Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Capturing reflections of foliage in a waterfall/cascade

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mark Schaefer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Lake Katrine, NY, just inside the Catskill Blue Line
    Posts
    1,301

    Capturing reflections of foliage in a waterfall/cascade

    I am opening this topic in the General Backcountry rather than the Photography forum as it may of interest to hikers in general. Although the features of a digital SLR would be very helpful in achieving this type of photo, the technique might be accomplished with some point and shoot cameras. All of my photos were shot with a Canon XTi digital SLR.

    The following was shot with a Canon 90mm tilt-shift lens with 2x Canon L teleconverter, f/8, 1/8 second ISO 100:


    The following was shot with a Canon 90mm tilt-shift lens with 2x Canon L teleconverter, f/11, 1/20 second, ISO 800:


    In order to achieve bright foliage reflections in a waterfall it is necessary to finely resolve a few conflicting photographic factors.

    Bright water reflections require bright sun, but bright sunlight is the enemy of most waterfall photos as it produces more contrast than can be effectively rendered in a photo. The bright sun will wash out the highlights and white water and block the details in the shadow areas, trees, and rocks surrounding the waterfall. In general most waterfall photos are best achieved on overcast days, but that solution will not help the objective at hand.

    The bright sun will also create a glare on many water surfaces. A polarizer filter can lessen the glare. However, in the process this filter will reduce the reflections on the water surface which defeats the objective. For the objective at hand a polarizer filter cannot be used.

    A solution is contained within the following basic guidelines:
    • Photograph on a sunny day for the brightest reflections.
    • Find a waterfall locale and time when the waterfall is in the open shade to minimize the glare of the sun.
    • Find an angle of view where there is bright, sun drenched foliage on the opposite side of the stream, directly opposite your vantage point so that the foliage reflects in the shaded, reflective water surfaces of the waterfall. Notice that slight changes in your vantage point may radically move the color reflections in the waterfall. Move around and try both high and low vantage points.
    • In general try to limit the amount of white water in the photo as white water does not reflect the foliage well. In general you will find that smaller cascades and sluiceways will be more reflective than tall waterfalls. Also telephoto lenses may be more useful than wide angle lenses to include the more reflective sections while excluding most of the whitewater.
    • It is often acceptable and interesting if small pinpoints of sunlight filter into your frame of view. Trees were shading the waterfall in my photos above. Small bits of sunlight did filter through the trees and provided some small interesting sparks in the photo.
    • The right time of day will vary greatly depending on the locale. It is a matter of when the waterfalls will fall into the shade, and when the reflected foliage will be sunlit. Some locales will have very narrow windows when the factors are correctly aligned. Others have wide expanses of time which remain optimal. Many waterfall locations do not work at any time of the day.
    • Use a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos with slow shutter speeds. This will allow you to obtain a pleasing motion blur in the water. Experiment with a variety of shutter speeds and amounts of motion blur. The amount of acceptable and pleasing blur is often a matter individual taste. Fast shutter speeds can freeze the motion of the water. The frozen look may appear a bit unnatural, but you find that look interesting.
    • The proper exposure can be tricky, and the camera may not select the best exposure. With a digital camera you can review the results in the LCD screen and adjust with over and under compensations as needed. You can further hone the exposure later on your computer, but you will want to get close to a good exposure in the field to avoid losing detail in the highlight and shadow areas of the photo.


    In any geographical region you should be able to find photo locations where all the factors align properly for good reflection photos. They tend to be few and far between, but they are well worth the effort to find. Once you find a workable location make notes about which time of the day is optimal.

    Visit the location in both high and low water conditions as they will produce very different photo opportunities. The following photo was shot at the same location as the photos above. It was shot after a day with 2.5 inches of rain produced a more than 2 foot torrent which deluged the small cascade. The photo was shot with a Canon 90mm tilt-shift lens with 2x Canon L teleconverter, f/8, 1/13 second ISO 100:


    I tend to use an expensive Canon tilt-lens for most of my waterfall reflection photos. The tilt feature allows me to achieve greater depth of field photographing relatively flat surfaces which are not parallel to the camera's sensor plane (camera back), and to achieve this without stopping the lens down to a small aperture. However, for most cascade and waterfall photos that is probably not a critical factor provided you stop the lens sufficiently to get the needed depth of field. To illustrate this I shot some photos with standard zoom lenses, and the results were quite acceptable. The following was shot with a Canon EF-S 18-55 zoom lens at 38mm, f/22, 1/6 second, ISO 800:


    The following was shot with a Canon EF 70-210 zoom lens at 105mm, f/22, 1/8 second, ISO 800:


    Although autumn foliage reflections may be the most colorful, reflections can be an interesting project in any season. The best time of day to photograph a particular location may vary significantly with the season. I have noticed that some sites which provide good autumn reflections do not work at all during midsummer because of the more northerly path of the sun.
    Last edited by Mark Schaefer; 10-29-2009 at 07:13 PM.
    “Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.” Henry Ford
    My Photos: http://community.webshots.com/user/CatskillHiker

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mark Schaefer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Lake Katrine, NY, just inside the Catskill Blue Line
    Posts
    1,301

    High Falls, NY

    Here is a brief description on the location of my photos. Those who live near the Catskills and Hudson Valley might find it a worthwhile location for a photo stop after hike. It is not far from the northern trailheads of the Mohonk Preserve.

    This site is in the hamlet of High Falls, NY at the northern end of the Shawangunk Ridge. It is in a small park maintained by Central Hudson, the local electric company at a hydroelectric site. It is just a short walk, less than 100 yards from the parking area.

    It is a photographic paradise for reflection photos. By a wide margin it is the best such site that I have found for waterfall reflection. It is possible to find photos as early as 4 hours before sunset as the stream begins to fall into the shadows. The photo opportunities expand as the entire stream falls into the shadows and as the light warms and intensifies until the sun sets. There are a variety of cascades and sluiceways over about 100 yards of the stream, and these vary considerably with the water level. The foliage is on a high bluff on the north side of the stream opposite the park. The high bluff aligns well with the side stream to produce reflections in the cascades near the southern bank of the stream from where you will be photographing.

    In general you would want the foliage on a high bluff for wide streams. For narrow streams it would be more optimal to have the reflecting foliage more at eye level.

    The location of my photos shown in this thread were taken at the center crosshair of this map. The parking area is just off NY Route 213, just east of the bridge over the Rondout Creek. A paved walkway (shown as a road on the map) descends from the parking area toward the stream. Leave the paved walkway just past the fenced mill ruins to walk through the flood plain to the cascades. From this point most of the other good photo locations are downstream as far as the small hydroelectric building at another waterfall.

    As of this late October date most of the trees are now bare, although the oak trees are still adding some color to the reflections. The maples and birches typically begin to turn in late September with peak foliage about mid October at this location.

    The following is an overview photo of this site taken near the end of day. Note the late afternoon shadows shading the stream, and the high bluff with sunlit trees which provided the color in the photos. The 25' "High Falls" is in the distance:


    Here are a few slide shows of my Rondout reflection photos from 2009, 2008, and 2007. Each album was shot over several days through each fall foliage season.
    Last edited by Mark Schaefer; 10-29-2009 at 07:16 PM.
    “Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.” Henry Ford
    My Photos: http://community.webshots.com/user/CatskillHiker

  3. #3
    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Верхоянский хребет
    Posts
    841
    Mark --

    These are wonderful photographs and a valuable primer for creating them.

    Thank you for this post!

    Clay

  4. #4
    Senior Member DougPaul's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Bedford, MA; Avatar: eggs anyone?
    Posts
    9,955
    Mark,

    Nice pics, thanks...

    Do you have any problems with autofocus on the moving water?


    Also, Mark and others have written on how to shoot waterfalls in "Shooting Waterfalls" http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthrea...ing+waterfalls (in the photography forum--you will have to join to view it).
    Doug
    Last edited by DougPaul; 10-29-2009 at 09:13 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member forestgnome's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    ..Madison, NH
    Posts
    2,630
    Thanks for such an educational post and the images are really pretty. Nice work.

    As I looked at the images I thought the color was produced by beeches. You mention oaks but it looks like beech colors, which I really like. Many areas of the NE are awash in their beautiful yellow and gold right now, mixed with the subtle reds of oaks. Saturday, in the rain, I hiked Rocky Branch Trail from Rt 16. The first mile is so luminous with the beeches it looks electrified. I wanted try photographing just such a scene but the rain was too heavy.

    happy trails

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mark Schaefer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Lake Katrine, NY, just inside the Catskill Blue Line
    Posts
    1,301
    Thanks for the comments.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougPaul View Post
    Do you have any problems with autofocus on the moving water?
    Occasionally my Canon XTi has trouble autofocusing on moving water, but in general the camera's autofocus is remarkably good with this subject matter. Only on a few shots have I had to use manual focus with standard zoom lenses.

    The Canon tilt-shift lenses are all manual focus. But even with these lenses the larger challenge is to set the tilt control optimally. Most of these scenes require very little tilt, but it takes quite a bit of trial & error and practice to learn how to effectively use the tilt feature.
    “Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.” Henry Ford
    My Photos: http://community.webshots.com/user/CatskillHiker

  7. #7
    Senior Member moonrock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Raleigh NC
    Posts
    158

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mark Schaefer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Lake Katrine, NY, just inside the Catskill Blue Line
    Posts
    1,301
    Quote Originally Posted by moonrock View Post
    Yes, and from the prior image in your gallery it appears that you had the same basic formula working. I assume this was the Roaring Brook Falls stream above the falls. I also noticed that you made it to the Giant's Nubble and Washbowl, a couple of favorite spots in the Adirondacks during fall foliage season -- especially for the view down upon the Washbowl from the Nubble which I see you also photographed.
    “Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.” Henry Ford
    My Photos: http://community.webshots.com/user/CatskillHiker

  9. #9
    Senior Member moonrock's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Raleigh NC
    Posts
    158
    Yes it was. Hiking higher up on Giant would have entailed traction aids.

    The views from Giant were a consolation prize for bailing on Armstrong (my intended "46") the day before, also due to ice.

    I use a Panasonic FZ-28 Ultrazoom. VERY portable, a nice 18X optical Leica and great saturation. But I miss f-stops 16 and 28, for those waterfall shots. I minimize exposure, put on a filter, set to shutter priority and hope for the best. Sometimes morning or evening light helps

    MR

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •