I apologize for some not-so-great pictures included in this post — they were taken with an old, low-ish resolution, waterproof point and shoot camera that I borrowed for our trip. I made sure that the lens was dry before using it but it didn’t handle glare from the sun very well. Had I been aware of that I would have shaded the lens whenever I shot into the sun.
Should you ever happen to visit the Hawaiian island of Kauai I highly recommend taking a kayak trip up the Wailua River to Secret Falls (some call it Sacred Falls). Actually, you have to kayak AND hike but it’s well worth it. The kayak part is roughly 2 miles each way if memory serves me correctly and the hike is a pretty easy 3/4 of a mile. Overall the trip takes 4-5 hours. We used Ali’i Kayaks and our guide was TC. He was great. There was the usual tour guide humor but also a lot of interesting information. He answered all sorts of random questions from us as we hiked.
The outfitter provided dry bags for each couple (just happened to be all couples in our group) in which we could pack a lunch to be eaten at the falls and whatever else we wanted. I packed my Canon 5D Mkii in a dry bag that I brought, then put that inside the other dry bag. I didn’t know what to expect at the falls but decided to pack the DSLR. I did not pack the tripod. After some quick paddling instruction from the guide — several of our group had never been on a kayak before — we paddled upstream. Along the way we viewed several movie filming locations but the only two I remember are one where Indiana Jones was running from the natives through the jungle and a village which was used to film the African village scene in the movie Outbreak. We beached the kayaks, hiked to the falls, and hung out for nearly an hour to eat lunch, wade (people like me) or swim if you were crazy (my wife and sister-in-law) as the water was freezing. I got someone to take our picture…from the instruction I had to give I wonder if he’d ever used a camera 🙂 The shot below doesn’t give a sense of how tall the falls are given the wide-angle lens used.
Although it was an overcast morning when I was photographing these rapids, an HDR was necessary to capture the whole dynamic range of the scene. Of course an overcast sky is easy to blow out but you’ll find that whitewater reflects so much light that it’s often completely blown out also. Or, if you’re letting your camera choose your exposure and your subject is anything other than the whitewater, your subject will likely be way underexposed. There are still a few tiny portions of my image which are blown out but it wasn’t my goal to prevent that — it was just to present the image in a way which more represented what the eye could see as opposed to what the camera could capture in a single frame.
Note that this image was shot at ISO 320. There’s nothing magical about 320 per se but when you’re shooting fast-moving water, you’ll find a certain shutter speed which gives the “look” you want. If you’re shutter speed is too long, the water is simply a blur. If it’s too short, you lose some sense of the motion. Of course freezing motion or completely blurred water may very well be the “look” you want but in this case I wanted somewhere in the middle. I chose f/11 as my aperture because it’s in the sweet spot of the lens yet gives reasonable depth of field when the focus distance is relatively long. With the aperture fixed, ISO became my main lever for setting the range of shutter speeds I’d capture in my brackets. I shot brackets from ISO 100 up to 1600 and chose this ISO 320 value for the final image based on how the water looked. This allowed me to keep some detail in the water such as what you see in the water pouring over the smallish rock outcropping near the center of the image.
I shot this on a hike in Montana this summer. Initially I just thought it would make a nice shot with a blurred background — usual stuff. However, when I started shooting it I realized that no matter what I focused on within this “flower” it still appeared out of focus somewhat. There’s so much going on in there that the shallow depth of field blurs out the rest. I kind of like how it sort of has a focal point, yet sort of doesn’t.
Just for grins, another shot from the hike: