This place isn’t called the “Lost World” for nothing.
As I squeeze between limestone columns – formed as the stalactites dripping from the ceiling join with their stalagmite partners from the floor – and finally wedge myself under a ledge of immense rock partway up a cave wall, I realise that I am literally quite “lost” in here. Not just in the maze of caverns, tunnels and canyons that form this area of Waitomo in New Zealand, but even more so in the natural beauty and wonder this scene evokes.
I was here to photograph the Lost World Abseil, New Zealand’s highest cave abseil and reputedly one of the highest in the Southern Hemisphere, and it was everything I’d imagined it would be (and more, I had to actually take that abseil in order to get down into the cave myself)!
The 100 meter abseil (300 feet) drops vertically between sheer walls before the bottom section opens out into an amazing, dimly lit cavern, now echoing with my movements as I wriggle to find the best spot from which to photograph this surreal sight. The light filtering in highlights hidden mosses, ferns and other delicate foliage clinging to the steep walls, and throws the climber into stark relief as he slowly descends the line.
I was shooting from a crevice in the wall at the bottom of the cave, seeking a vantage point that provided me with a clear view of the different aspects of the drop. Capturing a series of stunning images, this is one of my favorites from that day. I was cramped, the rocky ledge was more than uncomfortable, I was constantly damp from the dripping walls, and I really didn’t want to know what the slimy stuff I was laying amongst was… I was working in the dark, and it was very, very cold.
However, as any good photographer knows, the challenges behind the camera are always worth the results to be gained in front of the camera! This was a spectacular abseil and I needed to do it justice by creating a spectacular shot.
As published in Digital Photography & Design Magazine October 2011.