Everything seems to be about ‘selfies’ these days – so in keeping up with modern trends here are some of mine taken a few years ago. The first photo was shot in ‘Roof Tunnel’ in ‘Kingsdale Master Cave’ in North Yorkshire – a lovely sporting cave containing a magnificent underground river.
This part of the cave is relatively dry (although it can get a bit ‘moist’ at times) and humidity is fairly high so it caught the steam emitting from my body which was in a wetsuit, and I think this added to the atmosphere.
To take this shot I positioned the camera, a Nikon FM2, on a tripod and left the shutter open. Because it is pitch dark in caves no light entered the camera. A few yards down the passage I positioned a flash slave with the flash lens pointing towards the passage which veered off to the right. I crouched down a few feet away and fired a flashgun which I was holding – which set off the slave flash which partly illuminated the passage and the picture was taken.
For the second photograph which was taken in ‘Sleets Gill Cave’ in North Yorkshire, I again put the Nikon on a tripod and left the shutter open. Standing away from the camera I fired a manual flash off which I was holding and this illuminated the passage.
For the third shot which again was taken in ‘Sleets Gill Cave’ I used a very large flashbulb which I managed to buy from an auction house, and this was powerful enough to illuminate much more of the passage. I put the camera on a timer and walked up the passage and the camera and flash fired after 30 seconds. You can see the difference between the flashgun and the larger flashbulb – both were taken in the same place.
Sleets Gill is one really nasty cave – often describe as the most dangerous cave in Britain – the guidebook says it has an ‘interesting hydrology’. It frequently floods totally, usually several days after rain. This whole main tunnel that I am stood in, which is 1000 ft long, is often completely submerged. The cave floods when the water table rises and water suddenly squirts up through the floor and walls – often accompanied by loud bangs as the air in some low lying passages compresses.
I have crawled down these passages – which are aptly named ‘hydrophobia’ and ‘hypothermia’ – they are several hundred feet long, approximately 3 ft. square and contain a very cold fast running stream. They are nearly always flooded and if you are caught anywhere in the cave when it floods it is ‘Goodnight Vienna’. I have been in this cave twice and I still get nightmares!