A Caving Trip down Cueva Coventosa, Spain

A man and a woman stand in a large cave chamber surrounded by stalagmites, stalactites and flowstone in Sala de los Fantasmas Room of the Ghosts down Coventosa Cave, Cantabria, Spain. 3

On a recent trip to the Cantabria region in North Spain, I was privileged to go on a trip down the incredibly large cave, Cueva Coventosa. This end of the cave is part of a through trip which takes up to 19 hours! The cave is absolutely enormous including sections name “the Grand Canyon”, which really give a sense of the scale of the cave.

We took some time to light the cave appropriately using a light painting technique. We used the OM System OM-5 Camera with Olympus 8mm fisheye pro lens mounted on a tripod and for lighting we used a Godox X1T remote flash trigger mounted on a the camera’s hotshoe, plus two remote flashes – Godox TT350o and Godox TT600. This setup was suitable for the smaller areas of the cave, providing sharp images due to the speed of the flash.

A man stands in a cave surrounded by Stalagmites, Stalactites and pillars in Sala de los Fantasmas Room of the Ghosts down Coventosa Cave, Cantabria, Spain. 2
Sala de los Fantasmas “Room of the Ghosts” down Coventosa Cave, Cantabria, Spain by Sam Davis Photographer

For the larger parts of the cave though we needed something brighter, a lot brighter! So we used a Fenix LR40R searchlight and painted the light over all parts of the cavern. The OM-5 camera (along with many other OM System / Olympus cameras) has a LiveCOMP mode, which allows you to leave the shutter open and only add “new” light to the image. The first noticeable difference using this compared with just using a long exposure, is everything appears a lot sharper. You also get to see the image develop on the camera screen so you can see where more light is needed as you paint it in with torch, which is incredibly useful and a complete game changer.

I then directed Pete and Gracie, the models, and Andrew, the newly appointed lighting technician, to different parts of the cave while leaving the camera in the same place. This technique allowed multiple exposures with lighting from different angles which were then composited into a single image in post-processing software. This multiple exposure approach allows better control over a single image method in post processing, allowing you better replicate what you saw in the cave and get the desired narrative in the image.

As you can see from the images the scale of this cave is absolutely staggering. At first you might just be able to only see Pete in the foreground, but if you hunt around the image you should be able to find Gracie in a couple of them as well, lost amongst the stalagmites or in the bottom of the Los Gours canyon! The 8mm (16mm FF eqv.) wide angle lens did a great job at capturing the whole cavern.

Many thanks to Andrew, Gracie and Pete for taking me on this trip and helping me make this images! Full resolution images available on request at info@samsphotogallery.com

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Published by samdavis

Sam is a professional photographer and writer based in the UK. Visit www.samsphotogallery.com to see his portfolio.

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