Taking pictures of flowing water is always fun but it requires a bit of experimentation. Of course the definition of a “good” result is completely subjective — Do you want to completely lose the definition of the water? Completely blow out the water’s highlights? Freeze the motion or splashing of the water? All of those things are cool at times. My objective in these pictures was to open the shutter long enough to show the motion of the water yet keep some definition in some of the individual streams/strands of water as it flowed over the features of the water park (i.e. not turning all the water into a plain white blur).
There’s no one method to use when doing this. My ideal aperture would be something around f/11 to be in the sharp range of the typical lens and have reasonable DOF. However, I don’t own a neutral density filter so I sometimes have to stop down to be able to open the shutter as long as I’d like (I used f/16 in these photos, f/22 in some of the others I took). Sometimes I’ll use my circular polarizer (gets me 1.5 to 2 stops). I pick a shutter speed next — via experimentation to get the definition (or lack of) that I’d like in the water. ISO is ideally 100 but I’ll vary that as necessary. Then I play around with all three exposure variables until I get “good” results, the definition of which varies from outing-to-outing.
Composition options were endless in this park, but rather tricky. Unless I was zoomed in very tight on a feature, the angles were such that something always looked out of whack. When one feature was nicely framed, something else was awkwardly framed. It made it rather interesting…
Post-processing was simple Lightroom tweaking.
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.
I made another dark o’clock airport run last week and brought the camera along to catch the sunrise blue hour on my way into the office. There were no clouds in the sky (boring) so I decided to swing by the Texas Capitol to take some shots of it against the colors of the sky. It turned out to be a gray hour rather than blue — no color at all so I was about to bag it completely. However, I did notice the reflections in this fountain at the corner of Congress and Cesar Chavez and stopped for some pictures. The above image was taken on the NE corner of the intersection looking east down Cesar Chavez. As the traffic lights (and the traffic) changed it provided many variations in the colors and this was my favorite. Processing was a handful of curves adjustments mainly.
The image below was a 3-second exposure at the same fountain but on the other side of the wall where the water cascades down into the courtyard. Processing was done in Lightroom — so minor that I really don’t even remember what I did 🙂
In truth, this fountain has endless photographic possibilities both as a subject and as a background. I’m sure I’ll be back some day.
Desperate to do *something* photography-related I was going through some old bracketed exposures. I had the thought of looking through old exposures after reading Mike Criswell’s (aka Theaterwiz) blog (see this post: http://theaterwiz.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/rust-never-sleeps/).
I came across some brackets for this man-made waterfall I shot in TN a long time back and decided to do a little processing to see what look I could bring out in the rocks. I noticed that the center exposure was nearly a perfect exposure in the sense that almost nothing was blown out or unexposed. I decided to try tonemapping two versions — one using the two lighter exposures and one using all three exposures. After tonemapping each with the same settings, I processed them exactly the same way: blended the tonemapped layer with Topaz adjusted version of that layer at 50% opacity, added a saturation adjustment layer with +6 for the saturation, and a slight s-curve adjustment layer.
It’s very subtle and you may not really even be able to see much difference here on the blog, but the image using only two exposures has better color and contrast. The part of the image where the waterfall hits the rocks is more pleasing as well. Now, I could easily process the “poorer” image further and make it look almost exactly like the two-exposure version — mask in original exposures to get the water looking how I want and adjust color and contrast. However, no need for that if I start by tonemapping only the exposures which provide useful information. That turned out to be two exposures for this image — maybe I should call it MDR for “medium dynamic range”. Here’s the 3-exposure version. I don’t think you’ll see the difference on the blog but included it anyway for those of you with a discerning eye.
One might point out that possibly I didn’t choose a good center point to start with but in this case a brighter exposure wouldn’t have been useful either as I really don’t want to bring out any more details in the shadows. It was an overcast day and, if it weren’t for the brightness of some of the water, a single exposure would have done the trick.
Anyway, I thought this quick experiment mildly interesting and thought I’d share it. I was going to make a fancy split image thing for you compare side-by-side but it just isn’t dramatic enough to make the effort 🙂
Located west of Austin, TX (about 20 miles from downtown as the crow flies), Hamilton Pool is a favorite swimming hole for many Austin-area residents. It’s formed at the point where Hamilton Creek pours over a 50 foot waterfall into an incredible grotto.
Jim Nix (http://www.nomadicpursuits.com) invited me to go shoot at the pool this weekend. I’ve lived in Austin for 19 years, 9months, and some-odd days and I had never been to Hamilton Pool. Because of this fact (and of course because Jim’s a great guy) I took him up on the invite and had a great time going after some images. Got a bit of exercise too.
You can see Jim in the photo below. I saw him standing near the falls and I plopped down my tripod right where I was to capture an image which included him. I had seen incredible images of this pool but they didn’t have anything as a reference point to convey the true size. Including a person in the frame gives the viewer a real sense of how big this grotto is.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 18mm f/14, 1/2s, ISO 100
On the drive out the skies were looking promising for HDR (lots of texture) but by the time we were there and set up they seemed to have turned almost to plain, gray overcast. I didn’t end up with decent skies in any of the shots I’ve processed at so far.
I’m not super happy with any of the images so far but they’re good enough for me to at least enjoy them. I was on a semi-strict timeline that day but I came away with some angles I’d like to explore further on my next visit. My hope is to visit again on a *partly* sunny day (want some awesome clouds to include in the shots). I would also like to visit in the spring when there are some leaves on the (currently bare) trees.
Here’s another shot of Jim working on some compositions. The foreground is busy with all those branches but I still like the shot because of how the focal length compresses Jim and the falls in the frame.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 70mm f/20, 1/2s, ISO 100
And one more, a spot along the creek with some interesting water, trees, and reflections. I might have played with more angles here if it were not for my schedule.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 24mm f/13, 1/13s, ISO 100