Feb 182014

Rebelay crossing

About the cave

These images are from the Junee Florentine in Tasmania, from a cave called Dwarrowdelf. I was down there the weekend before last, with the intention for the trip to refine my SRT technique and get some practise in. After Saturday on the climbing wall in Hobart improving rope lengths, on Sunday we headed to Dwarrowdelf. The cave was selected as it has a series of SRT drops in a row without much (any) horizontal cave in between.

Dwarrowdelf pitch

As well as nailing down my skills and improving the speed of my rebelays, I was keen to attempt taking pictures while on the rope. From previous caving adventures I have shots of people leaving the bottom, and appearing or disappearing at the top of the pitch, but not many as yet from mid-pitch. The photographic difficulties here are more physical than artistic – don’t swing into the wall, drop anything essential, or forget that you’re tied into a small piece of string a long way off the ground.

I put the strap back on the camera and slung it over myself before heading up the pitch, with a small pouch on my waist containing the flash. At the desired photo location I would remove my gloves and the lens cap, and juggle them into the pouch while extracting the flash. This only worked because the cave is particularly “dry” for Tassie. Trying this on a remotely wet pitch would be inadvisable without some form of camera protection, as there’s very little opportunity to dry your hands.

About the photo

I quickly discovered that the joy of being on the rope is that you can have any up/down angle you’d like. Need to be a little higher? No problem! What you can’t do is more closer or further away, and given each pitch only had one rope down it I was restricted to the vicinity of the rebelays so both myself and my model could be mid-air. For the bottom pitch we installed a second rope and vastly increased my choice of framing. I also found that both ends of the rope needed to be in the frame to make sense of the picture, less the viewer think the photographer and the model were both standing on the ground.

The photo above is Andreas working to cross a rebelay on the bottom pitch, where we installed a second rope so that I could get a better angle. And the second shot is both Pax and Andreas descending the same pitch, with Pax above the rebelay and Andreas below. I like the way the strobe light highlights the sweep of the wall and I think this may be key to pitch photography – finding the rocks that lead the viewer in. I need a bit more practise to get the truly impressive shots that are possible in these situations. More caving to come!

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