Sunday, March 15, 2015

Carlsbad Caverns: Big Room Tour, Part I

Sunday morning bright and early we were back at the Visitor Center, first in line at the elevator to go down to the Big Room per the advice of the very helpful ranger the day before. That advice turned out to be spot on.

Carlsbad Caverns, Big Room
There were about 20 visitors total at 8:30 to start touring the Big Room.  Once Zak and I let them all move on ahead of us, it felt like we practically had the place to ourselves.  For the next two hours, we ran into more rangers than other tourists.  That gave me ample opportunity to set up my tripod on the narrow trail, composing and recomposing my shots without feeling like I was interfering with anyone else's visit.
Carlsbad Caverns, Big Room
As much as I enjoyed the Natural Entrance Tour the afternoon before, I don't think I shot it well.  We'd driven nearly eight hours to get there, so fatigue was a factor.  I also prefer to exclude man-made elements from my photos, which works out fine when shooting familiar scenery.  But underground it left many shots without any frame of reference for scale.  So I made an effort this day to more frequently include some sort of visual guide like the railings in this shot.  They provide some nice leading lines, too.

Carlsbad Caverns, Big Room
Finally, I decided to convert everything to black and white in post-production.  With all the light artificial anyway, any vibrant colors were mostly artifacts of the long exposures.  The textures, shapes and contrasts are all what deserve highlighting.

Carlsbad Caverns, Big Room
My mop-headed son playing the part of silhouette model.  We didn't purchase the audio tour, and probably should have so I'd better understand what exactly marker 24 was intended to bring focus to.  Even without that aid, I had little problem appreciating the subterranean beauty.

Carlsbad Caverns, Big Room
Seeing places like this always strengthens my belief in an Almighty Creator.  Not because I can't accept the science that attempts to explain how these sorts of landscapes can occur "naturally."  More because I have no other explanation for how they make me feel.  The appreciation of beauty doesn't help me secure a mate, or improve my offspring's chances of survival.  It just makes me love God more for giving human beings that gift.

Carlsbad Caverns, The Hall of Giants
The aptly named Hall of Giants features the largest stalagmite ever discovered -- the so-called Giant Dome. It measures 16 feet in diameter and stands 62 feet high next to two smaller columns known as the Twin Domes.

Carlsbad Caverns, Big Room
Stalactite City.  That's not the actual name of this room; I just like alliteration.

Carlsbad Caverns, The Chandelier, The Totem Pole
The Chandelier and the Totem Pole.  And not even halfway through the tour yet!

Click here for Part II.

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