By Jack Williams
These awe-inspiring images are part of an annual celebration that showcases the very best in caving photography.
The breathtaking shots in this year’s collection include gigantic, cavernous spaces; daring abseilers; huge stalagmites and stalactites that make the humans standing next to them appear mere specs; and even galaxies of stars illuminating caves’ entrances.
The images selected for the annual National Speleological Society Photo Salon were announced on Thursday, June 22.
This year the salon received more than 400 individual photographs from cavers across the United States and Europe.
Dean Wiseman, NSS Salon Chair, said: “I think, more than anything, the NSS Photographic Salon is an effort to bring cavers and folks who love and appreciate caves together.
“Our members are united in the love of caves and caving and a desire to learn about the underground wilderness and protect it for future generations.
“So, while the Salon is a celebration of that love, it’s also a celebration of the worldwide camaraderie we enjoy.”
Caves tend to be extremely hostile and challenging environments for photographic and electronic gear.
When selecting the images for the salon, Dean said, he looks for images that evoke and emotional feeling that he himself gets when caving, as well as those that have artistic merit and showcase the diversity of these underground environments.
Though the photographs that feature in the salon will be credited to individual photographers and cavers, capturing such splendor is often a team effort.
Dean said: “It’s one thing to get the gear to the spot where one wants to photograph, it’s entirely another to actually capture the image.
“The strobes and lights, if needed, must be appropriately placed, the cavers have to be in the right places, and everything has to go off without a hitch, which may require many different attempts in order to get everything just right.”
To reach some of the underground locations visited for this year’s salon selection, teams of cavers had to explore for hours, often carrying tens of pounds worth of equipment with them.
Adding to that level of difficulty, cave divers had to tackle water in order to get their shots.
As there is such a variety of captures every year, the images are broken down into nine categories – including “Entrances,” “Formations,” “Humour,” and “Portraits.”
These categories made it easier for the judges to select the final images that feature in this year’s salon, which will be showcased at this year’s NSS Convention in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, which runs until June 23.
Dean said: ” It is important to us that the images resonate with cavers, and so all the judges generally are either cavers or have had some personal caving experience beyond a commercial tour.
“For me, personally, it not uncommon that young cavers will ask why it’s important to be a member of the NSS or other caving organizations.
“This Salon would be one of my first answers to that question.”