Through the Water Tunnel

We got a fairly early start today, having camped near the cave the night before. The main entrance to Bowden Cave was only about a 15 minutes drive from our camping spot. We had been in this cave once or twice before, but it had been quite some time, and we were excited to explore it again.
There is a small passage into the cave after you crawl up over a rock face. This used to be gated off a few years ago, but now there are only a couple pipes left. For the most part, Bowden is walking passage, although some of it leads you down passages filled with flowing water. We remembered most of the cave, but things always look different than you remember them. So some of the exploring seems new to you, even though you know where you are.
The only wildlife we have seen in this cave, are a few bats, and some orange salamander type creatures near the entrances.

     One of the coolest places in this cave is the Shower Room. There is an old wooden ladder that leads up into a tall sinkhole in the ceiling.

     It is easy to see why they call it the shower room, from the water that is always trickling from the ceiling. Last time we were here, there was a glow stick placed on the wall almost all the way at the top. We couldn’t see it this time, so it must have hell out, it couldn’t have been easy to climb up there, with little to hold onto, and no place for rigging.
    This is as far as you can go in that direction, so we back tracked a couple hundred feet to the Water Tunnel. This is a spade shaped tunnel that always has water flowing out of it. We had been in this passage before, but turned around about a third of the way in. We knew that it ended at a gate so that you could not make a through trip, but we still wanted to say we had been all the way through it.

     You can walk through most of this passage, but there are some low crawlways toward the middle section. You also have to watch for very deep holes, large enough to swallow your entire leg.

     Luckily the water wasn’t that cold and I managed to only get my legs wet. We got to the end of the Water Tunnel where the gate is. There had been a collapse here, so they decided to place a gate here. I guess they figured if you knew you couldn’t make a through trip, you wouldn’t go near this area much.

     I really would have hated to drag all this steel back into this section of cave. The gate looked to be made of 3″ x 3″ x 1/4″ angle iron. That was all welded into place, and cut to fit the rock rather well. There was a sign on the other side of the gate, explaining the collapse and the gate. Supposedly, you can get to the other side of this gate, by coming in one of the cave’s other entrances. We hope to do just that some day. We headed back out of the Water Tunnel back out to the main passage.

     I was surprised we had stayed as dry as we were, but I guess I thought to soon. I made it to the main passage and waited for Ben. He made it within a foot of exiting the Water Tunnel, when he slipped and fell right on his ass in the water.

     Ben and I took a break out in the main passage and grabbed a bite to eat. We were discussing ourStenlight headlamps. I had changed the optics in mine to give the beam wider spill, and a tighter spot for more throw. Ben had a stock Stenlight, that has less spill, and a much wider hotspot, with less throw. You can read more about my Stenlight and the different beam patterns in my Review. We spent some time trading headlamps and testing out how we liked each of the beams. It was actually very hard to choose a favorite. I like the wider spill mine had, and a bit more throw, but it created a bit of a tunnel vision effect. Bens stock Stenlight had a nice wide hotspot that got rid of the tunnel effect, but lacked some throw, and the spill light wasn’t as wide. As with anything else, its all about compromise.
I purchased a slave flash for my camera a couple months ago, but never got a chance to use it in the caves yet. The slave flash has a sensor on it, that can detect your digital cameras flash, so that it can fire at the same time. Previously, I was using a technique called “Painting”. Which involves taking a long expose shot, while you “paint” light onto the cave walls with flashlights. This had worked rather well in the past, and is capable of lighting up alot of the caves features. But it takes alot of setup time, and the use of a tripod.
Here is a couple examples of our painting shots from a previous trip. As you can see, you can get alot of the area illuminated, but the color rendering can be way off.

     The flashes are much brighter and much faster. So for the most part, you can take photos on the fly, without having to stop and use a tripod. I had Ben walk ahead of me, holding the slave flash, while I stayed behind, taking photos as we walked down the passage. This is still not an easy process, and everything has to come together for the shot to turn out nice. The slave flash would not always see the cameras flash, and there was a problem with fog in some of the cave sections. The flashes light up the fog so much that you get a photo with white smoke everywhere. The good things was, we could still move through the cave more freely, and not have to worry about setup time so much. Ben and I took over 300 photos on our way out of the cave, so we had at least a few that turned out rather nice.

     Much of of the passages in Bowden are water ways, that have many holes formed in the flooring, and shelves on the walls.

     I think all this photography might be going to our heads.

     There are not many true stalagmites or stalactites in Bowden. But there are quite a few areas that have large wall formations.

     This section of the cave was actually dug out, so that you could walk through it. Off to the left is a very low crawl that you would have to go through, if this passage was not made.

    Overall, I was pleased with how the flash had worked, but I will have to get one or two more for the future. I would like to setup a few real nice shots, placing the flashes in just the right places. Alot of the shots we got were very unevenly lit. The slave flash is much more powerful than the cameras built in flash. So I need to have a slave with me, and one or two up ahead in the passages. The photos have more noise than I want also, so I will be working on that, and getting them more evenly illuminated.