I don’t remember what grade it was or who the teacher was (because it was decades ago), but I do know that it was science class and the teacher said that an easy way to remember which are stalactites and which are stalagmites was to remember the letters “c” and “g” in their names. Stalactites have a “c” and form from the ceiling down. Stalagmites have a “g” and form from the ground up. When they join, they’re called a column.

Something I don’t recall learning in that science class long ago, but have learned since our recent visit to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, is that stalactites form from slow drips of calcium infused water and stalagmites from more rapid drips. I guess that makes sense when one thinks about it.

My feature photo is from a place in The Big Room called Mirror Lake. The sign is cleverly written in mirror reverse so that its reflection in the water reads correctly.

Photo Note: I’ve read that caves are challenging subjects for even professional photographers, so being a hobby photographer, I don’t feel quite so bad about some of my photos from this cavern. Although it’s perfect for naked-eye viewing, the electric lighting of the formations in The Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns is often either too harsh or too dim for photography, and for some reason, enabling a camera flash makes it worse. I used the night mode on my phone camera for most of my photos and was quite satisfied with those. For my feature photo, I must have either turned on the flash or another photographer used a flash at the same time that I was shooting. I took the photo into Snapseed to try to correct the overexposure of the stalactites, but was unable to get a good result. Another problem with this photo is that I had set my focus on the wrong spot for the water reflection of the Mirror Lake sign. If I had set it directly on the reflection, it would have been readable.

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”

George Eastman