Behind the Lens: Starbursts in a Cave

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Photograph by Mark Bowie


Starbursts in a Cave

Exposure Data:
5 Seconds, F/8, ISO 50
Canon PowerShot G3 Camera, Nikkor 7-28mm lens at 7mm

This image may be a bit of a visual puzzle, but here is one of the owners of Natural Stone Bridges and Caves, Greg Beckler, standing on a pedestal of rock, and reflected in Trout Brook. At this geologic attraction in Pottersville, the brook dives beneath the largest marble cave entrance in the eastern United States and flows through several subterranean caves before resurfacing downstream. Lights have been strategically strung along them. And, for my private tour, Greg brought a powerful flashlight.

I shot this with a new (at the time) four-megapixel digital camera, a compact forerunner of larger-resolution cameras to come. It’s not the camera but how a photographer uses it. Even with the lights, to capture a sharp, clean image that penetrated into the darkest reaches of the cave demanded the camera be on a tripod. I needed to shoot at a low ISO for low noise, and stop down the aperture to its smallest setting—f/8—for maximum depth of field. I had Greg hold still for five seconds as he shined his light at the camera. The small aperture produced a brilliant starburst, mirrored in the water.

I recall the excitement of seeing this composition—how the rocks curved in from all sides and were reflected in the brook. I decided to pose my model in the diamond of darkness between them. It’s a small cave and it took all of the ultra-wide focal length to fit the rocks into the frame. But it worked swimmingly.

The Natural Stone Bridge and Caves is open to the public (currently with COVID restrictions). Its website invites adventurers to “descend into lighted caves and grottos with raging water or tranquil dark pools.” It’s truly a fascinating natural wonder.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations in-person and via Zoom for conferences, camera clubs and other groups. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute. API’s fall workshops are still on, but are subject to change as health conditions warrant. For the latest information, see their website:, or ask to be added to the contact list. And please visit Mark’s new website, www.markbowie.comto view image galleries and keep abreast of his workshops, presentations and product releases.

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