Stalagmites, stalactites and low light

By October 8, 2018Out and about...

Below the earth’s surface in southern Tasmania’s Huon Valley lies Newdegate Cave (Hastings Caves). From the moment you step in from the outside world you are surrounded by its ancient dolomite formations.

As you enter the cave, all you can say is ‘WOW’. The sheer scale and grandeur of what you see in front of you is mesmerising. It’s such a tranquil environment – all you can hear is the sound of water droplets falling and the echoes they create. Over millions of years this is how the cave has become what it is today – imagine what it may be like in another million years!

Before we go on any further, for anyone whose primary school geology has temporarily escaped their memory… remember this?

Stalactites have to hold on tight
Stalagmites might grow to heights

I promise you that this is the only geology lesson in this post.

What to consider when taking photos inside a cave…

With so much to photograph, choosing a scene or subject to showcase in your image, and choosing how to compose it, can challenge your photographic creativity. There are so many different formations – columns, curtains, stalagmites and stalactites just to name a few. Accentuating the light and shade that surrounds the formations is one option. Another option is to focus on the varied colour tones or the many intricate patterns and textures – the finer details of this natural phenomena.
You choose your subject, but what’s the light like? Even with artificial light sources (as there usually is in public access caves), the low light of a subterranean environment is challenging for any photographer. However, an understanding of ISO, aperture and shutter speed, and the relationship between each, will certainly help with this.
It’s often that photographers are restricted to handheld photography in a cave.  Tripods are generally not permitted to be taken inside primarily due to the fragile nature of the ancient subterranean formations. It’s also a safety precaution too.
To achieve a good image, you need to ensure your shutter speed is sufficient to compensate for handheld photography and the low light conditions. Alternatively, find an ingenious way of stabilising your camera (without a tripod) to avoid motion blur during a long exposure.
Cave chamber inside Newdegate Cave - Hastings Caves, Tasmania - photo shoot with Shutterbug Walkabouts
Water droplet on stalactite, Hastings Caves, Tasmania - photo shoot with Shutterbug Walkabouts

Getting to Hastings Caves

Distance from Hobart
125kms (south)

How long to drive there
1½ to 2 hours from Hobart

Route
Huon Highway via Geeveston

Read more about Hastings Caves on the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service website

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