To take a beautiful landscape picture, it’s quite simple if the scenery itself is stunning, you just need a smartphone with camera feature, then it’s done. If you have skill and a professional camera, your picture is much more glamorous and different. Landscape in Son Doong – the biggest cave in the world, of course is picturesque with its wildness, magnificence and mystery. However, in order to capture its beauty, you need more than your skill and a camera.
Each picture I took during my adventure in Son Doong has its own story. Some were the work of a whole team with a great coordination, effort and determination from everyone, and I was just lucky to be the one who press the shooting button. Some were the priceless moments of wonderful natural beauty taken by chance, while several other shoots brought me unforgettable feelings.
My pictures may be not as stunning as the ones you see on internet as I’m not a professional photographer and don’t have a professional camera. However, it’s a memorable journey of my travel mates and me.
Picture #1: “River flows into you”
It’s my favorite picture, taken on the 2nd day of the trip, after descending 80 meters down to Son Doong cave. To take this picture, the team had to wade through a knee-deep cold stream in 20 mins. My Australian travel mate and me followed a cave expert to a different way, fairly craggy and cliffy. I nervously set up my tripod close to a cliff wall in a dark space with faint glimmers from the headlights. I even didn’t see clearly the scenery that I was about to take. The expert was shouting on his radio transceiver to guide the lighting team, but the sound was not gone through well . It took around 15 mins to arrange everything.
Then all the lights were turned on, shining the whole dark cave. I started shooting, using 10s slow speed mode. The landscape appearing on my camera was surprisingly amazing, just like a movie scene of an unreal cyberspace. I was astounded and didn’t believe what I had just taken. Changing a few technical specs, I took 10 shoots and here is the one I like the most.
This was the place where I set up my tripod, actually 3 meters to the right from the light on the cliff wall. The platform was rugged and narrow, I had to adjust my tripod several times to ensure its balance. I was shaking while setting up as it was easily slip over the cliff. Thanks my friend who took a picture of me on my way back, otherwise, I didn’t even know that i had stood in such a dangerous edge.
Picture #2: “Lost stars”
To take this picture, the team had to split into 2 groups, group of models and group of photographers. Several people who didn’t actually take picture also joined photographer group as the view was more holistic and stunning. 2 groups went to two different directions, photographers climbed to big shoulder-level round rocks, while models walked down to the valley and climb up the mountain slope. After setting up all the gears on top of a hill, photographers had to wait for 5 minutes for the model group to arrive. The cave experts talked to each other via their radio to move position of the models and lighting direction. When everything was settle down, I just pressed my button.
Here was the place I set up my camera to take the above picture. Climbing over this big rocks was not easy for short legs people like me.
On the third day when we got close to the “Wall of Vietnam”, we were informed that we would go there by boat as the water level was high enough, instead of trekking on a muddy passage. The whole team were very happy because it was less tired, and more importantly, we could take a bath there after the most tiring day of the trip. I immediately thought about taking a picture since I had seen many gorgeous photos on internet taken in that location. I asked the expert and he said that those amazing pictures were taken in the condition of having many professional spotlights set up under the water. However, if I still wanted to try, let leverage the headlights of the boats on the way out to shine the water and cliffs. I rushed to the right location, set up my tripod just in time to catch the boats on their way out.
Naming this picture as “The Moment” since it was the right moment that I caught by chance a clear reflection of the boat and its lighting on the cliff. The picture shows the death and the massiveness of Son Doong cave. Glimmers make the scenery mysteriously magnificent.
Picture #4: The universe hole
On the 4th day on the way back, we saw this surprising scene, a big round natural hole on a rocky upright wall, as if there is a human touch to cut through the mountain. This set of pictures took the most of my time, not because of the difficulty to set it up, but because there were too many models. Each time, I shot only one person with plenty of different poses, and we had more than 10 people. Here is the most unique pose from a tour assistant.
It was a challenge to climb up and down the hole as it was a bit high and slippery. I set up my tripod on the opposite cliff, taking picture in an uncomfortable position for more than an hour making my hands and my shoulders tired. However, everyone seemed happy to have their unique photo in this scenery.
Picture #5: “The Devil’s face”
Watch out for Dinosaurs is the most popular spot in Son Doong cave thanks to its unique and differentiated geological structures. Enormous mossy green gours in the middle were eroded, creating multiple circle steps which look like a footprint of a dinosaur. It is also the place where we could feel clearly the magnificent massiveness of the cave.
Sitting in this quiet atmosphere, listening to the sound of the wind going through the notches and the sound of species here and there, admiring the underground jungle crept among mountain cliffs which were amazingly lush without any human care, I suddenly realized that the nature had its own rules of survival. Human was just a tiny creature in this wide natural world.
Picture #6: “Multiple hands and eyes Buddha”
The enormous green gour in the center of Watch out for Dinosaurs is the most famous photography spot of the trip. Hence, people took turn to go up there if they wanted to have a memorable photo. The model climbed to the left gour, while the photographer climbed to the right one and took picture from there.
Picture #7: Secret Garden
As the name of the place “Garden of Edam”, you can’t imagine that there is such a speechless fresh garden deep down inside a cave if you don’t see it yourself. Magical lights from a grand half-moon doline bring vibrant energy to the entire massive natural garden.
I stunningly stood still, breathing the pleasant aroma of the vegetation and sensing the vigorous vitality of the plants as if they were racing for the sunlight. The refreshing green color harmonized with natural eroded steps created a spectacular natural picture, unlike anything I could experience on the planet, surprisingly mysterious!
This is the whole view of doline 1 on the third day of the journey. Its reflection on the wet surface of rocky formations caused by the rain from previous days was sparkling. We had an impressive and memorable picnic lunch in this stunning backdrop, watching the fog flying in and out the cave, as if the cave was a lively creature breathing fresh air.
Proudly sharing my time-lapsed video capturing the breath of Son Doong cave.
Picture #9: “Reflection”
Lovely tents reflecting on a turquoise pond which was the remnant of last year flood enhanced the tranquil scenery of En cave – the gate to Son Doong.
After day long trekking and climbing under the harsh sun of the first day, all of our fatigue seemed to fade when we reached the top of the mountain and saw this peaceful scene. It was so refreshed when we cleaned ourselves in the cool pond, even though the water was not very clean.
This picture was taken on the way out of En cave on the second day. The slope was fairy steep with unpleasant smell of bats’ feces. Yellow tents looking like small toys became the remark of this marvelous scenery. I can’t imagine that this beautiful landscape will disappear a few months in a year when the flood is high. At that time, the entire En cave will be under the water. As it is the main passage to Son Doong cave, when En cave is flooded, Son Doong cave becomes isolated from outside world. The nature is not only wonderful, but also rigorous. The hidden gem is just for those who dare to embrace and explore.
Traveled in Jul, 2016
Read more about my expedition in Son Doong – the largest cave in the world