|Ape Cave lava tube, Mt. St. Helens|
I filled the middle of the day with exploring the area, and on one memorable morning, I hiked into one of the most astonishing underground passageways I have ever seen. It is a lava tube, although it is so perfectly formed that it could double as a man-made highway tunnel. Lava tubes are rare in this part of the world, where the volcanos tend to explode rather than extrude flowing lava. Yet Ape Cave is one of the longest lave tubes in the US - more than two miles long.
(Science note : lava tubes are created by very fluid lava that cools and hardens at the edges, allowing the lava inside to continue flowing inside, forming a stone tube. When the lava stops, it drains out the bottom end, leaving this remarkably uniform tunnel.)
I spent several hours in the cave, trying to sort out how best to photograph it - finally settling on the use of two flashes - one on the camera/tripod and the other in my hands. 30-second exposures allowed me time to position myself in front of the light-colored wall (where I would best show up in silhouette) and fire off a few flashes manually. It was a case of trial and error - mostly error - to get what I wanted. In a perfect world, I would have had a third flash (and a model?) in the far distant bend of the cave, but I'm content with this.
An amazing place.
Nikon D3, 17-35mm lens, 2 Nikon SB-800 flashes