Light Painting in Langstroth Cave, Thursday 21/11/2019 by Phil Ryder.

(Main Photo of Phil Ryder in Langstroth Cave by Adele Ward )

This week’s trip nearly didn’t happen due to concern about Adele’s long trip down when there was black ice about on untreated roads. So everything was last minute.

“I’d like to take my camera into Langstroth Cave and have a play about”, says I.

“No” says Adele.


“If we are going into Langstroth I’m going diving”, replies Adele.

“What about my Knee Rehab?”, asks I.

“You can carry my diving bottles, that will do them good”, retorts Adele.

Well that told me!

We park near the cave, the temperature is 4 degrees and there is an icy blast coming from Siberia.

I hang around in silence, now a mere factotum waiting for the master to speak.

Adele decides to call the diving off. No problem with the diving it’s just the chill factor when she comes to get changed, could be really dangerous for an already cold and wet body.

I think she made the right decision but as Adele is the one diving it is for her alone to decide.

So back to playing with the camera. The young chick has a semi dry suit on, the old git in furry and digging oversuit, so might suffer if the water is too cold. We toddle on down to the sumps, Adele letting me go in front, to get my confidence back. Near the sump we attach my camera to the tripod. Ready to try some light painting.

So what is Light Painting you may ask? Well it’s basically where a camera shutter is left open for a number of seconds, and in this time an external light is waved about to emphasise the shape and symmetry of the cave passage being photographed.

John Dale, who took a lot of photos in the BCRA Caves and Karst No 2 book, did some of Adele in FairyHoles. I thought the photos were great so Adele said she would help us to try and do some ourselves.

The MetaData on John’s photos helped a lot. I noticed he had the same camera as me, a waterproof Panasonic Lumix FT5, and that the shutter had been left open for 15 seconds.

Looking through the Screen Presets on the camera and there was one called Starry Sky, where the shutter could be held open for 15 or 30 seconds. We had cracked it hadn’t we?

Setting up the tripod in the streamway was a ball ache but I had a great, unflustered assistant.

The camera was set to a 2 second timer, to eliminate any wobble whilst pressing the shutter button, then 15 seconds shutter open. The model has to stay dead still in this time and the operator spreads a light over the passage whilst trying not to touch the tripod.

We both took about 20 photos between us, and eagerly awaited the results that night. Once finished we went back to the entrance.

Adele Ward in Langstroth Cave. Photo by Phil Ryder.


Langstroth Cave actually has two entrances, the Middle Entrance, which is the main way in, and the Bottom Entrance near where the water rises. Whilst it is an easy walk from the Middle Entrance to the upstream sumps, the trip between the two entrances is all crawling and I wanted do this to test the state of my knees.

We quickly crawled down the passage, the water getting ever deeper. It was much further than I remembered. Preparing myself for the final flat out crawl in icy water that emerges into the Bottom  Entrance, Adele announces that this crawl is longer than the one in the Marathon Series in Mossdale. I should be immensely proud but my nether regions are so cold it is hard getting up any enthusiasm.

The changing was a blur but soon we were in the White Lion at Cray in front of a blazing open fire. Heaven!

Our first light painting effort produced many images that were too light or dark, some blurred or had strange hue shifts. Adele complained that one of the photos made her teeth look yellow. I replied that maybe it was the nicotine? The ensuing silence told me that I had overstepped the mark once again!

Seriously thanks to Adele for her friendship and help. I think we did an ok first attempt at light painting?

Adele Ward in Langstroth Cave. Photo by Phil Ryder.
Phil Ryder in Langstroth Cave. Photo by Adele Ward.