Waterfall Wednesday

Time With Garwin Falls

It Depends. 

One of the questions I’m most often asked when it comes to photographing waterfalls is what camera settings I use, particularly what shutter speed.

And my answer is always the same, “It depends.”

It depends ~ On the look I’m going for. If I’m trying to capture the shapes and swirls created by bubble caught in an eddy, I know I’ll need a longer exposure time. The image above required 8 seconds to achieve the look I was after.

It depends ~ On how fast the water is flowing. The stronger the flow the shorter the shutter speed required to capture the silky smooth look on the water.

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A few weeks ago Mossy Glen was flowing very quickly due to recent spring rains, therefor I only needed a half second exposure time when making the above photo.

It depends ~  On the amount of ambient light you’re working with. This next photo, of Middle Ammonoosuc Falls in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, was made well after the sun had gone down. It was getting quite dark in the deep gorge the falls flows through so I knew I was going to need a very long exposure. The exposure time on this photo is 180 seconds.

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So as you can see there is no one set rule I follow when deciding on what shutter speed. Generally speaking I do try for at least half a second, but if the light is right or I really want to capture bubbles or leaves swirling on the currents I’ll experiment until I’ve captured the look I want.

Want Great Sunrise Photos? Get Up Early!

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The glow on the horizon starts to take over the blue hour.

Rookie mistake #1 when photographing sunrises – show up just before the sun rises.

When you should have been there at least 30 minutes earlier.

While out photographing a sunrise I almost always have the place to myself. That is right up until just a few minutes prior to the sun peeking over the horizon. That’s when other photographers start showing up.

Sadly for them quite often they’ve already missed the best part of sunrise.

Fire Over The Ridge. Sunrise In Crawford Notch, NH

The sky is on fire, 23 minutes before sunrise.

With the technology we have available as photographers today there are easily dozens, if not hundreds of sources to find out what time sunrise is. From smartphone apps to a quick Google search an aspiring sunrise photographer can easily find out what time that big fiery ball in the sky will be making its daily appearance.

What none of these apps will tell you is that by showing up right at sunrise, or even just a few minutes before, may very well cost you the best light of the morning.

Which is why I always recommend showing up 30-45 minutes prior to sunrise,  the best light is often long before actual sunrise(each of the above photos was taken at least 20 minutes before).

No more running around while the light is fading.

Reason number two for showing up early is choosing compositions. By showing up early you then have plenty of time to chose your composition, or possibly multiple compositions. Light changes fast, if you know ahead of time exactly which compositions you would like to capture you can capture each one quickly because you’ve done a little scouting having arrived with plenty of time before the sun comes up. If on the other hand you show up right as the light is at its best, or the sun is just peeking over the horizon you then end up rushing around and having to settle on a composition that may not be the best one on that particular day.

The photo below illustrates this point. Nubble Light is one of themes photographed lighthouses in the U.S., therefor I like to try for something a little different each time I photograph it. By arriving at the parking lot 45 minutes before the sun came up I was able to wander around the rocks until I found just the composition and point of view I wanted. Had I shown up just as the sun rose above the horizon I would have had considerably less time to chose my composition and then set up my camera and tripod.

Sunrise and Rough Seas at Nubble Light

The composition I wanted, not the one I had to settle for. 

While the early bird is out catching their worms, the early photographers are capturing the best light.

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.

 

HAPPY EARTH DAY

Take care of her…

 

                       …She’s the only one we have.

 

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.

 

Chasing Vibrant Sky

Walk To The Sun

In landscape photography no matter how beautiful the scenery being photographed, having a dramatic and vibrant sky can be the difference between a so-so and a So Good! photograph.

Forget about clear skies.

For the most dramatic skies with the most vibrant colors you need clouds. Not just a few little wisps of clouds either, you need enough clouds in the sky to capture the fiery light of the rising sun.

The down side to chasing vibrant, dramatic skies like in these photos is quite often I come away with nothing.

Let me explain.

When chasing vibrant sky I pay close attention to the weather and incoming/outgoing weather fronts. Living on the east coast of the U.S. I look for passing storm fronts that are moving out over the ocean around sunrise, my hope being that the sun, or at least some of its glowing light, will reach the distant horizon before the leading edge of the storm does. If all goes as I hope I may come away with photos filled with beautiful scenery and vibrant fiery sky.

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All doesn’t always go as planned though. In fact I would have to say that I have lost my gamble with the weather more often than I have won. Sometimes the clouds beat the sun to the horizon, dashing any hopes of a colorfully vibrant sky, and the times the forecast is wrong and the clouds or storm passes leaving me with clear blue, and rather boring to my taste, sky.

However when I do get lucky and win, I often win big with skies like the ones seen in the accompanying images.

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Tips and tools for capturing your own vibrant sky.

1 – Get an alarm clock and use it! You’re going to need to get out of bed early, very early depending on how far you are from your chosen destination. I plan to be on location at least 30 minutes prior to actual sunrise. Some of the most dramatic light you’ll capture happens well before the sun actually peeks over the horizon, and there’s nothing worse than watching that glorious color materialize, and subsequently disappear, while you’re still in your car.

2 – Be set up and ready. Weather fronts can pass quickly giving you a very small window of opportunity to capture what can often be fleeting. Sometimes you may have 5-10 minutes or more of the most spectacular sky you’ve ever seen. Other times you’ll be lucky if it lasts 2. If you’re still fumbling around setting up your camera and tripod it could be over before you’re ready.

3 – Filters are your friend. There is likely to be quite a bit of contrast between the brightness of the sky and the brightness of the foreground. There are two ways to deal with this. One is to take multiple photos with one exposed for the sky and one exposed for the foreground then blending them in Photoshop. The other, and my preferred method is the use of graduated neutral density filters (GNDs) while in the field. My two favorite, both from Singh-Ray, are a 3-stop soft edge GND and a Daryl Benson 3-stop reverse GND. Of those two the reverse GND gets the most use because I photograph seascapes so often.

With GND filters you can more closely balance the exposure across the scene which in turn lessens the amount of post processing time per image. Basically, the more right you get in camera the less fixing and fiddling you need to do in the computer.

If you’d like to see more Vibrant, click HERE to see what everyone else is doing for the Weekly Photo Challenge.