lights only highlight the major features and holes.  With a little light of your own you can find and shoot the rarely photographed features.

Use aperature priority with a large aperature and let the camera select the shutter speed.  You'll mess up a few shots if you are too hurried, but generally with the flash light (held by another person) and a moment to stabilize yourself, you can get a good shot.  The flashlight generally isn't good for whole room shots, but then neither is wide open aperature because your depth of field is too short and the whole room won't be in focus.

The biggest problem with flashes, is that the interior of a cave is mostly limestone/travertine, which is really quite colorless and harsh when lit by a flash.  The warm colors we traditionally see in cave photographs are from the tungsten lighting used, but a flash makes the white pop out and you end up wondering where all the pretty colors went.  If you really have to use a flash, then experiment with the flash compensation controls for your flash, or put the flash in manual mode and use the low end of the power scale.

Because of the tour speed or other "hold back to shoot" photographers, you'll rarely have the time to setup a prize winning photo.  So, mostly just enjoy the cave and let the photos enhance the memories. 

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Re: Cave shooting & curse of the green box
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2012, 03:40:57 PM »