Question of which lens to take caving

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by jon595, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. jon595

    jon595 Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2011
    My wife and I taking a guided caving tour at Laurel Caverns soon and I was curious if anyone had experience with caving and what focal lengths would be good to have. We are doing the lower cave tour and from what I understand, once we get past the 'main cave' with lights, there aren't lights down there.

    My first thought was my E-M5, Panasonic 14mm and an FL-600R flash kept in a Domke F-5xb bag on a waist strap. I would configure the bag so I can lay the OMD in the bag with the flash still attached for quick access.

    The 2nd thought was E-M5, Oly 14-150 and an FL-600R. This would give me tons of range, but I couldn't put the camera in a bag with the flash on.

    Given the dampness and all the wet sand in the cave, I wanted to keep the camera in the bag whenever not shooting.

    I guess my main question is, does anyone think taking one vs. the other? Would I even need a telephoto option? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  2. brokken

    brokken Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 25, 2012
    Your fastest and widest, methinks - so the Panny 14mm if I were to venture a guess.
  3. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I'd stick with the 14mm. You don't want something as slow as the superzoom, nor would you make use of the zoom range... Nor do you want to fumble with taking parts on and off in a dark cave.
  4. jon595

    jon595 Mu-43 Veteran

    May 2, 2011
    Thanks for the tips. If only I felt like splurging for the Only 12 f/2....

    Just a hobbyist.
  5. KVG

    KVG Banned User

    May 10, 2011
    yyc(Calgary, AB)
    Kelly Gibbons
    Good call
  6. Chrisnmn

    Chrisnmn Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 26, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Ive done some caving. my experience is-was:


    Caves, are wet or humid, so usually their walls are dripping water, therefore, water acts as reflectors for any light specially flash and can totally ruin the photo.
    Also when you fire a flash in those environments usually you lose the sense of darkness and space?.

    What i recommend based on my personal experience is,

    Fast lens
    Flashlight / Torch
    Low ISO

    and your shots should be in between 1 up to 5 or even 8 minutes long.

    I dont have all of them with me at this moment but heres one i did not so long ago in a quite dark cave in New Zealand.

    View attachment 232799
    Untitled by nadameansnothing, on Flickr

    In this shot my light source was the entrance to the cave which is at the top right side of the image, so i didnt use the light torch.

    Im not saying this is a great example, but again my experience.
    This was shot with a Canon 5dMKII with a 50mm F1.4, ona Manfrotto tripod and a intervalometer to the camera to avoid any movement triggering the shutter.

    Cant remember the ISO or Aperture at this moment, but it certainly wasnt wide open more like a 4 or 5.6-ish.

    Ill show some other ones in color for you to see later on, and also using a torch to "light paint" the scene without being as harsh as a flash.

    hope this helps some how!.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Narnian

    Narnian Nobody in particular ...

    Aug 6, 2010
    Richmond, VA
    Richard Elliott
    Great cave shot!

    I am an old caver myself. I used to carry my camera in an old ammo box I tied to my leg when I crawled through tight openings. Definitely wide angle and a maybe a normal prime - usually there is not much room. Usually the humidity is very high in caves with formations as stated but I think properly used a flash can get some pictures you could not take otherwise so I recommend it.

    Now these pictures are 40 years old when I was 18 or 19.

    Unfortunately the fill light in the back burned out.

    The camera was on a tripod and I walked down the large hall triggering the flash 4 or 5 times. You can see at least 3 of me :D 

    Spaces can be tight ...
  8. MikeB

    MikeB Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 10, 2010
    Atlanta, GA
    I went in a commercial cave just a couple weekends ago, and faced this same question. Wide is what you want, since there's usually no room to back up. But your target isn't moving, so fast isn't important if you have a good tripod/monopod and take long exposures. Given that it may be wet, the kit 12-50 lens is actually a reasonable choice, and what I left on the camera the whole time. And since the 12-50 has a nice macro, that also allows you to get close and spot fossils in the rock.

    And Chrisnmn is right about no flash. I tried a flash some years ago, and the exposure was always very wrong. Your field of view generally has rocks close to you around the perimeter of your image, and the target in the center is much further away, so the flash overexposes the outside and underexposes the inside. So longer exposure and a tripod is a good combo.

    A wide beam flashlight will be a good choice, or even a lantern. You can set them down and illuminate a good rock formation from the side or behind, or at least place the light away from you and control where it's going.



    • Like Like x 2
  9. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Yup. That's what you want.

    Re flash, most commercial caves I've been in do not allow flash. I think they wrongly believe that the light encourages algae and other bugs. But it is also rude to others in the cave.

    In any tourist environment, setting up and fussing with a tripod can be difficult if you do not control the pace of movement. You might consider trying a monopod. There are various photos on the 'net showing how to brace one with your body to increase stability. If you and your wife will be alone with the guide/private tour and he/she is patient, a tripod might work.

    You might also want to consider a diver's dry bag for your gear. The ones I have are very heavy vinyl so provide some protection from scratches/bumping against rocks. Need for this depends on how wet the environment is. IIRC the bags were only about fifteen bucks.
  10. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
    Sometimes You'll Want To Capture Things Both Ways Just To Show The Difference

    With Cave Lighting:
    E-PL2 with PL 20mm, f1.7, 1/40 sec, ISO 500

    With Flash:
    E-PL2 with PL 20mm, f1.7, 1/40 sec, ISO 200, Flash

    The 20mm was a nice compromise of wide enough for the larger rooms, and close focusing for the small details where you could get close to the decorations.
    E-PL2 with PL 20mm, f1.7, 1/30 sec, ISO 1000

    E-PL2 with PL 20mm, f1.7, 1/40 sec, ISO 400
    • Like Like x 1
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