photos by Ben Herndon

In Oregon, mountains rise into jagged peaks, lakes fill basins, rivers flow through valleys and canyons cut into cragged deserts to create a diverse topography. Photographer Ben Herndon, however, went deeper, maneuvering the nooks and crannies tucked into—and below—the terrain, hidden from view. Headlamps on and standup paddleboards in tow, Herndon found logistically challenging photographic wonders, signs of vandalism, sun beams cutting through humid chambers, deep blue waters and one angry spider in Oregon’s caves.

Note for the adventurous types: when exploring caves, always bring extra lights, batteries and layers. Avoid caving alone.