Longer Days Ahead.
The sun is rising earlier and setting later, a sure sign that Spring is on the way. With the onset of Spring my attention is inevitably drawn to waterfalls. One of the great things about living in the state of New Hampshire is the abundance of waterfalls that can be found around the state. Luckily, one usually doesn’t have to drive very far to find them either. Whether it’s a popular named waterfall in the White Mountains, one where you may have to wait your turn for the best shooting spots, or the little known unnamed falls scattered throughout the state. Large or small, they’re everywhere and Spring is the best time to photograph them.
The Etherial Flow.
Soft, silky, like cotton candy, however you describe it, that silky flowing appearance of the water, so common in waterfall images, requires a long exposure. I generally want at least a 1/2 second exposure, but 5, 8, even 10 seconds or more isn’t uncommon. Because of these long exposures, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need for your waterfall photography is a tripod. For capturing the flowing water while rendering the surrounding scenery as sharp, a good sturdy tripod isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. Besides camera and lens, my tripod is the one thing that never gets left behind. This goes for any of my landscape photography, not just waterfalls.
Controlling The Light.
A Circular Polarizing filter(CPL) is another must-have in my camera bag. Not only does it help remove the glare and reflection from the surface of the water, wet rocks, and leaves that may be in the photo, it also reduces the light coming through the lens by 1 1/2 to 2 stops. Reducing that light can help you achieve those longer exposures on brighter days. At times the light will still be too bright to allow a slow enough shutter speed even with a CPL in place. This is when a neutral density filter comes in handy. I carry a 4 stop square ND filter made by HiTech. This filter is designed to slip into a filter holder mounted on the front of my lens, but I often just hand-hold the filter in place. ND filters are available in several variations, both glass or resin slip in type, and round screw on style with as much as 10 stops of light stopping power. Becoming more and more popular are Variable Neutral Density filters, screw on filters that can be adjusted by rotating them to give from 2 to 8 stops of light reduction. As with most anything, you get what you pay for so buy the best you can afford. Another tip with screw on filters, buy a filter that fits your largest diameter lens and then buy step up rings to fit it to your lenses with smaller diameter filter threads. That way you don’t need to buy multiple expensive filters in different sizes to fit all of your lenses.
The Blinkies Are Your Friend.
While shooting waterfalls I always pay close attention to the histogram to help avoid blowing out the highlights. I also turn on the “Blinkies” the highlight alert warning that flashes in the image preview. Overexposed highlights will flash as black, and you want little if any in the photo. I say little because if you’re shooting in RAW, as you should be, a small amount of overexposure can be brought back with the highlight recovery slider in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, or other RAW converters.
The Weather At It’s Best.
Is not the best weather for waterfalls. The best time to photograph waterfalls is on grey overcast days. This will give you nice even lighting across the falls, enabling longer exposures, and more importantly, helping to reduce hot spots on some of the white water on the falls. Trying to get a decent exposure when part of the fall is in the shade and part in the sun will result in either a lot of blown highlights (there won’t be much detail in the flowing water, but it shouldn’t be a featureless bright white either), or a perfectly exposed waterfall surrounded by dark blocked up shadows. The nice even lighting of an overcast day makes getting good exposures almost easy.
(The image of Garwin Falls, above, is a perfect example of what can happen when part of the falls is in the sun. Because of this there are several spots in the white water of the falls that are much brighter than I’d prefer)
Adventures In Composition.
**Let me start by saying that safety should be your primary concern when around swift running water, especially during the height if Spring runoff, and on the slippery rocks along the riverbank.**
That being said, a willingness to get a little wet, maybe more than a little, can often be the difference between your images being “me-too” copies of every other photograph of that particular waterfall, and being truly unique photographs you can call your own. Always with an eye towards self-preservation, more often than not, I can be found standing, even kneeling, and occasionally sitting, in the water downstream of my chosen waterfall.
Be careful. Be sure to empty your pockets(this one is very important, your iPhone probably won’t enjoy a swim). Give it a try. You’ll dry off on the hike back to the car. Just remember, no photograph is worth risking your safety.
Odds And Ends.
Here are a few pieces of equipment that, while not necessities, can make your waterfall photo adventures easier and more enjoyable.
Remote Shutter Release. Sure you camera’s self timer will work, but a remote means you don’t have to wait for the timer to count down. (Yes I am that impatient).
Knee Pads. My knees aren’t getting any younger and kneeling on stream side rocks and stones doesn’t help. Available at any home improvement store for little money. Not just for waterfalls either, they’re always with me when there’s no snow on the ground. Your knees, and pant legs, will thank you.
Micro Fiber Lens Cloth. If like me you find yourself kneeling in the water below a waterfall you’ll also find yourself dealing with a water drop or two finding its way onto your lens. There is nothing worse than getting home to find that “Winner” image ruined by a water spot in the middle of the frame. Check your lens often, and gently wipe it off.
One of my favorite things to photograph…
…Is water, moving water in particular. And one key to getting the look I’m after in any moving water image is a long exposure. It’s that long exposure that gives the water that silky smooth, etherial look that many, myself included, find so appealing. To achieve that soft, silky look a long exposure is required. The most important step to take during these long exposures is to have the camera securely mounted on a sturdy tripod. Having the camera on a sturdy support during exposure makes sure the surrounding scenery is rendered sharp while the shutter is open for an extended period. Something virtually impossible to achieve while hand-holding the camera.
All of which brings me to the point of this post. Really Right Stuff, manufacture of machined aluminum art, that happens to do double duty as camera support equipment, is holding their 2013 Photo Contest. The theme of this contest is, as you may have guessed, WATER.
Below are the two images that will be submitted as my entries, both of which have graced the pages of my blog before. I have also included camera, lens, and exposure info, along with the Really Right Stuff equipment used. Click on either image to see it large!
Rocky Gorge, Swift River, White Mountains, NH.
Canon EOS 7D, Tamron 17-50 f2.8, ISO 100, f16 for 1.3 seconds.
RRS B7D-L Camera L Plate.
RRS BH-40 LR II Ball Head.
Tucker Brook, Milford, NH
Canon EOS 40D, Canon EF 17-40 f4L, ISO 100, f16 for 6 seconds.
RRS B40DL Camera L Plate
RRS BH-40 LR II Ball Head.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not asking for your votes, I simply hope those who’ve seen these before enjoy seeing them again, and those that haven’t, enjoy them for the first time. Also, I have absolutely no affiliation with Really Right Stuff, I just think they make some of the best camera support equipment on the market. They are true works of art and worth every penny!
The contest is open to Really Right Stuff customers, more information can be found HERE.
The third time’s the charm, right?
On a recent trip to Great Island Commons in New Castle, NH to photograph sunrise I came across this composition and knew the photo I wanted to make. The barnacle and seaweed covered rocks made a great foreground element, the points of rock on either side lead the way to Whaleback Lighthouse beyond made nice leading lines, the water is given a nice, ghostly appearance and the clouds convey their motion by the 30 second exposure. All I needed was the sun to make it over the horizon in time. The incoming weather front foiled my plans and the tiny hint of color silhouetting the lighthouse was the only “sunrise” I saw.
If at first you don’t succeed…
Attempt #2, foiled again!
Try, try again.
Attempt #3, I didn’t even try, but since I was there…
The black and white really expressed the mood and feel of the scene that day.
Sucker for punishment.
Did I mention it was very windy and very cold on all three attempts? Winter on the New Hampshire coast is a great place to photograph, as long as you don’t mind a little wind and cold. Of course I’m going to try again
File this post under persistence!
Normally, there is only one source of illumination that matters to me as a photographer. (Hint: Rises in the East, sets in the West).
Though occasionally I do rely on other, artificial, sources of illumination while making my photographs.
Cocheco Mill, Dover, NH.
“Night Glow” at the Pittsfield, NH Hot Air Balloon Rally
What a year!
2012 has been an unbelievable year. I’ve created more commissioned work for others, and more of my work is finding its way onto people’s walls. I also feel I’m continuing to learn and grow as a photographer. I’d like to share with you my favorite 12 images from the past year.
(For this weeks Weekly Photo Challenge theme: Surprise. The “surprise?” I can’t count, my favorite 12 of 2012 is actually 20! Enjoy!)
Didn’t see your favorite Jeff Sinon Photography image? Well then click HERE and cast your vote and you could you see it in the upcoming “Fan Favorites Of 2012,” AND you’re vote automatically enters you in a chance to win an 8″ x 12″ copy for your very own. Contest details and rules here
Camera Body: Canon EOS 1D Mk IIN
Lens: Canon 70-200 f4L non-IS
ISO 400, f11 @ 0.5 seconds.
Original capture date: Oct. 3, 2010
You have until January 5th, 2013 to cast your vote for your favorite JSP image of 2012. You can win print of it too! Details HERE.
Long before I ever picked up a camera, I was an avid fly fisherman, though I’m not sure “avid” even begins to describe my love of the art of casting a fly. Back when all I thought about was achieving a perfect, drag free drift, I spent as much time in the mountains chasing fish as I do now chasing sunrises.
There was something so peaceful and relaxing about casting a dry-fly to rising trout. And there is nothing like the satisfaction of catching a wary trout on a fly I’ve tied myself. Unfortunately fly fishing has taken a back-seat to photography the last few years.
The photos seen here were all created by request for someone who contacted me looking for fly fishing photos to give as a gift. Since I had no fly fishing images in my portfolio, I was eager to get right on it and create a series of images from which they could choose.
Little did I know that I would also be receiving a gift in the process. A gift in the form of a rekindled desire to cast a fly, to be on the water attempting to entice a fish into accepting a hand tied fly.
Having been so busy getting my photography off the ground, I hadn’t realized just how much I missed fly fishing until I started making these photos. The rods will not be so neglected this coming year.
Saving the best for last, if only because these were the ones chosen, these last two, both 20″ x 30″ (51cm x 76cm) canvas gallery wraps, are to be Christmas gifts for someone who will hopefully be very happy with what Santa brought them.
My New Years Resolution for the coming year, put the camera down more often, and pick up a fly rod.
See you on the river!
Canon EOS 1D Mk IIN
Canon 16-35 f2.8L
16mm, iso 100, 0.6 seconds @ f11
Buried treasure, hidden gems, forgotten images.
Beginning today, I’m starting a new weekly series titled, you guessed it, “Sunday’s Hidden Treasure.”
I love to make photographs, and I make a lot of them. That’s not to say I’m a “spray and pray, hope for the best” photographer. I am quite deliberate when I press the shutter. However, I am also big on experimentation, unconventional angles, compositions, when everyone else’s cameras are pointing up, mine will be pointing down, etc., so I shoot a lot.
Usually only one or two favorite photos from a day’s shoot catch my eye. I’ll then enhance them to my liking, to then be shared with the world. The other photos, many of them as good, for whatever reason go forgotten as I move on the next shoot.
This series is dedicated to those images that are overlooked. The “Hidden Treasure” buried deep, lost and forgotten, on my hard drive.
Without further delay, this weeks Hidden Treasure.
This weeks Hidden Treasure is an intimate portrait of Garwin Falls in Wilton, NH. Captured on 9/15/2012
(Click on image for a larger view)
Camera: Canon EOS 7D
Lens: Tamron 17-50 f2.8 with B+W CPL filter
Settings: 23mm, iso 100, 13 seconds@f8
Are there any Hidden Treasures waiting to be rediscovered on your hard drive?
Go on a treasure hunt, you may be surprised at what you might find. I’d love to see what you come up with.
Angle, Line, Architecture.
My first thoughts for this weeks theme, buildings, bridges, and other man-made structures. Not the usual focus of my photography, but from time to time I will include the man-made.
Enjoy this gallery of my take on geometry.
All Three Of Them.
- At night, even if I wasn’t trying to capture the movement of the water fountain, I’d need a long exposure for this scene due to the low light. That means tripod -
If you want consistently sharp, well composed photos, buy a tripod. I don’t care how advanced the image stabilization is in your camera or lens, nothing will aid you more in making sharper photographs than having your camera mounted securely on a good sturdy tripod.
As for how a tripod can aid in composition, for me it’s simple, it slows me down. Setting up the tripod gives me time to think about the composition possibilities before me, and not just stumbling upon a scene and then, “Ooh pretty, click, click, click.” off to the next spot. The slower I work, the more thought I put into the image, the better the results. Every time!
Not Just Another Accessory.
- I don’t care who you are, a 61 second exposure, like the one above taken in Acadia National Park, is pretty darn tough to do hand-held. The water and the clouds wouldn’t be the only thing soft silky if I attempted to hand hold this shot.-
Most people new to photography are giddy with excitement when they get their new camera. But the lowly tripod barely gets a second thought, if it gets any thought at all. They can’t wait to get out there and start taking pictures, but when their first sunset doesn’t come out nearly as sharp as it should, they wonder why.
As far as I’m concerned, a tripod is not an optional “accessory,” something to maybe buy later on, but an essential piece of gear for anyone interested in nature and landscape photography. For me a tripod is a must, not a maybe.
- Soft flowing water and sharp stream side forest, all because I used a tripod.-
I make a lot of photographs in situations where it would be impossible to get the shot I want without a tripod mounted camera. Think low light, and long exposures. If I’m trying to photograph a stream for instance, I want the silky look to the moving water that only a long exposure can give. But the boulders in the stream, and the trees along the stream bank need to be tack sharp, not just as blurry as the water.
A tripod allows the long, 2 to 30 second (often longer) exposures that I need to blur the moving water, while holding the camera perfectly still to capture the other elements of the scene in sharp detail.
Three Legs For Three Shots.
- The above image is a three shot HDR image processed in Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2 -
Another good reason to use a tripod is HDR photography. Basically, for those who have been living in a cave for the last few years, HDR or High Dynamic Range, is the blending of usually three, sometimes more, photographs, each exposed to capture detail in a different part of the scene, from shadows to highlights, to create one final image. In every instance I can think of, you want all the images to be perfectly aligned to get the best final image.
You Have Got To Be Joking, Right?
Now comes the painful part.
When it comes to purchasing a tripod you have three choices, cheap, light, and strong, you can have any two. I thought I was going to have a stroke when I started looking into purchasing my first “real” tripod. So, as many before me have done, I went cheap.
The aluminum tripod I first bought was dirt cheap, and light weight. The problem was that it was about as sturdy as a wet noodle with my Canon 40D and even a modestly sized lens mounted on it. My next tripod was, I thought, reasonably priced, and very sturdy, even with my largest lens, Canon’s 100-400L. But heavy, oh man was it heavy! Taking it on a long hike was no fun at all. After a few hikes, I knew this tripods days were numbered.
It was time break the bank and get a good tripod. After a LOT of research I decided on the Gitzo GT2541 Mountaineer. It’s light, sturdy, and strong, and it cost more than my first car, yikes!
At less than three pounds once I removed the center column, it was a joy to carry. An added bonus, since I do a lot of shooting in very cold weather, unlike aluminum, the carbon fiber legs didn’t suck the heat right out of my hands on even the coldest days. In fact, I can actually feel the tripod getting warmer in my hand, and not my hand getting colder. With my aluminum tripod, after a short time I could barely feel my fingers.
Things To Look For.
- Overcast day + flowing water = tripod is going to come in handy for the exposure time required for this shot -
There are several factors in deciding what tripod is right for you. First is load carrying capacity. The tripod needs to securely support your camera and the largest lens you plan to mount on it.
Second is weight. If you are only going to walk a few yards from your car, you may not need the lightest tripod you can get. This can also save you money, because a quality aluminum tripod is much less expensive than a carbon fiber one from the same manufacture. If you plan to do a lot of back country exploring, your back and shoulders will thank you for buying the lightest, and strongest, tripod you can afford.
Overall height and number of leg sections are also things to think about. It is recommended that the tripod holds the camera at eye level with the legs fully extended and center column down so you don’t have to hunch over to look through the viewfinder. Also, three leg sections are almost always more sturdy than four in a given support class of tripod.
Very good advice, that I chose to ignore. I never shoot at eye level, how boring is that, everyone shoots at eye level. I’m more likely to need knee pads than a taller tripod, so I chose four leg sections over three, for its shorter, more packable, collapsed length. Plus, since I’m usually shooting from less than conventional positions I almost never extend the fourth, and least stable leg sections anyway. My tripod fits my style of shooting perfectly.
Which brings me to price. There is no way to sugar coat it, buying a quality tripod from one of the major manufactures, like Gitzo, or Really Right Stuff, to name two, especially carbon fiber, is going to hurt, a lot! But when you factor the cost of all the cheap tripods you buy, before you get the one you should have bought in the first place, you will probably have spent almost half the price of a good one. Ask me, I’ll tell you all about it.
Three Legs, Three Final Answers.
Yes, a good tripod is a worthwhile investment. Yes, I never leave mine at home. And yes, I think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to have captured the photographs in this post without a tripod.
I usually don’t keep photos that I consider “wrong”. But after a little digging I found a few that I felt had some “wrongness” to them, but were otherwise worth saving.
Everything I wanted, and then some.
I broke one of the basic “rules” of photography while capturing the power of the Spring-time flows of the Mad River in Farmington, NH. Can you tell me what is “wrong” with this photo?
I’ll give you a hint. The last thing you should do when framing a shot, just before pressing the shutter. (You may want to click the image to enlarge it to see what’s wrong).
The color is all wrong.
The image below really showcases the power of the Swift River as it flows into Rocky Gorge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The off-color water caused by recent heavy rains didn’t appeal to me, so…
I thought, “if you don’t like the color, get rid of it all together.” A little time with Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, and all that I felt was “wrong” with this image was made right.
Since it’s my favorite color, of course I have photos that include it.
A Purple Fender
Purple In The Sky
Movement: The Camera.
In both of these images the camera was moved during exposure. One was completely accidental, the other was created completely on purpose.
Can you tell which was created on purpose, and which was the “accidental art”?
Movement: The Subject, part 1
Generally, when I think of movement in one of my photographs I think water. I am a fan of the soft and silky look that a long exposure gives moving water.
Here are a few examples.
Movement: The Subject, part 2
Next I think of wildlife. It would be nice if they just sat still and posed for the camera, but they don’t always cooperate.
there’s one in every group portrait that won’t sit still
this beaver thought searching for dinner was more important than having its picture taken.
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
- Ansel Adams
All the photos below were made, “created” if you will, not simply taken.
To me, taken implies I just showed up and happened to be pointing my camera in the right direction at the right time. Made however, conveys the effort that went into the creation of the photograph. From choosing the subject and composition, to the willingness to be on location at 3 in the morning or kneel in an icy mountain stream, all to capture the image you have envisioned.
Moments before sunrise from just below the summit of Mt. Washington, NH
As the sun peaks above the horizon, it sets the sky on fire. Mt Washington, NH
A foggy sunrise over New Hampshire’s granite coast. Rye, NH.
Early light over the salt marsh at Odiorne Point, Rye, NH (9 image pano)
My suggestion to you is to get out there and create!
Nature and nothing but, doesn’t always make the best image.
With few exceptions, I try to avoid anything man-made in my nature and landscape photographs. I want the natural beauty of the scene to be the star of the show, without the distraction of mans handy-work. Since I live in New England and man has had in impact on the land for a few hundred years now, that isn’t always easy to do. From old stone walls and dirt paths made by the earliest settlers, to the wooden boardwalk at some of New Hampshire’s many scenic tourist destinations, the presence of man’s impact on the landscape is clear. I have tried repeatedly to exclude these man-made objects from my images, to create as natural an image as possible, often with less than stellar results.
So I gave up trying, sometimes.
I went to Shannon Brook at The Castle In The Clouds in Moultonboro, NH, specifically to make this photograph for last weeks theme of “How do you get from point A to point B?” as part of the Lens Pro To Go 52 Week Photo Project. While I was setting up and taking a few test images I had what I call a “Eureka! moment.” I go to Shannon Brook and the Castle In The Clouds specifically for the waterfalls. But every time I go I do my very best to exclude the boardwalk and railings along the walkways to the falls. While sitting below the Falls Of Song, making this photo, it struck me like a slap to the head, take my feet out of the frame and you’ve got yourself a pretty darn good photo. Even if the boardwalk and railing can be seen in the background.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
My initial plan was to make my photo project photo and head right back home. Once I realized that I liked what I was seeing on my camera’s lcd, I decided to stick around a while. There are many other waterfalls on Shannon Brook, but the Falls Of Song is my favorite and I have tried repeatedly to photograph it well. It is also the hardest of the falls to photograph without showing any of the walkways and railings that were put in for both safety and easier access. Here are a few of the images where I decided to embrace the “Hand Of Man.”
While I still prefer my nature and landscape images to be “Au-Naturale,” when that isn’t possible I intend to explore compositions that include the man-made elements in the scene, making them something to work with in creating the composition, and not something to fight with and possibly come away with a less than successful photograph.
You know the old saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well I did just that after my last trip to the New Hampshire seacoast to photograph the sunrise.
My shooting partner that day was none other than Kris, The Wicked Dark chick herself. Based on the weather forecast, both of us had hoped for a sky full of dramatic clouds to give us a gorgeous, colorful sunrise just begging to be photographed. I should have known the morning wasn’t going to work out as planned when I couldn’t find the location I had spotted on my drive along the coast the previous day. Those of you with kids know how much of a challenge location scouting can be when they just want to get some lunch. So after our little detour, we ended up along the coast just south of Odiorne Point state park.
There we where we were greeted by the third guest to our little party, the fog. It was pretty obvious that we weren’t going to get the dramatic sunrise we had both dragged ourselves out of bed to capture, so it was time for some lemonade. The sun filtered through the fog combined with the smokey water created by the long exposure, made for a successful morning on the coast, and some tasty “lemonade”.