Aurora Photographer Robbie Shone has taken his camera to some of the most wild and remote places on the planet. With an overwhelming interest in capturing unbelievable, unique images, Robbie has photographed some of the world’s most spectacular caves.
Aurora Photos: What led you to your current focus on cave photography?
Robbie Shone: I have been very interested, to the point of obsessed with underground photography for almost ten years now, because of the many challenges it presents. To begin with the canvas is black, and it is your job to create a picture from the cave you descend. There are many challenges in simply getting down a cave, especially some of the larger and deeper systems around the world where only very experienced cave explorers can access. It is also this aspect that I get my rush out of. Knowing that not many other adventure photographers can achieve successful results in this harsh environment.
A.P: Can you walk us through the steps you take to prepare for a descent?
R.S: To begin with I make sure all my camera/lighting equipment is clean and in full working order. Then I charge up lots of AA batteries and camera batteries. I have several spare batteries for all my strobes. The last thing I want to happen is to run out of battery power whilst underground a long way from the surface.
Then I check that my waterproof Peli Case’s are still waterproof, lined with soft foam matting and each carry a clean towel to dry my hands on before I pick out my strobe or camera/lens.
If we’re on a big shoot in a vast underground chasm, I would hand pick a team of dedicated, trust-worthy, capable cavers who I know will perform underground and help me make the photograph. If we need to use PMR Radios to communicate, then I check that they all work, set to the same frequency and are clean and ready to go. Enough to go around. Failing that, I would brief everyone before we descend to check everyone is happy with the cave and happy to help.
A.P: A lot of people find caves frightening, yet you spend much of your time underground. What motivates you to explore such foreign landscapes?
R.S:Simply ‘Discovering the unknown’ and walking/climbing/abseiling(rappelling)/swimming into totally new and un-touched worlds where you know it has never seen light before. You have absolutely no idea what you are going to find, because no-one has been there before. Forget Mount Everest where hundreds summit each season; cave exploration is the final frontier of exploration on Earth
A.P: What was the most thrilling experience you’ve had while being under ground?
R.S: Hanging 300m off the floor and 200m below the roof of the second deepest pit in the world. Photographing Miao Keng, in China’s Wulong County (Chongqing) was very exposed and very challenging. We (the dedicated team) flew out for one month simply to make one photograph of this shaft looking straight down the heart of the blackness. It took us all over 2 hours to rappel down it and 4.5 hours to climb the 32 ropes to get out.
A.P: In our Highlighted Photograph of the Gaping Gill in Flood, can you tell us what it was like that day?
R.S: The day we shot Gaping Gill in Flood was a very wet day. There were half a dozen rescues out of caves in the Yorkshire Dales of people who had got trapped in flooding caves or had been caught out by the rapidly rising water levels. We ran in and rappelled down the ropes as quick as we could and made the panorama of the main chamber just as the waterfall was is total flood. I was unable to communicate with anyone around me. Forget radios, they didn’t work. Mark Richardson (the guy in the shot) had to run back to me after each shot to warm up and get out of the heavy spray that blew around him. I had to wipe my lens every six seconds and after every exposure. It was a real challenge and people soon got very cold (January this year).
To see more work from Robbie Shone, visit Aurora Photos.