Thursday, May 22, 2008

Raccoon Mountain near Chattanooga, TN

After I finished up in Knoxville I had to drive south to Chattanooga, TN. It wasn't a bad drive and the 1.5 hrs. went by pretty quick. I knew that Chattanooga had a lot to offer in the way of photo ops, but I wasn't sure which one I would pick. Little did I know that my choice would pretty much be made for me.

Rain. Thunderstorms. More rain. Yepper, I wasn't going to be shooting any animals in Chattanooga. I also knew that this was not going to stop me from exploring and getting some shots. So I did some research, asked the locals and got my answer. I always recommend picking up the brochures in the hotel lobby because they are packed with fun stuff to do. Yes, they can be touristy, but that's what they are there for, right? My solution? Have some balls and ask the people working there. I think I freaked out the lady at the front desk, but she was cool. It was late at night (11pm) when I got back from my training class. I asked her where the cool stuff was to shoot. She pointed out everything in the brochures. So I changed tactics. I asked about what SHE likes to see and do in the area. Then I found out she and her daughter were amateur photographers. She said they liked to shoot B&W and mainly architecture stuff. So I asked her again, but I changed it up. I asked her where a cool place would be to shoot, even in the rain, where I might get a chance to see some wildlife and not run into a million tourists. She got out a map and pointed to Raccoon Mountain. She told me about the caves there and I was sold.

When I got up the next morning the weather was horrible. Sheets of rain and I just wanted to sleep. Eat and sleep. But I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn't make it out to the caves. I took the 15 minute drive (so close) and bought my tour ticket. Fortunately, there were only 6 people in line. 4 kids and their parents. They spotted my cameras and we got to chatting about shooting in dark areas and such. It was good. I felt like I talked over them at first, so I toned down my 'photo-speak' and they seemed to get my lingo. They had recently bought a D80 and wanted some advice. Like I said, I hope I helped.

As we were entering the cave, the guide looks at me and tells me that they don't allow tripods, but I must have looked sad or something because he said he'd make an exception for me. I was shocked, but super psyched.

The tour was 45 minutes of walking and talking about the caves. Cool stuff. I guess it used to be called the Crystal Caves, but there were so many "Crystal Caves" around the US that the owner wanted something new. Our guide gave a great tour and talked about everything they offer. They have explorations where you can go cave diving or spelunking, as the Greeks called it. The cave divers told me that only people that are trying to impress others say spelunking. They have you crawl into a tight cave and then back out to see if you can pass the claustrophobia test. Um yeah... I would fail. I can't do tight space like that. Freaks me the hell out. When I was a kid I got stuck in a snow tunnel for a few minutes and it scared the crap out of me. Ever since I have HATED tight spaces like that. Along the tour I took some photos. Mostly with a 50mm 1.8 hand held. I didn't use the tripod much because there wasn't much room and there wasn't much time.

Here are three of my favs. Can you see the monster in the first shot?



cassandra m said...

Al...these are beautiful pics of the caves. I see several possible monsters in the first pics. yikes! but still an amazing site. I love the way you captured the lighting in the last pic. very nice! Oh & I would fail the claustrophobia test too. I am soooo scared of really close places. I got a turtle neck shirt stuck on my head as a kid and had a panic attack...ha.ha. OK. Have a SAFE TRIP!

kymberli q. said...

These are absolutely gorgeous, honey! You might want to enter one of THOSE in the fair!