How High is Too High (for good ISO)?

This weekend we traveled down to Luray Virginia to see the caverns. I vividly remember the first time I saw them when I was about 6 years old.  I took my daughters there a few years ago and took my camera along, but the pictures just, well, sucked.  It was way too dark for the D300 to get usable images that weren’t filled with digital noise.  Noise occurs when the camera sensor doesn’t have enough input, so it just creates random information.  Noise show up mostly in the shadow areas of an image, which only makes shooting in a cave that much harder.   This trip, I had Sarah, her best friend from OK, and the new camera-it already was going to be a great day. You can adjust your ISO, the light sensitivity of your camera on the fly.  My D300 if you went above ISO 800 the pictures were useless.  I wanted to find out where the D800 could live, so I started out with the camera on ISO 3200.  With the lights in the cave, I discovered that was too much.  All of the pictures had really blown out highlights in the bright spots and pretty bad noise in the dark ones. 

I reset the camera down to ISO 2500 and was pretty happy with the results.

One of my favorite spots in the cavern is the underground lake.  Although it is only a few inches deep, it is so still it reflects the ceiling perfectly.Underground Lake

The process of growing the cave still fascinates me. These formations are called drapery and some are thin enough to be transparent. 

Near the end of the tour is the “Wishing well”.  Each year they drain this place and scoop up the six inches of coins people have thrown in and donate it to charity.  The water color is caused by the copper from the pennies.  Yes, those are dollar bills—I hope they don’t leave them in for the whole year. Wishing Well It’s a pretty cool place--55° to be precise and therefore perfect for a warm VA summer trip.