Thursday, November 20, 2008

Late Night SIT at Blevin's Gap

Nathan's Flickr Caption for "Final Moments of Light on Creation" - Just as the title says - "Final Moments of Light on Creation" was an unplanned shot of an unexpected formation group in Blevins Gap Cave. We had just wrapped up about 5 hours of shooting when I climbed to an upper level to shoot back down on a pool below. What I discovered was both unexpected and very nice. The formation by Sabrina is about forty feet tall. We took this shot using CF lights for the SIT method. By this time we had pretty much used up all the battery power. I had just time for one attempt with this. The light was not moved in this shot as I was hurried by the need to grab enough frames to compose a panoramic image. What you see here was created from 4 landscape oriented images blended together. On the final shot the CF lights powered down the moment the shutter closed. That was the absolute final shot with that system that day. We will return and do a more dynamic style very soon. This by far is one of the nicest caves I've seen in the city limits of Huntsville.

Ever have one of those moments where you feel like all is right with the world? Not the whole world - just your own little personal corner of the universe. I know this is going to sound cheesy - but its hard to describe. Its always a quiet moment of outward/inner observation - where no one is talking - cares seem to slide away in a single instant and its kind of like this little blip of perfect happiness. If given a choice - you wouldn't want to be any other place in the world and everything you've done has led you to this moment. It all just clicks and you realize - "Holy crap! I'm lucky to be right here, right now." By the time you realize you've had it - its already gone - but the memory always glows brightly. (I think someone needs to come up with a proper word for the feeling. As far as I know there isn't one. Combine equal parts deja vu, elation and reflection you've got a good definition for it.) My moments seem to be few and far between - and there's no way I can force them - but when they do occur - those moments always stand out sharp in my memory.

There are a few clear moments that I can think of straight away: a crisp October day's sky in FL with puffy white clouds as seen from a convertible full of friends in high school, looking up at the ceiling of the Rumble Room - and realizing I can actually see it, a party at New Years long ago at my grandparents house, hiking on Monte Sano with Paul and Gary, sketching the Hall of Giants in Fern with a perfect view of the haystack, my Dad and I wandering through Webster, looking out over the water and up at the starlit sky while sitting on the wall of the Castillo de San Marcos, my Mom and I at the beach, Paul and I walking the pooch up at the Green Mtn. Nature Preserve, backstage during the high school production of M*A*S*H & Fools, a late night design 1 project in Laura and I's dorm room, pausing to look back at Stephen's Gap, the place Paul and I got married not an hour before. Tonight I added another.....

So as the title of this post suggests - I just got in from a little evening photo trip to Blevin's Gap Cave (Photos will probably be posted on Nathan's Flickr in the next couple days I'd expect). All total - It was a great trip and I think we got quite a lot accomplished - spent about 5 hours or so in-cave and then hit up Awful House for some dinner/breakfast at about 12:15 am. Man - Blevin's is freaking awesome! I'd even venture to say its probably the best cave inside the Huntsville city limits. Its really short - but its jam packed with crazy-beautiful formations that are all massively impressive.

Tommy and Nathan getting their gear ready at the entrance.

There's a little entrance drop of about 15 to 20 feet into the first level - of mostly dry formations - but they are still a knockout. (The pack rat from the pack rat motel would be happy to give you a tour.)

We got to work setting up for some photography. Nathan used 3 compact fluorescents for all his SIT (Sustained Illumination Technique) shots tonight. He said he's got at least 1/2 a dozen keepers. There are a few shots of the formations that are just plain droolable - seriously - its like cave photography crack - after that first taste - you just have to have more! The SIT technique just brings out the most amazing detail in the formations - the color is really natural - not toned to the yellow side with a flash bulb or other lighting - and allows you to have an incredible depth of field too. And then (my favorite) its got the whole soft shadow thing going on that's almost a bit otherworldly.

Nathan focusing for a high angle shot.

Tommy looking extremely happy holding the light pole.

Here's a video of what goes into getting a single SIT shot - Tommy's modeling and trying to hold perfectly still for 8 seconds - I'm passing off the pole to Nathan with the compact florescents and then I'm hitting the button for the shutter to open (you can hear the timer) and then Nathan is counting down and moving the light across the scene to light it all evenly. (don't get dizzy - its a bit rough!)

And then here's the resulting photo -

There's a second drop into the lower level with a squeeze at the top of the drop - and I mean a squeeze - solid formation on the bottom, rock on the top and no way around it. Tommy guesstimated it at about 9-9 1/2 inches. He wasn't able to make it - which was a big bummer because its so flippin' pretty down there!! I have two maglights cable-tied to the sides of my helmet and I actually had to take my helmet off and hand it through because it wouldn't fit. I had to wiggle to get down with my rappel rack smashed flat against me and my back on the rock above and flail about with my croll scraping when I came back up. Nathan had to take off part of his vertical gear, squeeze through and then put it back on. After the squeeze its another 15-20 feet to the floor. And when you turn around what a site there is to behold - gorgeous live formations - a haystack, walls just iced with pretties, and around the corner, huge pool of water with a few lily pads. The bottom part one of those places where you think twice about stepping in certain areas - everything is so pristine - and very much alive.

We got/passed all the gear down and started pulling things out of the pelican cases. I was holding the light pole absently looking kind of up to where Tommy had poked his head in through the squeeze to talk to us. No one was speaking - just little drip splashes on the backside of the haystack. Nathan plugged in the inverter. On came the lights.

And there it was - my little moment - creeping up on me on a random Wednesday in the bottom of Blevin's Gap - under the cool light of 3 compact florescents - my eyes taking in Mother Nature's ribbons of rock and dollops of calcite - a moment where my brain dances and twirls, simply gobsmacked, and says - right here - right now - I am damn lucky to be alive. I grinned into the shadows. And just like that, it was gone, leaving me with a crisp memory of the scene and a smile I still can't wipe off.

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At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I saw this very impressive photo set on the Realms of Reality page. I have been trying to get more info on it. A group and I will in Jackson County this weekend to do some caving and after seeing the photo set I am interested in this cave. I made a post on Do you have any access info for me?

Jereme Hoover


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