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.

 

Making Better Waterfall Photos

Precipitous Plunge

Everyone loves to photograph waterfalls, by clicking HERE, or on the image above, to learn four of my most used tips for making better waterfall photos.

Photography 101: Mystery

The Mysterious Path

Life is a path with a beginning and an end.
Around each bend in that path you’ll encounter mystery and choice.
Plan as you may, the journey you intend as you start down the path,
May be far different from the journey you finish.

Rails. Pondicherry NWR

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

A White Mountains State Of Mind.

When in search of “Grand,” I need look no further than the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

When It Rains, Get Out And Shoot!

Grand mountain vistas, spectacular Autumn color, and a beautiful mountain top sunset,

are what I wanted for my trip to the White Mountains to capture fall foliage images this past Sunday, but what I got was rain. Not a heavy rain, but on and off, mostly on, showers all day long. And when it wasn’t raining, there was always a steady drizzle. Not that I minded much, the color in norther New Hampshire was spectacular! And the overcast conditions really made the colors all the more vibrant and saturated. The colors were popping in the Whites, that’s for sure!

Vertical image looking from the base of Silver Cascade in Crawford Notch State Park, Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. Bright autumn foliage in red, yellow, and orange hues line both sides of this tall, narrow waterfall as it desends out of the mist.

Silver Cascade, Crawford Notch, NH.

(Arguably the most spectacular falls in the White Mountains that you can see from your car).

Stay home where it’s dry?

Not likely. With a tight schedule, and a short window of opportunity for the best fall color in White Mountains, I wasn’t about to let a little rain put a damper on my plans. I packed a few towels, several plastic bags of various sizes, and I headed north.

As soon as it became clear that the weather wasn’t going to cooperate, one word popped into my head, “Waterfalls!” New Hampshire’s White Mountains are loaded with waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. I haven’t photographed many of them, and none of them in Autumn, so if I couldn’t capture the mountain top sunset I had hoped for, then a few nice waterfalls surrounded by some spectacular Autumn color would have to do.

Panoramic image of Lower Falls on the Swift River, Kancamagus Highway, NH. Autumns vibrant colors line the far shore of the river, and upstream of the falls.

Lower Falls on the Swift River, Albany, NH. 

(Not quite peak color yet. In the summer, Lower Falls is a very popular swimming hole, and the rocks and water would be covered in people)

Vertical image from the base of Ripley Falls, a red maple leaf rests on a large granit boulder in the foreground

Ripley Falls, Hart’s Location, NH.

(This was my first visit to Ripley Falls, but unfortunately it was a short one. Since the rain was getting a little heavier, I took off my sweatshirt and grabbed my rain jacket. All day long I was constantly using a micro-fiber cloth to wipe rain drops off the front of my lens. I kept the cloth in the front pocket on my sweatshirt, guess where it stayed after the wardrobe change. I was only able to make three exposures before I lost the battle with rain drops on my lens. This was the only “keeper.” In an effort to keep the rain at bay, I held my hat over the lens, so of the three exposures I made, one had my fingers in it, and another had the bill of my hat, both deleted)

Vertical image of Rocky Gorge on the Swift River in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Vibrant fall foliage can be seen on the far bank above the gorge.  

“No Swimming.” Rocky Gorge, Swift River, Albany, NH.

(My favorite image from a wet day in the mountains, and my favorite so far of Rocky Gorge).

Tips for shooting in the rain.

Keep it dry, as much as possible anyway. Unless you have a weather sealed camera body and lenses, try to keep as much moisture from them as possible. While there are many commercially available rain covers on the market, I went the DIY route with large clear plastic bags to help keep the elements at bay. Though if it was only a light drizzle, I just kept a had towel with me to periodically wipe the camera down. I also took the camera out of whatever bag or “rain cover” it had been in and set it on a towel on the car seat while driving between locations, giving the camera a chance to dry out a bit.

Keep a micro-fiber cloth handy, and use it. Constantly check the front element of your lens for water droplets. There isn’t much worse than having to delete that “winner” shot because you didn’t notice the water drop on the lens.

Use a circular polarizer when shooting on rainy, foggy days. It will help remove the glare from wet foliage, and really make the colors pop.

Finally, if it isn’t already, get your gear insured. Adding it to your homeowners or renters insurance is pretty cheap, and takes some of the stress out of shooting in potentially camera killing conditions, knowing that should anything go wrong your gear is covered.

Focus on the intimate.

With even the lowest peaks in the White Mountains with their heads in the clouds, grand scenic images were all but impossible. A good idea is to focus on small portraits of the beautiful color before your eyes.

An intimate portrait of the gorgeous fall color to be seen in New Hampshire's White Mountains. A small stand of bright white birch trees among the vibrant red, yellow, orange, and remaining green, fall foliage.

Be careful, use your head, but most of all, don’t let a little rain keep you from that fall color. It’s only here for a very short time, enjoy it while you can.

 

This is also part of Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Challenge, the theme is Foliage. You can see more entries here.

Four Years In The Making: The Perfect Baxter Lake Sunrise.

Attempt Number One.

I love living on a lake, no surprise there. When I got my first camera, four years ago this month actually, one of the first things I knew I wanted to photograph was a sunrise over the lake. So one morning I grabbed my camera and tripod and went down to the beach closest to our house. There are a few boulders just a few feet from shore that I knew would be just the thing for that all important foreground element.

Being new to photography then, I figured all I needed to do was be there around sunrise, point my camera in the general direction of the rising sun, and wa-la, award-winning sunrise. Well it didn’t take long for that bubble to burst and realize that it takes just a bit more than that.

This is my first attempt, more of a “blue hour” photo than a true sunrise, but the clouds came in and this was as clear as it got.

It’s also pretty obvious, to me at least, that at this point in my journey to becoming a photographer I needed to learn a thing or two about composition as well.

Strike Two

My second effort didn’t turn out much better. If it wasn’t for the fisherman in the boat I’m not sure I would have kept the two images from this particular morning that have so far escaped the delete key. Not the most horrible photo I’ve ever made, but I don’t see any awards or sales orders in its future either. I do love the golden glow on the rippled surface of the lake though, so there is that going for it.

Jackpot!

Third time’s the charm. I was all set to head to the seacoast in the morning, but just didn’t feel like getting up early enough to make it for sunrise. So I settled one more time on the lake.

One of the biggest reservations I have about putting much effort in shooting this lake is the utter featurelessness (is that even a word?) of the far shoreline. It looks like someone took a giant pair of hedge trimmers and went nuts. Not a hill or mountain in sight, just a straight, flat treeline. I was going to need a great sky, along with my already chosen foreground element to make it work to my satisfaction.

Yesterday morning it happened! And I almost missed it, can you believe that? I got up at 5 a.m., stepped out on the deck, looked up, seeing mostly clouds I seriously considered going back to bed. Then, while having my coffee I looked through the trees toward the lake and saw the horizon to the east was open. Not much, but enough to make me grab my tripod and camera bag and make a fast walk to the closest of our beaches. Knowing that with only a sliver of open sky at the horizon, things could be spectacular, but they would happen fast and be over quickly, I didn’t waste any time getting to the water’s edge.

Mother nature did not disappoint, and the sky lit up just as I had hoped. It also came and went as quickly as I had anticipated, so I was glad I picked up the pace when I did. At best, I had 7-10 minutes of the most glorious sky I have yet to photograph over “our” lake. And the reflection on the surface of the lake, I’ll just let the photograph speak for itself…

Dramatic, firey, sunrise over Baxter Lake in Farmington, NH. The underglow from the rising sun give the cloud filled sky the appearance it is ablaze in purple, pink, and orange fire. All this drama is beautifully refelcted in the glass smooth water. In the lower left of the image, in water so shallow that the sandy bottom can be seen through the mirrored surface of the lake.

And to think I almost drove an hour to the coast…

Play to your strengths.

Mt Chocorua Over Chocorua Lake Panorama, Fall

Seen from the bridge between Chocorua Lake and Little Lake in Tamworth, NH, Mt Chocorua shows off its fall color. Bathed in early morning light, dramatic clouds cover the peak in this scenic New Hampshire vista.

Photographs like the above panorama of Mt Chocorua don’t come easy to me. You won’t find many on my website, and there are precious few on my hard drive awaiting their turn to be let loose on the world. I used to beat myself up over my inability to create more of these types of images, but not any more. That’s not to say I’ve given up on them, I’ve just come to realize my strengths as a photographer lie elsewhere. I also know that there are several reasons I haven’t made more photographs like the one above.

Familiarity with an area I think is key to being able to make good, compelling photographs. Just showing up on your first visit can allow you to come away with good images, no doubt, but I feel “going in blind” is a hit or miss proposition. Having only started in photography in 2008, as a hunter my primary interest at that time was wildlife. For more than a year I spent my time chasing critters with my camera that I used to chase with a gun. Now that I find myself focusing more on nature and the landscape, I simply have not had the time to explore all the locations I would like to photograph. This will hopefully change over time.

The next, and I think the biggest, reason I don’t have too many of this type of image to share is that even when presented with the grand scenic view before me, I often have a hard time “seeing” the photograph. Sure I could take your typical “I was here” touristy snap-shot, but that isn’t what I want. And if I don’t see a composition that will make a compelling photograph, all I’m likely to come away with is that snap-shot. No offense to the touristy snap-shot crowd, but I’d just as soon not press the shutter.

Madison Cascades In Fall Color.

A visit to Madison Cascades, in Madison, NH was well worth the effort. The fall color and bright green moss on the stream side boulders accentuate the vibrant fall color in this scenic New Hampshire image.

However, photographs I like to refer to as “intimate landscapes” I find much easier to create. I can walk by a scene like the one above and compose a photograph almost without effort. Even at a distance as I approach, the image will often just jump right out at me. I know exactly where I’m going to set up my tripod, portrait or landscape orientation, shoot from eye or ground level, it all comes in a flash. At the risk of over-inflating my skill as a photographer, it’s almost too easy.

One thing that helps make it easier to make photographs of these intimate landscapes is that there are little pockets of nature almost everywhere. Having to travel hours north and or spend the night in the wilderness, without the above mentioned familiarity, is totally unnecessary. Living in New Hampshire, every little road side stream, field, or patch of woods holds potential. Some of my best images were made in places that I drive by every day, requiring no more than an easy ten minute walk. Some have been made within sight of my car.

Tucker Brook Falls with Boulder, Milford, NH

Close up of a popular scenic New Hampshire waterfall, Tucker Brook Falls in Milford, NH

Sure, I still plan to pursue the grand scenic landscapes I would like to create, because not doing so seems lazy. But for the time being I plan to concentrate my efforts where my strengths lie.