Anatomy of a photo #12: Lava tube II: Scale

This lava tube was much more difficult to photograph, because of the scale

This lava tube was a great contrast to Valentine’s, both in scale, and what I had to do to take a picture that made sense. If you look at yesterday’s post you will notice from visual clues such as the stairs, that Valentine’s is a close, narrow tunnel (at times I had to duck while walking through it). Today’s lava tube- Skull Cave- is vast. Notice the small red dot in the foreground. That is a tall man wearing a red jacket. I purposely included him to give this cave a sense of scale.

This was the difficulty of this image. Finding visual clues that give this cave a sense of scale, of its grand dimensions. This was made especially difficult by the fact that I visited these lava tubes in the middle of winter, when there are very, very few visitors. I had already spent considerable time trying to photograph this lava tube to give it a sense of size, but I was alone, and the distances involved made it impractical to use the timer on my camera. I could not run fast enough over this rocky ground.

Finally I saw a family visiting the lava tube. By this time, I was some distance away, having shelved the idea of getting a sense of scale. I hurried towards the entrance, but the group had already hiked into the darkness. I settled down to wait. It took them half an hour to return.

Luckily this had given me time to choose a vantage (which was not easy, as the terrain was a jumble of very large boulders) and to adjust my camera settings to an exposure and aperture that I liked. I took several images as they walked out, but the dad was the only one wearing bright colors. This means he was best at capturing the eye to help give the picture a sense of scale. Some of the pictures with more people did a little better at giving the dimensions of the cave, but the people weren’t as noticeable in the size of photograph that this blog allows. (Which is another important thing to factor in when scaling your images- how big will the image you are looking at be when it is viewed later. Will the visual clues you are including be big enough to catch the eye to give the object scale?)

For more on Lava Beds National Monument you can try reading this.

Happy shooting,


About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, How To, My favorite Parks, National Park, nature photography, photography, SLR and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s