Waterfalls at Mid-Day?

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Ideal Waterfall Light.

If you’d ask me to describe my ideal weather and lighting conditions for photographing waterfalls I would tell you that I hope for an overcast day and with any luck a slight drizzle. I would also tell you that it is definitely not during the middle of the day under harsh sunlight.

If I can’t have the even light of an overcast day, or at the very least the waterfall is in full shade, I wouldn’t even try to photograph flowing water.

And yet I was working under the harsh light of the mid-day sun when I made the above photograph of Jackson Falls in Jackson, NH.

Even Is Even.

Last weekend I was out with a workshop client and during a break we stopped to check out this beautiful road side waterfall. I was certainly not thinking it was going to be at all photographable since it was 2 in the afternoon. As we admired the flow I started to notice something about the light. It occurred to me that the waterfall was indeed illuminated by even light. It wasn’t the beautifully soft light of an overcast day, but it was even light nonetheless. So to satisfy my own curiosity I set up my Fujifilm X-T2 with XF16mm f/1.4 lens. Knowing I was going to need help getting a long enough exposure time to blur the water I attached my Formatt-Hitech Firecrest filter holder to the lens and inserted a 10-stop neutral density filter. As I was setting up my composition I set the aperture to f/16 and the ISO to 200. Much to my surprise with the 10-stop ND filter I found I was indeed able to get a long enough exposure, to the tune of 26 second! After I took my first shot I knew I was on to something.

Lesson learned.

I’d still prefer to photograph waterfalls when its overcast and rainy out, but at least now I don’t automatically put the camera away when it’s not.

 

Waterfall Photography Workshop #1


As we welcome spring I’d like to announce the first of several waterfall photography workshops I’ll be leading throughout this spring and into early summer.

From the afternoon of Friday May 19th thru Sunday evening May 21st I’ll be taking a limited number of participants to some of my favorite waterfalls located throughout the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Each day we’ll start off bright and early photographing at least 2 waterfalls each morning. Following the mornings outing we’ll take a mid day break for lunch and some image review.

If time allows during the mid day break we will also go over some post processing tips to ensure your finished images are works of photographic art you’ll be proud to show off.

Then in the afternoon we’ll head back out for some more flowing water action.

What’s Included. 

Guiding to some of the most spectacular waterfalls New Hampshire has to offer.

Instruction and tips on composing your waterfall images as well as camera settings to help achieve the silky ethereal look of the flowing water sought after by most waterfalls enthusiasts.

Image review and post processing tips using Lightroom and the Nik Collection of creative plugins(available for free HERE).

What’s Not. 

Meals and lodging.

Transportation to and from the North Conway, NH area.

What To Expect, What To Bring. 

The workshop will take place rain or shine, with overcast drizzling weather my preferred weather for photographing waterfalls due to the nice even lighting that will make achieving good exposures a breeze. With that in mind, keep your fingers crossed for cloudy days!

All the waterfalls we’ll visit will require some walking and light to moderate hiking, so comfortable and supportive shoes with good traction are recommended.

Bring several layers, including a rain jacket, as the weather conditions can vary greatly in the mountains.

Recommended Gear List. 

Camera and wide-angle zoom lens.

Circular polarizer.

Tripod.

Lens cloth.

Spare batteries and memory cards.

Investment – $750 (payable via check or PayPal invoice) 

A $150 deposit is required to reserve your spot with the balance due at least 30 days prior to the first day of the workshop.

Space on this workshop is limited. By limiting attendance to a small number of participants I’m able to provide the maximum amount of individual attention. 

CONTACT me should you have further questions or to reserve your spot. 

DISCLAIMER:  Workshops are held rain or shine with no refunds given due to inclement weather. However should the weather be severe enough to warrant cancellation full credit will be given towards a future workshop. Credit based on amount of time lost due to weather. Loss of at least one full shooting day required to receive credit. 

CANCELATION POLICY: Cancellations made more than 30 days prior to the scheduled start date receive a full refund less a $50 cancellation fee. Cancellations made less than 30 days prior to the start date will receive no refund unless the space can be filled. 

I do realize that sometimes life gets in the way, so should a last minute cancellation be necessary on your part you’re not out of luck. Your workshop fee(less the $50 cancellation fee) may be applied to a future workshop. 

The (Fujifilm) X-Files

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Gray barn with red door, overlooking mount Chocorua, New Hampshire winter scenery

Velvia

Sorry folks, no Mulder and Sculley here, the X-Files I’m going to be talking about have nothing to do with aliens or government conspiracies. These X-Files are the gorgeous straight out of camera jpeg files I get from my Fujifilm X-Series camera, the 24mp X-T2. 

Anybody who’s considered purchasing one of Fujifilm’s outstanding X-Series cameras has no doubt heard about the quality of the in camera jpegs. As an avowed (former?)RAW shooter, to say I was skeptical would be an understatement. I just couldn’t believe that a straight out of camera(sooc) jpeg could possibly match a processed RAW file. 

How wrong I was!

Dark shadowy stairway in an old brick mill building.

Acros

The straight out of camera jpegs, especially when utilizing Fuji’s film simulations, are fantastic and have greatly reduced my post processing time because I’m getting finished images when I press the shutter, no further post processing required. 

My personal favorite film simulations are Acros, for outstanding black and whites, Velvia, for rich landscapes, and Classic Chrome, which gives me a cool retro look to the image. 

Am I really done with RAW?

 
Not quite yet, at least not when it comes to commercial work. But I’m close. For critical work I’ll still shoot in RAW+jpeg so I have the RAW file as backup just in case extensive editing is needed for highlight recovery or white balance adjustments. Still, since making the switch from Canon to Fuji 80-90% of the images I’ve shared on my fan page have been the jpegs and not processed RAW files. 

Smiley face graffiti in wooden frame on a brick wall

Classic Chrome

WYSIWYG. 

Two additional features of the X-T2 that help make the jpegs so good right out of the camera is the live histogram displayed both in the electronic viewfinder (EVF), and on the LCD on the back of the camera. This takes the guesswork out of setting exposure since you can easily see how adjustments to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are affecting exposure. 

The next feature is the ability to set the camera to display the effect your chosen film simulation has on the final image before you press the shutter. Looking through the viewfinder is truly a, What You See Is What You Get moment. 

So that’s it, a few of the many reasons I’m loving my new Fujifilm camera and the X-Files it produces. 

Water Wet

H2O

For this week the Weekly Photo Challenge theme is good old H2O. As a landscape photographer water is the prevailing theme in many of my photographs. When looking through my photos trying to decide which photos to include in this post it appears that roughly three quarters of my photos contain water in one form or another.

Here are a few wet examples, followed by a few tips for making your own watery photos.

 

Tips for photographing the wet stuff.

1 ~ First and foremost, use a good quality circular polarizing filter, or CPL. If you only ever buy one filter make sure the CPL is it. It’s the one filter that cannot be duplicated digitally. They’re great for reducing or eliminating unwanted glare and reflections from wet rocks, leaves, and the surface of the water, thus allowing you to see through the surface of the water to what’s on the bottom.

2 ~ Don’t be afraid of a little rain. Most camera, whether they are listed as “weather sealed” or not are quite capable of withstanding a sprinkle or two. I always carry a small pack towel in my camera bag on the days I venture out when theres wain in the forecast.

Speaking of towels, dab don’t wipe the water off of your camera. Wiping could force the water into places that won’t make the camera happy.

3 ~ If it’s raining out use a lens hood to help keep raindrops from landing on the front element of your lens. Even when using a lens hood you should check the front element often and carry a clean microfiber lens cloth to wipe away any raindrops.

4 ~ When photographing water in its frozen form be sure to acclimate your camera slowly when you bring it inside after being out in the cold. The condensation that can form on, even worse in your camera again won’t make your camera very happy. I use two methods to deal with this. One is to put your camera in a large ziplock bag. Force as much air as possible out of the bag before sealing it. This way condensation will form on the outside of the bag, not your camera. The second is to simply put your camera in your camera bag and close it up, this is the method I use most. The padding on the camera bags act as insulation allowing the camera to slowly acclimate. Of course take your memory card out before hand so you do’t have to wait to upload your masterpieces.

Note: Tip #4 also applies to taking your camera from an air conditioned space out into hot humid weather.

Fantastic Fall Foliage Workshops

 

Capture Autumn In New Hampshire.

Due to last years overwhelming demand I will be leading two Fall Foliage Workshops this year in the beautiful picturesque White Mountains of New Hampshire, home of some of the most spectacular scenery and “leaf peeping” to be found anywhere.

Dates.

This year the workshops will be held the weekend of September 30th – October 2nd and again the following weekend, October 7th – 9th.

What’s In Store.

During each of these 2+ day workshops we will travel the White Mountains and north country of New Hampshire in search of the best fall color and scenic views. From waterfalls bordered by the reds, yellows, and golds of a New Hampshire autumn, to scenic mountain vistas overlooking remote mountain ponds, you’re sure to come away with many colorful autumn images.

Friday evening there is a short meet and greet and if time allows we’ll get out and get some photos! But not too late as we will have two very full days of photography ahead of us on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday morning we will start out before sunrise in order to capture the best morning light. After each mornings shoot we will return to the White Mountain Hostel were we will have an image review and post processing session, going over the mornings photos. After the image review session there will be a couple of hour mid day break to relax, recharge, and get a bite to eat. Then we will meet at the prescribed time for the afternoon/evenings shoot.

After a good nights rest, we will do it all over again on Sunday.

What’s Included.

Transportation throughout the White Mountain area for the duration of the workshop, where I will take you to some of the most popular, with good reason, White Mountain locations, as well as many off the beaten path “secret” places.

Tips, tricks, and techniques for capturing beautiful fall foliage images. Workshops are kept small with no more than 3 participants so I’m able to provide the best and most personal instruction possible.

Daily post-processing/image review session.

What’s Not.

Transportation to the North Conway, NH area.

Meals and lodging. For lodging I highly recommend the White Mountain Hostel in Conway for its clean rooms(several of them private), friendly staff, and extremely budget friendly rates. For those not interested in the “Hostel experience,” there are numerous lodging options in the North Conway area. I do recommend booking your lodging early as rooms fill up quickly, especially during the second workshop weekend which falls on the Columbus Day holiday weekend.

Your Investment.

The cost for these 2+ day workshops is $725.

For more information, cancellation policy, or to reserve your spot use the Contact Page.

Waterfall Wednesday

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I love waterfalls!

Give me water cascading over rock ledges and I’m in photographer’s paradise. Over the last few weeks I’ve been spending as much time as I can scouting out and photographing waterfalls. All in preparation for my upcoming White Mountains Waterfalls Photography Workshop.

Do you like waterfalls?

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If so, join me June 17th thru the 19th for 2+ days of waterfall photography adventure and instruction.

Over the course of the weekend we’ll head out bright and early each morning to capture a few of New Hampshire’s most spectacular waterfalls, followed by a mid day break for image review, some post processing tips, lunch and some much needed rest.

Then, it’s back out to do it all over again for the afternoon and into the evening.

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Be prepared to get wet and make some great photos!

I’ll be going over how I decide on composition.

Using long exposure to give en ethereal look to the flowing cascade.

Camera settings that I guarantee will make your life easier.

During the post processing sessions I’ll be going over my workflow from import to final image using Adobe Lightroom and the full suit of Nik Collection by Google creative plugins.

Your investment for 2+ days of waterfall magic in some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable is $725*

Space is very limited so I may provide the utmost in personalized attention to each attendee. Please use the Contact form for any questions or to reserve your spot today!

*Meals and lodging not included. Transportation during the workshop is included.

 

And One Filter To Rule Them All

The One Filter You Can’t Live Without.

The Weekly Photo Challenge topic is Landscape, so rather than simply share a few landscape photos I’m going to talk about the one filter that should be in every nature and landscape photographers camera bag.

The one filter that cannot be duplicated in the computer, and the one filter I never leave home without.

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Straight out of camera, without polarizer.

 

That filter is the Circular Polarizer.

You can duplicate graduated neutral density filters all day long in Lightroom.

You can even simulate the effect of a straight neutral density filter simply by photographing in lower light, using smaller apertures, or lower ISO settings, thus allowing you to get longer exposure times.

However when it comes to removing the glare on shiny reflective surfaces like wet rocks and leaves, or the reflections on the surface of a flowing stream to reveal the stream bed below, there is only one way to do it. And that is with a good quality Circular Polarizer filter, or CPL for short.

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Same scene and camera settings, this time using a polarizer.

What does a Circular Polarizer do?

A circular polarizer is a filter that attaches to the front of your lens, usually by screwing onto the front filter threads. (Now you know why those threads are there 😉 )

What does a CPL do?

Notice how in the first image the colors are much less saturated and the details below the waters surface are much less visible. The is cause by glare. Notice how in the second image, shot using the same exposure settings,* the colors are richer, more saturated, and there is more visible detail under the water.

While a CPL can also help increase contrast and saturation in a photo,  both of these can be duplicated in the computer, glare and reflection removal can’t.

*Note: The second image is darker due to the ability of the Circular Polarizer to reduce the amount of light by as much as 2-stops. This is an added benefit when trying to use longer exposure times to capture flowing water with that silky smooth look.

The Benefits Continue Into The Final Image.

The better the image you get straight out of the camera the better the final image will be after post processing. The following are the above two images, processed as identically as I could. While this is totally subjective on my part the second image, the one where the circular polarizer was used, is the better final image.

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Final enhanced image using the RAW file captured without the use of a CPL

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Final enhanced image using the RAW file captured using a CPL

Tips On Buying And Using A Circular Polarizer.

1 – Buy the best you can afford. 

Cheap CPL filters can cause image softness as well as impart a color cast on your photo. I’ve used CPLs from B+W, Lee, and Singh Ray with excellent results. Be forewarned, good filters are not inexpensive, though in my opinion you get what you pay for. For more budget friendly CPL filters, check out Tiffen, or Hoya. I have no experience with the latter two, but I have read good things about their line of filters.

2 – Avoid using a CPL when photographing wide scenes.

One thing polarizers do very well is darken blue sky. Too well if you over adjust the filter. BUT, and it’s a big but, the effect of a CPL is greatest at 90° to the light source, for a landscape photographer this is likely the sun. The effect is reduced more and more as the angle to the sun changes. This is a big problem when photographing wide scenic landscapes with a lot of sky. The result will be part of the sky will be noticeably darker when gradually fading across the frame. This is a royal pain in the backside – by that I mean darn near impossible –  to correct in the computer.

3 – Don’t for get to readjust when you recompose.

You can adjust the amount of polarization on the image by rotating the filter. As mentioned above the greatest effect is at 90° to the sun. So once you adjust the amount of polarization you want in an image and then move the camera for another composition, don’t forget to readjust the filter. I find it to be much easier to see the effect in live view rather than looking thru the viewfinder, but that could just be my aging eyes.

4 – You only need one.  

Some of you may be thinking, “I have more than one lens that I use for landscape/waterfalls. Do I need a filter for each lens?” The answer is no.

Buy a filter that will fit the lens you own with the largest diameter filter threads. The buy inexpensive step-down rings to fit the filter to all of your other lenses.