Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Longhorn Cavern

with 29 comments


I’ve lived in Austin since 1976 and the Lady Eve since 1988, yet not till three days ago did we finally visit Longhorn Cavern State Park, which is only about an hour’s drive west of home.



I’d called ahead to ask about the photography policy and was told pictures are fine as long as flash is turned off because it would disturb the bats that live in the cave. Figuring my regular camera wouldn’t have enough light without flash, I took only my iPhone 14 into the cavern with me.



Turns out the person I spoke with over the phone misinformed me. After we were inside the cavern, our tour guide made it clear that pictures with flash are generally fine, the only exception being in a spot where a bat is present. To tell the truth, I probably got better images with the iPhone 14 anyway. It’s good at taking pictures in low light, and it lets me go into raw mode to retain as much photographic information as possible (unlike the conversion to jpeg, which tosses out a lot of data). In addition, as long as I stick to the 1x camera, the pictures come out at a whopping 48.8 megapixels each. I stuck to the 1x camera.

All the lighting in these pictures came from the spotlights that the park service has installed here and there throughout the cavern. In many cases I went for abstractions of light and shadows.




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Surprising Facts


“If you think of the United States as a football field, all the garbage that we will generate in the next 1000 years would fit inside a tiny fraction of the one inch line.” For the uninitiated, let me add that a football field is 3600 inches long, so an inch is less than one-thirtieth of one percent of a football field’s length—and the quotation says we’re dealing with a tiny fraction of that already tiny amount. Would you have expected that?

You can learn more surprising facts about recycling in a seven-minute video by John Stossel.
One is that “Even Greenpeace says most plastic cannot be recycled.”


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2023 at 4:26 AM

29 Responses

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  1. An extraordinary place! It’s great that your phone produces RAWs, giving you proper control of the processing. (I know next to nothing about mobile phones these days and get flummoxed when I have to borrow DH’s phone, hehe!)

    Ann Mackay

    January 29, 2023 at 7:00 AM

    • An excellent place indeed. The addition of raw mode to the iPhone (I don’t know with what model or operating system that began) is a boon to me. I don’t always have my heavy-duty (and just plain heavy) camera gear with me, but I almost always have the iPhone. You might check into learning more about your mobile phone’s capabilities.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 8:29 AM

      • Hehe…I might, but it’s Hubby’s phone, not mine, and fairly basic, so no rush!

        Ann Mackay

        January 29, 2023 at 9:19 AM

        • If that’s the case, definitely no rush. Now, if you get an iPhone 14 for yourself, all bets are off.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 29, 2023 at 10:37 AM

  2. I’ve never heard of this place. There are articles galore about other locations where bats live, including the Congress Street Bridge and Bracken Cave, but none of them I looked at included this spot. Apart from the bats, it would be worth seeing for the rock formations alone; they’re beautiful. I’m glad you mentioned the installed lights; I know the iphones are good, but if they were that good without supplemental lighting, I might have to learn how to use mine. (I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to use mine, anyway, but I’ve got enough learning curves as it is.)


    January 29, 2023 at 7:14 AM

    • Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in the world (under the Congress Avenus Bridge that you mentioned), so we hear a lot about the Mexican free-tail bats. The ones in Longhorn Cavern are different: for one thing, they’re solitary, and for another they’re so small that Texas Parks and Wildlife whimsically calls them chicken-nugget bats.

      I know about learning curves. If nothing else, though, you might check to see if your model of iPhone lets you turn on raw mode. If so, you can take some pictures that way and see what you think. The next time you’re near an Apple store, you might stop in for a few minutes and ask an employee to show you any neat features your phone camera has.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 8:38 AM

    • By the way, if you’re considering a visit to Longhorn Cavern, now’s a great time to do it. The guide told us that in the peak season as many as 40 people are in each group. On the day we went, our group consisted of four and the two other groups I saw had either four or five people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 8:52 AM

  3. It looks like a cool place.

    Couldn’t you have boosted your ISO, used the fastest F stop your lens has or the fastest lens you have on the regular camera to get some nice images of the interior? The lights they had scattered around would have helped too.

    Either way your cell phone did a fantastic job of capturing what you wanted it to.


    January 29, 2023 at 8:09 AM

    • Yes, I’d thought about that. My newest Canon camera body, the R5, supposedly has better high-ISO sensitivity and less noise than the 5DS R I’ve used for at least six years. I’ll have to do some more low-light experimenting with the R5. One advantage of the phone camera is that its focal length is so short that a lot of things stay in focus from front to back. Shooting wide-open with the regular camera would give me only very shallow depth of field. In the end, I was pleased with the pictures that came from the iPhone 14.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 8:46 AM

      • I need to upgrade my cell phone as the cameras are getting better and better in them and I hear battery life has a little bit as well. I’m still using the 7Plus.


        January 29, 2023 at 8:53 AM

  4. Great shots! I’ve never been there either; I moved here to go to school in 1978, my hub grew up here. Slackers.


    January 29, 2023 at 8:46 AM

    • Then get ye to Longhorn Cavern. Now’s a great time. Here’s what I just mentioned to Linda: “The guide told us that in the peak season as many as 40 people are in each group. On the day we went, our group consisted of four and the two other groups I saw had either four or five people.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 8:54 AM

  5. Two more things that we have in common, Steve. We moved to Fauquier, BC, in 1976 and have not been to the Octopus hot springs, only 10 miles from here. The problem is that you must do a lot of bushwhacking to get there.

    Peter Klopp

    January 29, 2023 at 12:45 PM

    • Settling into our current towns in 1976 is a coincidence indeed. Fortunately getting to Longhorn Cavern didn’t take any bushwhacking. I looked online and found this cautionary note about your Octopus Creek Hot Springs: “This small warm spring (which may have been hot years ago ) at this point, you’re not missing anything if you opt out of the challenge of looking for this one. Other than the thrill of the hunt. This is not for the inexperienced you’ll need all your hiking skills for this one.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 1:47 PM

  6. That’s a cool place and your new phone did a fine job. I live even closer to the museum formerly known as Emily Dickinson’s home and have not been there even though I have lived in Amherst and surrounds for over 50 years. What’s wrong with me?
    SInce our trash is such an unconcerning issue I suggest we follow your governor’s example and send all of ours to Texas. (I am not calling immigrants trash but just making a point.)

    Steve Gingold

    January 29, 2023 at 12:46 PM

    • Yes, the iPhone 14 camera proved its mettle. Peter in the previous comment said he also has a nearby place he’s never been to (though in his case getting there is arduous). Maybe you’ll now be prompted to visit Emily Dickinson’s home.

      When even Greenpeace admits that most plastic cannot be recycled, we’d be better off producing less of it. Over and over I’ve had the experience of buying something like a hard drive and finding it tightly encased in the kind of plastic that’s hard to cut through and from which I risk seriously lacerating my skin. Many products come with multiple layers of packaging when one layer would be enough. As for beverages, I prefer good old-fashioned glass bottles, which can be reused or melted down.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 29, 2023 at 2:00 PM

      • My response was not in support of using more plastic. Maybe my reading comprehension is off but you appeared to indicate that the amount of trash/garbage we will create is a trivial matter. I try to purchase glass bottles when possible but finding them in use is difficult at best. Today for instance I was able to purchase some Knudsen’s juice in glass rather than the same amount of V8 in plastic. For just $0.20 more and with the added plus of one third the amount of salt per portion.

        Steve Gingold

        January 29, 2023 at 2:13 PM

        • One-third the amount of salt sounds like a plus. You can always add a little to the Knudsen’s if you choose but you can’t remove salt from V8.

          We all live in a three-dimensional world but we seem better at sensing distance than area, and better at area than volume. The point of the football field analogy was that although we do generate a lot of waste, the earth is more capacious to dispose of it than most people realize. I usually agree with John Stossel. He reveals his findings about landfills from roughly 2:50 to 5:00 in the video.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 29, 2023 at 2:39 PM

          • I have no desire to add salt to the Knudsen’s but the V8 was their reduced salt offering.

            The problem with whatever amounts of waste we produce, much of it is not recyclable as you mentioned in some cases and much of our trash lasts for a very long time, is that wherever it goes it doesn’t belong there in the natural world. Just as our growing human population has taken land away from other life forms that have existed for centuries and millennia so does our waste disposal.

            Steve Gingold

            January 29, 2023 at 4:21 PM

  7. I love caverns, and have been on the Mammoth Caves wild cave tour way back when. That iPhone takes some great pictures.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 29, 2023 at 11:40 PM

    • Ah, your adventuresome side. Longhorn Cavern also offers a “wild” tour that requires crawling and squeezing through tight places. I don’t know that I’d have gone on it even “way back when,” and certainly not now as someone looking for photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 30, 2023 at 7:25 AM

      • When I took the wild cave tour way back when, the guide told us the oldest person to take it was an 80 year old woman. If I remember correctly, the tour was 6 mile/6 hours underground, and yes, a miner’s headlamp, and hands and knees a good bit of the way. Around lunchtime, the group started smelling food, and we emerged into a large room 287 feet underground that had hotdogs, hamburgers, etc. There was an elevator shaft to the surface. After lunch, we exited the room via another hole and continued the trip.

        Lavinia Ross

        January 30, 2023 at 10:57 AM

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