Subterranean Photography

Shooting with high ISO settings is generally regarded as a big no-no. Yes, yes, there are good reasons for that. While having been developed as a measurement for light-sensitivity of film, nowadays ISO can be bumped up simply adjusting to an appropriately high ISO on the digital menu. It seems like a miraculous solution to end all the problems of shooting in dark/dusky situations. But the problem with high ISO shots is that they appear grainy, noisy, unclear.
One of the features I love most about marky Mark is his ability to crank up the ISO to 25,600. Not that I’d advise using that high an ISO setting. But sometimes you find yourself shooting in a cave – yes, you seriously might – without a tripod or a flash. And boy, you might find yourself grateful for some high ISO possibilities.
I certainly felt like that when I was visiting Ailwee Caves in Co. Clare the other day. This being the scene of one of the Father Ted episodes, I could not resist taking pictures in there. Plus, I am still as fascinated by dark deep abysses and “the great unknown” as I was as a child. There is something comfortably unsettling about a cave – the lack of light, the lack of life, the sheer horror of not seeing – that I find incredibly interesting. Maybe it appeals to my otherwise underdeveloped sense of horror? In any case, we toured the cave and admired all the stalagtites, stalagmites, frozen waterfalls, straws of stone etc. In the end it was the ultimate sign of life which caught my interest – water splashing through the porous burren limestone.
Without a tripod I had to use all means to get as much light into the camera while still being able to hold it steady. I bumped up the ISO to 12,800 here, opening the aperture as far as I could to f 4. At the same time I wanted to catch the water “flowing” rather than frozen drops, so I shot at 1/30. With a trickling waterfall the effect is a bit strange – looks almost like individual icicles breaking off the rock. Nonetheless, I am quite impressed how sharp the image still appears, despite the high ISO. I would love to go back and bring a tripod, though, and try this with a really slow shutter speed. 
Right, I’ll leave you with a link to the Father Ted episode where they visit the “really dark cave”. I don’t beliiiiiiiiiiiieve it!
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One thought on “Subterranean Photography

  1. Pingback: A Gaggle of Photographers | 2picsaweek

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