While planning my first big trip in Portugal (from Galicia to Lisboa) I came across a huge number of caves. So I asked my colleague at work if he knows about a good one, on road to Fatima.
As it turns out one was actually close to Fatima and not just that, but also it is modern (lights, shop, guide etc.)
So on the first day of trip, the first stop, was at Grutas da Moeda. As in all Portuguese cities, english or french is not a problem for most of residents, so it was fairly easy to take a ticket and enter the caves. The huge surprise was that of all 20-ish tourists only 4, with myself included, were not speaking the language, yet our guide, translated his speech in english, so that we also have an idea of what we were seeing. This is 5 star treatment and he was also patient with me taking a few photos of the place.
So if you ever find yourself in the area, you should definitely check it out. It is a 30-45 minute voyage into the deeps, that will wow you, and don’t forget to put something on you, since it is cold.
Of course no flash is allowed and also follow the group.
As for the gear, I used my Canon 760D paired with Sigma Art 18-35mm f/1,8, no flash, no monopod or tripod. Just this camera and the lens. The other photographer used a Nikon D5500 with Sigma 10-20mm f/3,5, also no flash or monopod (but lost the photos from this place but I will still compare the two cameras and lenses for this particular type of photography)
Since this is the first shoot made in a cave, I will get a bit into details.
I want to note that the cave had multiple types of lights in it, and in some corners were quite bright, while in most places stayed semi-obscure (just like a cave should be).
I ran into some problems with the Canon 760D with the f/1,8:
First, the focus… while being a wide lens, I was expecting a better focus, a faster one and yes, more that 1 out of 5 sharp photos result. Also is important to note that the lens is for crop sensor and my camera is just that. Yet, even thought I was on point focus mode, single focus mode, I had to double check the pictures and/or make pictures using live-view. (Once I did 2-5 pictures with different focuses, I went over them to be sure I can leave to the next chamber of the cave and still ended up with just one image that was good). That alone made me be the last one in the group.
Nikon D5500 with Sigma 10-20mm f/3,5 rendered much better results in terms of sharpness but there we talk about ISO noise and much slower shutter => shake. So while focusing was not problematic, the fact I really had to stand perfectly still and take my time while the group was advancing that made my back hurt.
Now white-balance. Nikon D5500 with Sigma 10-20mm f/3,5 had very orange and red photos. In some cases it was yellow, mostly because of the lights, so no matter what setting we were using, the result was more or less the same and pushed us to heavily re-color the photos.
On the other hand, Canon with Sigma Art, made images a lot more usable. For example the second photo has no color correction to it, but for most of the others, I tried to replicate what my eyes were seeing. Even thought is hard to get sharp results, I prefer to double check than to work more in edit.
So Sigma f/1,8 Art lens wins 1 round in terms of color accuracy (with help from Canon 760D) but looses in sharpness -> 1-1. Also the lens wins in the fact i don’t really need to stay so perfectly still and can make photos while crouched for longer period of time, before I star to get shaking pictures. So 2 out of 3 reasons to go with this f/1,8 wide angular lenses.
To make matter even more complicated, the Sigma Art 18-35mm is a very heavy lens to carry in a long voyage -> 0,81kg and costs twice as much as the 10-20mm f/3,5. This 30 minute trip (more like 55 minute) was short, but on other of my projects, in a few hours you miss the cheap lenses.
The Sigma 10-20mm f/3,5 is a much lighter lens at 0.52kg, is better for sharp images if you manage to stay still and with one picture, you can better get everything in, or just get the full sharp middle portion of your image, crop it and share it – that if you don’t mind the fact that it’s more bended than you would normally expect.