Cave Photography for Dummies

3  Photography tips that will save time and money.

1.  Use a Flash

I’ll get the easiest solution out of the way first.  Of course using your built-in camera flash is the quickest fix.  Pop it up and you are good to go.  But, using light from a flash often ruins the photograph more than low light can. Using your flash lights your subject from the front, often washing it out, and it compresses the depth of field of your image making it look flat.  Ugh.  A quick way to soften the light from your built-in flash is to subdue it with a sheer white tissue that you can use to cover the flash.  This will diffuse the light and make it less harsh and can help you if you’re in a bind.  But, if you’re using a DSLR and you must use a flash then your best bet is to invest in an external flash, also known as a “hot shoe” flash, that you clip on to the top of your camera.  These flashes can be manipulated and turned to bounce off of a wall or the ceiling so you’re lighting your subject from the top or the side.

2.  Steady your camera

If you’re like me, you prefer to capture a moment using natural light, which does not exists in caves.  Yes, sometimes the use of a flash just can’t be avoided by using your headlamp out other lights you might have on hand, but if you get your camera on a steady surface, you can avoid the blur that inevitably spoils your perfectly set up photograph.  My choice would be to use a tripod.  Mount your camera on top of it, use your settings the way you normally would and then snap the shutter.  Ta da! But I don’t always have my tripod with me (a.k.a never) and sometimes it’s impractical to use one in a cave, so I improvise by setting my camera on a steady surface. Use a rock, a wall or the floor (if this makes sense for your picture), or even your leg if you’re sitting.  In low light, you simply cannot avoid the slight shake of your hands so just rest the camera on your knee. Even so, this sounds like an easy fix and not one that can always help because in a lot of cases, we are shooting objects in motion – Cavers moving, swinging on rope, bugs, whatever – what to do then?

3.  Open your aperture as wide as you can

A camera is basically a box that reads light and the aperture tells the camera how much light to allow in at any given time.  If you have a DSLR, or even a point and shoot that has some manual settings, then you can control your camera’s aperture.  So the larger the amount of light that is coming into your lens (the wider the aperture), the faster your shutter speed will be and the sharper your photos.  Lots of light and fast, good – low light and slow, bad.  Set your aperture to its widest setting, so that the most light available is entering your lens. To do this, choose the lowest f-number possible (the lowest that your particular lens allows) such as f/1.4 or f/1.8.  These 3 tips can help you capture the moment you desire to save, in order to share the story later with great photos.  Good luck and take nothing but pictures, and kill nothing but time and Cave On!

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