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Cave Photography - Account of the C.R.G. Symposium

by Mike Luckwill

The Cave Photography Symposium, very ably organised by Alan Coase, and held at Leicester on the 8th. March was attended by many club members. Unfortunately, a late start made many of the talks short; this turned out to be a mixed blessing.  Dennis Kemp, in good form, started the day by talking about developing colour film in the field.  The major point he put over was, in fact, how to give a slide show; his combination of two projectors and tape recorder, used as usual to good effect, was an object lesson in this potentially very boring practice. Members of the B.E.C. soon recognised the voice (?) of a certain Scot ‘folk singing’ in South Wales.  Returning to the subject, Kemps main suggestion was don’t; unless you absolutely have to.

Alan Wicks then discussed the difficulties of photographing a Gouffre Berger expedition and Mr. Unwin, from Phillips, told how a flash bulb worked.   Alan Coase cut his own talk in order to make up time, and this was a pity as he had some interesting equipment to review; such as the ever-ready, water-proof, shock-proof Rollei case at a mere £27.

Dr. Wooley then previewed his slide show by explaining the theory behind close-up shots involving magnifications up to X20 and showed us how to make our own ‘Hasselblad’ from an old camera bought in junk shops: one point of interest was his use of cine-lenses in order to obtain, cheaply, the short focal lengths required.

H. Lods discussion of equipment, from the professionals’ point of view, made me lose a certain amount of interest: by the time he had shown us his tripod, he had already spent some £30, which I suspect is more than the average cave-photographer spends on all his equipment.  However, his review of lighting apparatus was of interest and with the development of quartz-halogen lamps there should be no shortage of light in caves in the future; I’m sure even thinking of getting one for my helmet!

The possibility of using aerial photography to interpret karst features was then discussed and illustrated by J.W. Norman in a paper written in conjunction with A.C. Waltham. So far as this unexplored branch of photogeology and it is just waiting to be developed.  Also equipped with some interesting illustrations was Trevor Ford who has been using a scanning electron microscope to take photographs of cave formations.  For the uninitiated I should explain that this instrument has a great depth of field at high magnification enabling an object to be viewed in its natural state and not as a section; another very promising field of research here and anyone with a suitable research project has been invited by Dr. Ford to use these facilities, which must work out about £5 an hour.

The best was yet to come, however, the films in the evening.  Professor Tratman’s superb vintage film of Lamb Leer must be seen by anyone calling themselves a caver; it is hoped that copies will be shortly available for hire.  G. Cox’s film of some Spanish Caves, shot on daylight Ansochrome, for the most part without a filter, was an interesting study in red.  Some strange effects were also apparent on some of Dr. Wooley’s slides, resulting from the use of two flashes; one red and one green! His close-ups of cave flora and fauna were undoubtedly superb, however.

One of the most fascinating films, spoilt by a faulty projector unfortunately, was The Journey. Made by Colin Fearn under some rather extreme conditions; it showed a party following disused and partly flooded soughs for some six miles: having entered them from one valley to emerge in the next.  A very good film by a considerable amount of hard work and devotion.

The day will be complete when the Transactions have been published and the papers can be studied in detail.

C.R.G. Southern Meeting

Mike Luckwill

The ‘Swan’ in Wales was the scene of the C.R.G. Southern Meeting on 19th April with the B.E.C. acting as host.  Four short papers were presented after tea and before dinner.  Jim Hanwell set the proceedings off with cause and frequency of severe storms on Mendip and suggested that they were not only a major factor of cave formation, but might also have messed up cave deposits so much as to render interpretations of these deposits in the normal manner invalid: food for thought.  Alan Thomas gave a brief resume of the exploration of the Ahnenschacht and ‘Alfie’ Collins introduced his route severity diagram to a very appreciative audience.  This new topic seems to have gained a considerable foothold as a result.  Dave Irwin created quite a stir amongst non-Mendip cavers in discussing his concept of processing survey data: there will undoubtedly be suitable repercussions.

The dinner which followed saw everyone in discussion: another important facet of such a gathering. All in all the evening seem to have been an important one, particularly from the aspect of surveying; one looks forward to reading the papers in the forthcoming Transactions with the knowledge that they will be a topic of discussion for some time to come.

It’s not often that we hear from our overseas members but here is a note from Kangy who seems to be on the verge of great things in France….

I’m glad to say that I seem to have made some good contacts in the caving line.  This is more essential for caving than climbing.  I can see the Pyrenean Mountains from here so climbing is no problem, drive about three hours and then start walking.  However, in the Ariege alone there about 1,200 known caves and enthusiastic though I am I simply haven’t the time to slide into each one, assuming I find any. So I’ve taken advice.  M. Jauzions (whose habits are strikingly similar to one Irwin) has taken me under his wing and shown me around.

I was a bit cautious about contacting a Club until I’d picked up enough of the lingo to communicate the essential things like “J’ai une pou bleue”; “Pas sur votre Nelly”, “Apres vous” etc.  Of course once I’d had a trip I learnt others like “Merde” which means “My goodness, look at the mud”, “Putain alors” meaning “What an utterly charming 100ft. pitch” or simply “Alors”.

Anyway my first sortie was to the Ariege to make surveys of a couple of caves, thus reducing the unsurveyed caves from 400 to 398 making a total of 802 surveyed (sounded daft to me). They turned out to be two very pleasant caves.  Prehistoric and historic in that there were artefacts and bear scratches fossilised in the calcite and also an inscription left by a French Prime Minister in 1923. Hurray!  The size of the largest approached that of G.B. only that the inclination was horizontal (if you see what I mean).  I was so taken with it as a spectacle that I went back two weeks later with Ann and my boys.  The youngest, Philip aged 4, clutching a candle in one hand and me in the other said, “I love this cave”, while Jonathan was quite uneasy at the thought of meeting Cave Bears face to face in a small passage, and secretly I sympathised with him. Good old Prehistoric Man!

Recently I spent the weekend caving.  We left Toulouse at 8.30 and at 10.00 met a team which had recently discovered a new pot.  The reason for Jauzion’s interest was that it occurred in an important position and promised to connect with another system.  The hole was reckoned to be an hour and a half’s trudge and we took with us about 200 metres of ladder.  I tried to look as though I was used to carrying all my gear plus two ladders when a native stopped with a great mucky cart pulled by two steaming oxen and offered to carry the gear part way.  The ladders and gear plopped into the manure in the cart.  I explained I needed to carry mine for exercise.  I suppose I’m too civilised.

At the pot, which looked like other pots, we ate lunch and started down about 13.00 hours.  There was quite a bit of twiddling around because the discoverers were obviously novices and during the pauses I demonstrated knots.  We didn’t like to interfere too much because it was their discovery but I found my patience running low later on when I realised that we were in for a 12 hour trip that need only have taken half the time!  The pot was finally bottomed at 160 metres (530ft.) where a way on seemed likely if persuaded.  Quite a successful trip in that surveying and geological observations confirmed a fault system on the required line.  We got to bed at 3.00 hours in the morning.

The next day was described as a potter round looking at possible sites.  So we climbed Trifan by the Heather Terrace (so to speak) and spent an hour before lunch in an enormous tunnel of a grotto boring straight into the mountain for 1,000ft. and ending in a lake..  Very scenic.  After lunch, taken under the huge arch of the entrance, and consisting of bags of fresh bread, pate, cheese, and more bottles of wine than blokes, we set off across the equivalent of the Glyder (though thoroughly wooded).  Lots and lots of possibilities which were marked with red bands for future investigation.

Incidentally. French picnics are dynamite.  I first learnt this on a skiing trip (no I didn’t break my leg Alfie). Before lunch I was skiing adequately but with great care.  After, I was brilliantly rushing up the lift and swishing down the slope feeling very good indeed.  But sort of sloshy inside!

                        Cheers, Kangy.