We usually shoot our Earth in its various forms and fashions from the ground. Those happier of us get up in the air and photograph from there. But there's an incredible beauty below its surface, too. In Slovakia, we're lucky to have as many as 2,400 caves (wikipedia) of which about 400 have been explored. One tenth of them is open for public. I rather believe that these are the most picturesque and fascinating. Because five are included in UNESCO World Heritage. :-)
It's been a year since we (lightharmony) finished our book '15 Treasures of Slovakia', in which one of the chapter was devoted to UNESCO caves. We have been given a unique opportunity to get below the ground and photograph three caves with no crowd around. We had plenty of time in there to arrange things as per our liking. That required a deal with Slovak Caves Organization, the body "providing the protection of all the caves in Slovakia and in case of show caves their safe and sustainable use. The SCA was established in 1970, restored in 1990." (SCO website.)
I'm extremely grateful to few people who allowed us (for a fee and CD of images, to be perfectly honest) to enter deserted caves that appeared to have a very different atmosphere from what you normally experience in these places. Discounting footways and lighting systems, we felt like first underground explorers in the midst of silence and bizarre ice formations, calcite statures and aragonite shapes. Every word called for a deep echo, every step left a mark in the dust (almost :-)). It was cold and dark (when we asked our 'warden' to turn the lights off - which they gladly did). The experience to live again one day, definitely.
These are ice patterns and shapes of Dobsinska ladova jaskyna (Dobsinska Ice Cave), the iconic place where rocks married ice. The glacier is all over, magnificent statues often touching the ceilings. One of the interesting facts on the cave is that up to the 1946 a skating for public was permitted all year round. The well known Czechoslovak figure skater Karol Divín and a company of military speed skaters trained here in the fifties (source: SCA website). It must have been something for all of them, I can tell you, as not too many places I have seen can compare to the mood of this one.
When shooting, I wanted to avoid flashes (mainly because we don't have any :-)) and eliminate installed lights to the most extend possible. Hence we were using two extremely strong torches instead trying to illuminate the most important parts of scenes. I don't think it's necessarily ideal but I was very happy with results we got. I will publish more detailed description of the process here in the coming weeks, so stay tuned if interested!