My partner Rhonson Ng is a mountaineer and spelunker, whose caving abilities goes back to college years in Luzon. He learned caving photography from a pioneer expert (who is now deceased) and have joined his mentor into mapping and exploring bigger caves in the country years back.
Do you know that our city has beautiful caves? Here are some of Rhonson’s works during the 5th Mindanao Caving Forum held in Buda this year. Kudos to his lightning assistant, Arthur Yap, and SPELEO for being the host of this event.
(Here’s an excerpt from “A shot in the dark – guide to cave photography” by Peter Jones, a cave photographer since 1969 and has worked with the National Geographic Television)
Working in the dark
Cave photography, by its very nature, limits the number of people who are going to try it. You must not be afraid of the dark or be claustrophobic, nor afraid to get dirty. In many caves you must also be proficient as a rock climber and know advanced rope work techniques. These facts of life will filter out about 99% of all people. Without harping on the issue, this is really very good for the sake of the caves, which have a limited carrying capacity.
On top of that is the need for a fair amount of specialised equipment. For the moment you should be cognisant that caves can eat camera gear without any trouble. The inherent dirt and humidity can wreak havoc on your best camera. As such, your gear should be rugged and well protected for the cave environment.
Doing cave photography is an exercise in frustration. The biggest problem is that you are working in near total darkness and it’s this factor that gave rise to my business name, ‘Shot in the Dark Cave Photography’. The light on your hardhat is fine for the immediate area you’re working in, but it is barely sufficient for dealing with anything other than a small photographic area. Trying to photograph large formations, especially when they are beyond the limits of your headlamp, can be nearly impossible. Composition is based on educated guesswork as much as it is on your headlamp. Focusing can be similarly difficult. Lighting placement may seem easy at first until you get your processed images back and discover the glaringly over or underexposed portions of the photograph.