Friday, August 19, 2011

The Spelunker and the Hot Pixel

The other day I went spelunking (cave-wandering) with some colleagues. I've actually been in quite a few caves, some of them mighty impressive.
The entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns which we visited in 2006.
But eastern Canada is not known for caves and the one we visited this week is known as the largest cave in the region. Let me just say that it was cozy. None of those huge vaulted ceilings framed by "drapery" stalagmites (sometimes called "cave bacon."). No elevators to whisk us back to the fresh air.
This is the rather bucolic entrance to the cave we visited this week.
Can't you just hear the birds singing?
Instead, we got more of a feel for what real cave explorers might experience. Most of the time we were able to stand upright, but there was one corridor where we had to crouch. But the most interesting thing about this cave (for me) was that it is a chimney - a mostly vertical shaft - with some offshoots. That meant we did a fair bit of climbing up steep, metal stairs (more like well-tilted ladders, really), while grasping handrails that were cold and slippery-sweaty. The bats were all gone for the day, I assume, though I didn't really investigate. It was FUN!

Actually, it was interesting, despite my describing it as arduous and uncomfortable and scary. Don't listen to me. I have no plans to change careers (probably wise, given that there is really only one cave in the area, and it appears to be fully staffed).

Not surprisingly, I brought my camera with me and tried to take some pictures. In other caverns I'd been through, the mineral formations were all scenically lit, but here they gave each of us a hard hat with a light - just like real miners would wear, y'all! From a photographer's perspective, that meant anything we were all looking at would be moderately well lit, but if I shot towards anyone, I was shooting into the light, which is pretty tricky.

I did get a couple of pictures I liked, though.
f/1.8 1/60s ISO/3200
You can click on this picture to see it bigger.

(Looking at the picture now, it occurs to me that they were both looking at a BAT.)
But when I looked closely at the pictures, I found something odd: a red dot. In the same place in each of my cave pictures.
It's called a hot pixel. (Note: that link goes to a good website for
photographers, but he does have a truly stunning amount of
advertising before you get to the content.)
While Ken Rockwell says I should just live with it, that all digital cameras will do this eventually, I'm not convinced. My cheap-o point-and-shoot camera never developed a hot pixel (and I did use it in low-light situations where I used a high ISO which is when these things often show up).

Yes, yes. It is but one pixel of the many, many thousands of pixels in the picture (3,730,784 of them, to be precise). But now that I know it's there? It will bug me. Also? Steve paid a bucket-load of money for this camera and we expected better than this.

What would you do?


  1. Take the camera back.

  2. Hey, Wynn Anne, our Raw Photos contests are open for one week during which people can submit up to 2 photos. The Light contest will be up at the end of the September, and I can't wait to see what you're submitting! The exact dates will be announced on our blogs and Twitter.


What did you think? Any comments?

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