Have You Seen Martians? | Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We had to spend a few extra days at Big Bend National Park because there were incredibly high winds in our travel path.  (See the Big Bend Posts Here) When it was safe to leave we decided to go to Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The drive was about 5 hours in total, so we mapped our trip to pass by Prada Marfa, Tx, (check out that post here) then planned to stay in a Walmart for the night,  and head into Carlsbad Caverns in the morning.  The wind conditions were kind of critical when we got to Walmart and we noticed they would be worse in 2 days, so we opted to make the Caverns a half day stay and get out of town as quickly as we could. 
We had NO idea what to expect, but we quickly learned that there could potentially be a 5 mile hike ahead of us, and that made our timeline problem worse. Luckily there are 2 ways to get down into the caverns. You can either walk down 1.25 miles and view some smaller caverns along your route to the Big Room, or you can take the elevator directly into the big room.   Phew.  That made us very happy.
Once down, there were several rooms to walk around. Armed with flashlights, we began our journey.  
The total loop around the big room is about a 1.25 mile walk.   It is huge to say the least.
As we walked through the twisting loops and winding trail, the girls were diligently working on their junior ranger booklets in an effort to be done with them by the time we finished our morning there (not something we usually do).
 
The Jr Ranger books helped the girls learn about all the formations and original explorers. They probably still any get them right but they learned about stalagmites, (which are tapering columns which rise from the floor) and also learned about stalactites (which are tapering structures hanging from the ceilings).  There are some minimal lights set up throughout the cavern to illuminate the paths and formationss.
The caves are pitch black. When I say pitch black, think the blackest of any place you could be.  With that thought, I couldn’t help but think of how CRAZY the original explorers were to walk through this complete unknown abyss with just a candle lamp.  NO THANK YOU!  We did see an original rope ladder that was there since the 1920s. Again, NO THANK YOU!
The park ranger said that when they were first exploring the caverns there was that hole and it so they put a rope ladder down the hole. I literally could not imagine going down into a dark hole not know what could be down there! No No No thank you! (You see a theme here?)

Let me explain the photography for a minute.  (This might need its own blog post) I entered the cave with my Nikon D5 and the 14-24mm lens.  I needed to bring the best camera on earth into this cave because I knew it was going to be an impossible situation to photograph.  It is a heavy camera but the only one I trust for this place. I needed the power that that camera possesses in low light for what I expected to be able to create. 

Almost every photo you see in this post is a bracketed exposure composite.  Since even the Nikon D5 would have a hard time in the darkness of the caves without a tripod, I knew I needed to capture 3 images of each picture.  One moderately exposed, one overexposed, and one underexposed.  Then in photoshop, I merged them together to make the moderate one lighter in the shadows and darker in the highlights.

For some images I even lit up the scene with my flashlight to help send light deep into the dark parts.

I know the photos look nice here, but the photographic challenge was one of the most difficult situations to shoot in, (and especially since Jen would not let me stop walking so as to keep on schedule.. lol)

Enjoy all the rest of the photos and message me if you have any questions!

After the girls got their junior ranger badges, we headed out to head to White Sands National Monument.

2 Comments

  • Reply ontheroadcoles May 18, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    WOW, really great pictures! Your effort paid off! Congrats to the junior rangers!! I read your story in the FMCA magazine, & found your blog.

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