Help with cave photography

cleary71

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I am planning on going on a cave tour this coming weekend and was hoping someone could help me with the proper settings. I will be visiting a cave that is lit by some type of flood lights. I am not sure what type of lights they will be (tungsten, fluorescent, etc). I own a Nikon D70 and was sure what I should do about setting the white balance. I will also be using a flash, so that adds another wrinkle (I think) to the equation. I once took a similar tour and shot it was color slide film, but all of the caves walls came out very yellow (I am guessing because of the light source the tour was using). I hope this all makes sense. Any help would be greatly appreciated - Thanks!!!
 

Big Mike

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Shoot in RAW, that way you can adjust the WB after the fact.

If you have the capability, try to get your flash off of you camera...or at least set it so that it doesn't overpower the existing lights. I would think that when shooting in a cave, the texture of the walls would be pretty cool. Directional light will emphasize the texture while on-camera flash will tend to erase the texture.
 

Jeff Colburn

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I've been in caves with lights like you're talking about, and caves with no light except my flashlight. In the latter I used a flash, and while the pictures are okay, the flash didn't do a great job and the cave sucked up light like a sponge. Use the existing lights and you will have some nicer pictures than overpowering them with a flash.

Have Fun,
Jeff
 

lambertpix

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I agree with the advice about shooting RAW. In addition, find out if you can bring a monopod and/or tripod, since your exposures are probably going to tend toward the slow side. I'd play with bouncing the flash a bit, since blasting it straight ahead is likely to produce some really unpleasant shadows. Incidentally, I was on a cave tour the first time I discovered the focus assist beam on my Yongnuo flash -- it projects a small pattern of red lines straight ahead, which gives the camera a little bit of contrast to help it focus. This might seem sort of gimmick-y under normal circumstances, but it wound up being pretty helpful in the cave.

If you're in a tour with a group, I think one of your biggest challenges is going to be dealing with that -- you're likely to have people in your shots and/or constantly straggle at the back of the group and/or annoy those around you by blinding them with your flash. With luck, you should be able to work around most of these, but don't be surprised if you wind up feeling rushed when you take your shots. I don't believe Nikon has camera user settings, but these were pretty helpful for me because I could set one for tripod-mounted shots, one for hand-held w/o flash and one for hand-held w/ flash so I could switch among them very quickly.

Enjoy the tour, and good luck.
 

Caymex

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try some long exposures, of course you'll need to take a tripod with you. The floodlights might just give off a perfect warmth and depth to your photo's. I personally would probaly avoid using a flash all together, and if i did, maybe some filters to help warm up the light coming off of the flash. If you use lightroom or some other type of photo editing software you'll probably be able to manipulate the white balance and exposure anyways, just make sure you shoot in raw. Sometimes in caves you get some really cool watefalls or tricking water, streams, rivers; it may be cool to take some nd filters as well to extend your exposure and see what you can create. Lastly, if your going to take a flash with you, try backlighting some of those stalagtites, it may give a beautiful glow to them. A flashlight may also be something fun to take with you, so you try some "light painting".
 

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