Author Topic: Conservation via photography  (Read 5337 times)

Offline Kenilworth

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Conservation via photography
« on: January 08, 2017, 04:46:05 am »
If you ever have the pleasure and privilege and burden of responsibility to be an explorer of virgin cave, what will be your priorities? Around here, the tradition is to hurry and get it mapped so you can slap your name on the survey, and write on the internet or in a magazine about how many feet were discovered. Of course you will include a few photos of the heroic explorers posing dramatically. Then, after the exploring is finished and you have been duly praised and envied, the much publicized new discovery is abandoned to whatever forces will have it.

It is an easy thing, and probably the least we should do, to photograph a new cave or passage thoroughly as soon as possible after the original discovery. Before surveying, before taping, before crowing and attracting a crowd, why not do your best to document the cave in photos? For a long time, the cave survey has been viewed as the definitive act of documentation, but I am not sure that it should be. It seems backward that cavers should go to great pains to create an accurate map, straining and squabbling over a couple of degrees here or there, but disregard the weightier act of documenting the cave visually. This is one of many symptoms of an apparently unhealthy conservation ethic.

Or at least it has been so in my case. For about five years I worked more or less constantly to "document" the small caves of my county. I took the care of the cave very seriously during that time, but I was stuck in that pattern of egotism that dominates American caving. I surveyed and described every known cave in the county (and many new discoveries), and drew all of the maps, but took very few photographs. The NSS offered to publish my material as a book, which was finished about a year ago. Looking at the book now, I am frankly ashamed at having created such an incomplete and self-exultant publication. It isn't really about the caves, but about our having discovered them. The primary thing missing is thorough photography. I would now gladly trade the maps that I was so proud of for some good pictures. I have begun to revisit these caves, and to try and finish a real work of documentation, but in some cases it is too late to account for what was lost during our original explorations. It becomes too late very quickly.

The contributions of The Old Ruminator to this site demonstrate the value of photography. I cannot say for sure, but I see in his photos what I would guess to be affection for the cave, and even reverence. This is in contrast with some highly skilled cave photographers who use the cave as a set to showcase themselves. I am glad that TOR does not seem to be a highly skilled cave photographer, because he is proof that any one of us are capable of doing this thing. If conservation is the protection of valuable things from unnecessary waste, then photographs are as valuable as anything we can do. They provide a point of contact between ourselves and the past, and hold us responsible for the changes we make. They are a proof that at least someone assigned enough value to beautiful or interesting or immaculate places to save them in perhaps the only sense possible. And of course they allow us to enjoy and to mourn what is lost and perhaps resolve ourselves to deeper care in the future.

Offline JasonC

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2017, 10:21:45 am »
You make some good points.  A good photographic record of interesting formations - calcite, mud and others - sounds like an excellent idea which I'm sure explorers are doing more of anyway as cameras become cheaper and more portable.  Though probably not worth photographing the squalid crawls that form so much of new passage....

But I have to disagree that The Old Ruminator "does not seem to be a highly skilled cave photographer"- he clearly is, even if he's too modest to say so.

Offline owd git

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2017, 11:17:20 am »
You make some good points.  A good photographic record of interesting formations - calcite, mud and others - sounds like an excellent idea which I'm sure explorers are doing more of anyway as cameras become cheaper and more portable.  Though probably not worth photographing the squalid crawls that form so much of new passage....

But I have to disagree that The Old Ruminator "does not seem to be a highly skilled cave photographer"- he clearly is, even if he's too modest to say so.

'Interesting' is a superb  choice in this case I am often roundly ridiculed for my appreciation of sediments and  their  deposition. they are not  just an incumberance or enemy of the washing machine,but a Geological record, and should be disturbed minimally. not transported to pristine calcification as so often occurs!  >:(
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Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2017, 11:30:18 am »
Just what I have been doing these last few years. I refer anyone to the Reservoir Hole thread which carried a lot of photos all from the original explorations. Now doing the same at Vurley with over 2000 images on file. Also I am resurrecting a lot of early photos from Fairy Cave Quarry. Where I do wonder what the correct line to follow is with the then and now images showing destruction wrought by cavers over 40 years. Possibly things like that can give the hobby a bad name. ( Discuss ).

Like this stal. Now no longer there.



Offline Alex

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2017, 12:03:24 pm »
Taking photos of everything is our approach in Matienzo, with a large enough team both surveying and photography can be done at the same time.

Take this recent(ish) discovery...

http://matienzocaves.org.uk/descrip/4117.htm and photos http://matienzocaves.org.uk/ugpics/4117-2015e.htm

Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2017, 12:04:29 pm »
Ooo. I just read the bit about my photographic skills or lack of them. I have always said that I prefer a " Journalistic approach " to cave photography. Things as they happen with unposed  models. I have used that approach all through my long years at Fairy Cave Quarry and covered new finds in " Neverland " Reservoir Hole, Spider Hole, and Tween Twins etc often submerging poor mobile phone viewers with images here on the forum. There are many issues involved here. One is conservation ,obviously, when at least a new explorer can record sites that subsequently get taped off.  After that watch out as I have found to my cost. Another issue I touched on previously was the then and now record. Does it help to show images of pure stal that in later years have unnecessary muddy hand prints on or have been broken off ? Would that bring the hobby into disrepute or worse still imply to the landowner that proper care has not been taken of his asset. Caves at Fairy Cave Quarry and ,of course, Reservoir Hole are still managed on behalf of a landowner who still sees them thus. Then again there is no point in any documentation if these images are not published or retained safely in some way. My recent post on  the MCRA Flickr site addresses that to a large part. Forget Facebook where many images now go as its too transient and reduces image quality. My own Flickr account now has 3,000 plus caving images but still the question of permanency applies. I try to address that by keeping much of my work in hardback Photobox albums. ( Hoping that SWMBO does not consign them to the bin on my ultimate departure . ( I should have made a note in my will re that as I have done with my local history archive.) Of course a lot of stuff goes here but how permanent can that be ? Forums, sadly, come and go. ( Our diving forums ultimately died ). Then ,of course, much is hosted on Photobucket which is lurching from bad to worse in recent years. 1960's work is now fading particularly slides. Peter Glanvill is to be applauded on his work in recovering and digitising those images and MCRA for hosting them. Yes the OP is correct. Not enough is being done to compile photograhic records. Never has been and ultimately unlikely ever will be. Such is the nature of our hobby. Well it's hardly archeology. Club magazines and Descent might record a few headline images but they are hardly a record and in the former usually monochrome. Well next Tuesday I shall be 45m down in Vurley, camera in hand, to record that great breakthrough when it happens. Dont expect any great skill involved in that though. ::)

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2017, 12:33:56 pm »
Have to laugh.
I have been raging at Photobucket for 20 minutes trying to upload this image from the Prewer/Baker archive. Just realised it's a Tif so I have converted it to Jpeg. Silly me.

Anyway it's an early 1950's record image of Cambridge Grotto in Hillier's Cave. Now I wonder what that looks like now.


Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2017, 01:54:33 pm »
Mr Ruminator - I am sorry, should have used different words. I meant absolutely no disrespect and like your photos far more than most I see. Your threads are among my very favorites on this site. I simply agree that they have a journalistic, rather than "artistic" feel, and that this may be an easier thing to accomplish for untrained photographers (and more valuable and interesting too) than the "salon-quality" art pieces that the professionals and their imitators pump out.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2017, 02:05:36 pm »
Alex, good work, and good idea to photo while surveying at the latest.
I appreciate that the photos are somewhat labelled. I have recently realized that this is important if a cave is going to be open for visitation. I read a 1968 trip report and saw some accompanying photos of an outstanding bit of passage in what has become a popular cave. It is now unrecognizably damaged, so much so that no one even knows where those photos were taken.

Offline Leclused

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2017, 03:45:19 pm »
A few years ago a new cave was discovered near sprimont belgium.

The cave is very wel documented and the explorers took thousands and thousands photo's to create a virtual Tour of the cave

It can be found on the website dedicated to this cave

https://sites.google.com/site/grottenoubleu/

Direct link to the Tour https://sites.google.com/site/grottenoubleu/visite-virtuelle

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Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2017, 05:05:49 pm »
Bless you dear Kenilworth absolutely no offence taken by me re my status as a photographer. Anyway for many years I have banged on about the more simplistic approach to cave photography which, of course, any fast moving cave exploration dictates. Actually I do have photographic training but that was with my company 50 years ago. Still I suppose the rule of thirds still applies for in the area of composition I feel most comfortable. There has been a rather formulaic approach to cave photography of late. ( Reverse back lighting with simpering model ). And of course those big distorting panoramas. Composition has lost ground in the face of fancy editing I feel. Those are my own humble views in any case, though, like many of my advanced age I do tend to dwell in the past. ( I might yet buy a mobile phone ). My normal modus operandi is to use my trusty TG4 and provide extra lighting with the Scurion. Easily the best way of achieving an ongoing record without fuss. All for £250 or so too. A few folk are migrating to Go Pro video though in truth I find such hard to watch. Yes and the old BLF rule still applies in it's own way. ( Dont ask ).
So we have ongoing discoveries and yet see very little evidence of them by way of photographs. Perhaps they are squirreled away on some closed website or Facebook group.       ( Oh yes we do have a closed Vurley dig blog but I have to go with the majority and put little here ). We also have an email circuit which contain photos most weeks . Those we use for dig planning as with a large group with two separate teams we need for some sort of cohesion. Those in effect double as a record of the cave. ( If you can yet call it that ). Mendip Diggers have a closed Facebook Group so bits and bobs go there. What does not happen for reasons I cannot yet fathom is why so few photos appear here. The UK's national caving forum.

So here in the spirit of true sharing is a " simplistic " image of our glamorous cement carrier ( non simpering ) using caver lights for lighting at a recent Vurley trip. I will hold back awhile on the other 2000 images I have of the cave.


Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2017, 05:23:20 pm »
Oh. By the way .I am transferring what aesthetic artistry I have to the construction of scaffolding. ( seen above ). I do feel , though, that I am a bit early in the game because ,as yet, my efforts are under appreciated by my fellow diggers.

A young Ruminator at an early stage in the appreciation of subterranean scaffolding. Photo by Pete Rose, digitised by Peter Glanvill . Taken in that epic Mendip dig of years past      " Twin Titties ". ( dont ask again ). Now for many years access denied by the landowner and as far as I know the only photo record of the cave with photos by Rose and Glanvill with me doing the simpering.



Well you can hardly have a photo discussion without the photos. ( Anyone want to see some of Lamb Leer ? )

Online royfellows

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #12 on: January 08, 2017, 10:51:32 pm »
The value of a photographic record cannot be overestimated. My activities involve disused mines rather than caves, and here we fight to keep the places accessible. Indeed, many have now been lost permanently and if it where not for the activities of people like Dickie Bird we would have no record at all.

Going further back a J C Burrow photographed Cornish mines and miners underground in the late 19th Century, although now all of the workings shown in his photographs are under water, the photographic record he created survives. The detail is amazing.

Thinking further this argument applies in the widest possible context because everything around us is changing.

I think that you probably have an 100% agreement on your posting here which is a great start to the New Year, have a good one.
Glad NAMHO 2019 over.

Offline Amata

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2017, 03:16:35 am »
One of the first things I did with Unterstein was documentation photographically as well as set up tape lines and routes.

Sad to say the mud floor has already been walked across (out and back, across the tape line, in blatent disregard) marring the once-pristine floor of "mud-flowstone"

Two pools of cave pearls are also buried in mud from routes not being followed.

This all happened within 5 months of it being "public". Not to mention the trash and left articles of clothing I and others have pulled out.

Unterstein is a vertical multidrop and while not super difficult, not easy "pit bounce" either. It takes competent vertical caving, two bits are technical (for here, since rebelays are uncommon).

You can bet this will be brought to attention in a conservation article. I have before and after photos of each location. There is no doubt of damage. To me it is extremely disheartening, and epitomises the problem of American caving. We mantra "leave no footprints, take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time". I call bullshit. And yes mistakes happen right? No one of us is 100% guilt free, a small corner of a wrapper lost into mud here, a hairtie that breaks and falls out unbeknown to the wearer. But this many, in such a short time? And blatant damage? If it does not make one think, and take on extra responsibility and carefulness, one does not need to be a caver.
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2017, 04:03:19 am »
As I've written before Amy, that mantra is worse than worthless. It is right and natural that we will impact the cave over the course of our time in it, often in ways far more dramatic than the leaving of footprints. But there are times when some footprints are unnecessary and unacceptable. No slogan can be a guide specific enough to be widely useful, but the NSS does not want to get involved in real conservation education and training.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2017, 06:29:15 am »
the "salon-quality" art pieces that the professionals and their imitators pump out.

Define a Professional cave photographer.
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Offline droid

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2017, 10:28:04 am »
A lot of verbiage to state that Kenilworth wished he'd taken a few photographs..... :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Offline Leclused

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #17 on: January 09, 2017, 12:01:28 pm »
In the Cave Conservation tips and tricks slideshow of Paul de Bie (Sc Avalon) are some before and after examples shown (towards the end of the slidshow)

http://www.scavalon.be/downloads/Cave%20Protection%20English.pdf

@Amy : Gating and guiding is perhaps solution to preserve your discovery. I know it's drastic but the only way. In our club we have several of our discoveries gated and we guide people around in it.

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Offline Amata

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2017, 04:02:53 pm »
The mantra is supposed to make you think.
Blatent clearly marked boundaries being disgregarded leading to formation distruction would get you blacklisted in the UK. Here people go on FB and brag and no one bats an eye. It IS an american caver problem becuase not enough people care and too many think its fun/challenge/being bad boy is good. The excuses as to why this behavior is fine astounds me. Its unethical in so many ways.   :(
« Last Edit: January 09, 2017, 04:14:25 pm by Amy »
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Offline wormster

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2017, 05:44:40 pm »
Niether formulaic, or with a simpering model:

http://www.aditnow.co.uk/Photo/Bloo-And-Red-Stoo_89726/

One of my "snaps" over on aditnow I don't have many places where I put photos, I'm not one for posting 'fasands of 'em all over the interwebs!!

TBH I've always hated gashty photos, of passage (or formations) beautifully lit with a simpering model. To me that's NOT what photogaye is about.

It is about recording the moment, The people, the place, that "Fooo that was funneh!" etc, or as I hope I do make folk think "Anhodiccca, Wheredicca, Howdiiica??" take a sideways look at what is around us when we go underground and make it unique! - there's a beaut shot I have in mind for the first "Black Cascade" in Waterwheel Swallet, one day I WILL go back and get the shot, its just a pain having to lug an extra tat bag about!!

And as has been discussed already photos SHOULD be used in conjunction with surveying to document the whole cave at an instant in time, giving us all a fair representation of what has been found.
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Offline droid

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2017, 08:43:49 pm »
Dead right Wormster.

I can appreciate the technical effort put in to some of the photos that occasionally feature here, but most of them tell me more about the photographer than the cave.
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2017, 09:15:53 pm »
The mantra is supposed to make you think.

It doesn't. No mantra does. It excuses you from thinking.

Offline droid

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2017, 09:27:31 pm »
It does 'make you think' by putting you in the right mindset.

Maybe YOU don't 'think' as much as you think you do?
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #23 on: January 09, 2017, 09:40:30 pm »
I think I think as much as I think I think...
The caver's motto does not put the caver in the right mindset. By sanctioning footprints without qualification, it does the opposite, permitting mental and physical laziness.

Offline PeteHall

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Re: Conservation via photography
« Reply #24 on: January 09, 2017, 09:58:27 pm »
If you photogrpah something beautiful/ interesting in a cave, then publish it, people will want to go and see, so the cave is likely to get trashed quicker than if you kept quiet.

But if you don't publish the photographs, what's the point in taking them (other than for your own selfish pleasure).


Why not forget the photographs and just tape off any pretty bits far enough back that nobody can even see what's there, removing temptation and that way it stays pretty so the bats can enjoy it the way it's supposed to be. In fact, better still just wall it up. (is there an ironic emoji anywhere?)

Sorry, serious point in there. Is it ever acceptable to deliberately close off a (section of) cave without a photographic record to preserve its aesthetic value?
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