Unexpected Underground

Article from the series: Attractions of Rwanda, western Uganda and eastern DR Congo

50mm, f/4.5, 1/160s, ISO1600

It’s always nice to be surprised, to come across something unexpected. A field of wildflowers on your game drive, perhaps. Or a cave system when you think you’re only in Musanze to hike volcanoes and see gorillas. It turned out to be a nice way to spend a morning — and we didn’t even have to leave town.

Musanze Caves have been used for shelter during conflict for centuries, though not always successfully; a massacre took place here during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. The cave system is home to countless bats and almost as many roof collapses, and although it won’t rate highly on any global list of spectacular caves it is worth a visit if you have a few hours to spare (and consider USD 50 pocket change). It warrants your attention due to its historical significance, as well as the change of scenery it undoubtedly provides.

Photographing in caves is tricky, though constantly improving technology is making it easier. Caves are, by and large, dark places, which means a tripod is a must unless there are lights everywhere. Still, a tripod would mean the ability to use a lower ISO ( = higher quality photo) and smaller aperture ( = more of the image will be in focus), so it is handy regardless of lighting. A flash is rarely a good idea for landscape images as it will cast shadows. Personally I like working with as wide a lens as possible, as this allows me to include more of the surroundings in the image and helps create the feeling of being inside the cave. Cave openings can make for interesting subjects, though the huge disparity in light often requires some playing around.

Don’t miss our extensive interview with Marcus and head to his website for even more.