Redwood Tree in Luray Caverns- “How I shot it”

Redwood Tree.Luray Caverns. Charles King. C. King Photography

Trees beneath the Earth’s Surface?

Not exactly what you had in mind I’m guessing, but this formation located in Luray Caverns is called The Redwood Tree or to some the Shaggy Dog.For this image I kept things very simple.  Luray Caverns is a very comfortable cavern system to tour as it has very nice paved walkways and lights to illuminate the formations throughout your tour.  Why over complicate things to take your shot?

One of the difficulties I face shooting in the cave when I’m not trying to add lights or turn off lights that may not be positioned ideally for my shot is that the lights may cast an unflattering shadow or make to hard of a hot spot on a formation for the sensor of my camera to capture.

The light placement that the Caverns provided is what helped guide me to the composition I used for this image.  At other locations there were a few hard light spots that I didn’t like, or I could not fit the full formation into the image until I found the spot that I used for this picture.

For the capture I placed my Canon 5D Mark III on my Induro Tripod and set the self timer to count down for 2 seconds.  10 seconds would perhaps make even less vibration, but since I’m standing on solid rock and I’m using a very strong tripod I felt comfortable at 2 seconds.

To set my exposure I used aperture priority and the evaluative metering system for the camera to slightly under expose for about 2/3 of a stop because I want the image to have more shadow than light to give it that darker caverns feel.  I checked my settings to find that I would be at about 1 second at f5.6.  I took one shot and I saw that it didn’t quite meet my vision for the image.  While the formation was exposed as planned, I wanted to show the walkway in the image.  I did not want to do it in post because it would cause me to lose a little quality by dodging the walkway.  To avoid this, I switched to a smaller aperture, which I believe was around F11, so the shutter had to be adjusted to about 5 seconds.  That was enough time for me to use my Torch light, which I typically keep in my camera bag, to do some light painting on the walkway to bring up the exposure in just one shot.

White balance:  With my Videography background, I often use live view to set the white balance fully manually and also to do a white bracket shift to really “get it right in camera”.  I used kelvin, which I use frequently for my landscapes, then turned off live view.   After that is was just some basic Raw processing in Lightroom, and then a few like adjustments using NIK software to create the final image.