I was a cave diver and explorer long before I ever held a camera underwater. I shot cheesy GoPro videos, but never considered a real camera until my dear friend Luca loaned me his Sony A7S and told me to try it. He must have seen something that I didn’t because that first video dive was a joyous revelation. Filming with a camera able to see the cave the way I saw it, with subtle shadows and defined darkness, changed everything for me.
A videographer at heart, I originally had no interest in photography. I started shooting photos using video lights as studies for cave video lighting but soon realized that some of my photos could stand on their own. I still use video lights in my photographs as I like the softness and subtlety of using just enough light to show the cave. Caves are, in the end, quite dark, and I find that video lights allow me to set a scene and move through it. I use no on-board lights, and prefer to lurk in the shadows with that same Sony A7S, voyeuristically capturing the landscapes I love so much.
I have no formal training and do not take photos on land. Lacking a predetermined concept of what I “should” do has helped me to be creative and show the caves how I see them as a cave diver and explorer. However, several people have definitely influenced my photography.
Jill Heinerth told me my photos looked like I was setting up stage lighting, having her define that helped me to understand my style and what I want out of my images. She was right! Ping Fan introduced me to diffused video lights with high CRI indexes, thereby ruining my life and my finances – I saw no point of ever shooting images again until I purchased Keldan video lights. He was also right. Wetpixel’s own Adam Hanlon has mentored me beyond all expectations, including a strongly worded phone call last year, during which he explained to me I had to stop shooting auto, and actually adjust the aperture and ISO. First I had heard of those things. My models have all been extremely forgiving as the listen to me yell at myself underwater on each photoshoot. As cave photography is never a one-person endeavor, these photos would not be possible without their patience. Finally, Luca deFranco, who put that camera in my hands a few years ago, I will never be able to define how you changed my world.
While maybe not the most technically excellent images, I hope you enjoy a window to the underground world the way I see it, silt and dirt, twisting tunnels, and mystery.