Returning from a lengthy trip to New Zealand two weeks before Christmas was perhaps not the best planning — it has been quite the scramble. Between catching up at work during the busiest time of year, trying to go through 2000 plus photos & video, and trying to get myself ready for the holiday (which I had not even considered yet), I’ve been pretty tied up. Finally, though, I have some photo editing done, and some great shots to show for it. First, a shot from within the Waitomo caves:
I’m a big fan of long exposures (who isn’t), and this cave stream presented the perfect subject. HDR was also pretty much essential, as the only illumination inside the cave was reflected daylight off the foliage outside. One would be hard pressed to find a larger dynamic range. The result is that each one of these photos took a bit over a minute to capture. If I could have, I would have spent several days during the trip with my camera in these caves… there was so much to shoot. Cave wildlife (Have you ever seen a glow worm? Have you ever seen a glow worm lay eggs?), stalactites, half collapsed chambers, underground rapids, you name it, it was there.
The best thing about it, though, was our guide, Paul. Most tours through the Waitomo caves are extremely commercial. You show up to the small town, get packed into a van, suited up, do a rappel into a cave, and walk out of it. It takes about an hour and you’re on a well trodden track with a dozen other tourists. The tour I did consisted of me and my Dad showing up to Paul’s house, suiting up in somewhat embarrassing black and white striped thermals and fleece, and driving out into his neighbor’s sheep pastures to do whatever we wanted in a private cave system for 8 hours. I asked to do a lot of rappelling, and I might have gotten more than I wished for… I’ll be posting video of that in a few days. Paul is a geologist and an amateur photographer. He knew all the good spots, and brought along several flashes & a tripod for my use, and was generally a very fun guy to spend a day with. If I ever go back to New Zealand, I will be doing this exact same tour again. Possibly several days in a row.