Madison County Nature Trail

So, I've been trying my best to chase fall color around for the past few weeks.  I think the best I found was this past weekend, near my house.  There is a very nice area near my house called The Madison County Nature Trail, or some call it The Green Mountain Nature Trail.  The colors there were amazing this past weekend!  Word spread quickly, though and I think every photographer in the area made the trek there.  There were tons of people and photographers when I showed up.  A lot of photographers doing family portraits and other families just enjoying the colors and nice weather.

Aperture-priority, 1/40 sec, f/8, ISO 800, 86 mm

I was there to photograph the colors, and boy were they there!  This little covered bridge is a popular spot in the park.  You will often encounter people having their portraits made around this bridge.  It also makes for a great reflection...especially with these colors.

A few things I like to do when photographing fall colors is to use a circular polarizer and under exposure just a touch.  Using a circular polarizer will not only remove any glare off of foliage but also enhance the colors a bit.  Also, under exposing the image by 1/3 - 2/3 stop will also help to make the colors pop a little more.  It's a good idea to check your histogram to make sure you aren't getting too dark, or losing a lot of shadow detail.  It also never hurts to find a good spot with a reflection!

This image was made using my Canon 5D IV and Tamron 28-300mm Lens.  My gear was supported by my Sirui Tripod and Ballhead.

Important, Overlooked Items For Waterfall Photography

Yesterday, I headed to Southern Tennessee to do some waterfall photography.  The places I went I had visited several times in the past, but these are also places that could never get old.

When I left the house it was steadily sprinkling rain and had been for several hours.  Perfect weather!  When I got out to start photographing, of course the rain got heavier.  However, I was prepared.

Aside from all of the critically important things, like a solid tripod and circular polarizing filter, there are several things that often get overlooked that can make you leave happier.  First, a lens cloth.  I took several yesterday, and needed them all.  Even if it isn't raining steadily, a lens cloth can be used to wipe water spots off the front of your filter.  I tend to create wide angle compositions and put my lens really close to a cascade.  I place this cascade in the foreground to anchor the image.  Even it is isn't raining, splash from the cascade finds it's way onto the front of my filter.  The lens cloth saves the day!  There isn't much worse than getting home and finding blobs all over your image.  Another important item is a shower cap.  Although keeping my hair looking stellar is of utmost importance, I am using the shower cap to keep my camera and lens dry.  It is cheap, and works remarkably well.  I have a weather sealed camera body and lens, but I still throw the shower cap on as added protection.  It's not a bad idea to have one even if it isn't raining, too.  It can keep those splashes off of the camera.  A good item to keep in the camera bag is a terry cloth.  Typically if I am putting my camera in the bag and it is even a little wet, I will wrap it in the terry cloth and let the cloth absorb any moisture.  I never "wipe" the camera.  This could force moisture into tiny cracks and crevasses.  The best method is the dab the areas, or just wrap it up and let the cloth do the work.  Silica Gel is another item I keep in the camera bag.  You know those little packets you get in packages that come with the "do not eat" warning.  Those are designed to absorb moisture.  They can be purchased cheap online, or you can just save them from any packages you receive.  I typically keep a few pouches in my camera bag at all times, but I especially make sure I have them in there if I am going to be shooting near water.  A few last things to consider are bath towels and a change of clothes.  These items can save you from a long, soaked, cold ride home.  

Here is one of the images I made yesterday at Short Springs Natural Area in Tullahoma, TN.  This is such a great area to visit if you are nearby and love photographing water.  

Aperture-priority, 6 sec, f/16, ISO 100

This image was made using my Canon 5D IV, Tamron 24-70 G2 Lens, Sirui Circular Polarizer and Sirui W-2204 Tripod.

Machine Falls

This past weekend I got the chance to meet up with a friend that was traveling from New York to Texas and show him a few waterfalls in Tennessee.

This turned out to be a much better trip than I had ever anticipated.  We've had so little rain here in the last several months I didn't really expect there to be much water anywhere.  The water level at our first waterfall, Rutledge Falls,  was OK.  It was definitely low, but it was still good.  Then we moved onto to one of my favorite falls, especially near my home, Machine Falls.  Machine Falls still had a pretty good amount of water, which made for great shooting.

I've been to and photographed Machine Falls more times than I can count.  It's always a bit of a challenge to come up with something different while I am there.  

Aperture Priority, F/16, ISO 100, 6 seconds

I tried a composition I have tried in the past, only this time I was able to do it with a very wide angle lens in the Tamron 15-30.  I basically climbed right up next to this lower fall and shoved the lens right in it's face.  Then I used a circular polarizer by Vu Filters to cut all the glare off the rocks and water.

Canon 5D III, Tamron 15-30, Vu Filters, Sirui W-2204 tripod and K-20 Ballhead

 

More Fall Color From Maine

I cannot even begin to tell you how great the fall colors were when we were in Maine for our workshop last month.  It was some of the most intense fall color I had seen in a very long time. I tried capturing it in many different creative ways.  One of those ways was to put one of the many birch trees in one half of the frame and have the fall color melt into the other half of the frame by using a shallow depth of field and a long lens.  I did this same technique for this image, but I changed the focus point to be the leaves just past the birch tree.  

Aperture Priority, F/5.6, 1/125th, ISO 800

For this image I used my Nikon D500 and Tamron 150-600 G2 Lens.  I had that setup mounted to my Sirui W-2204 tripod with K30X Ballhead.  I simply set my aperture to wide open, and being only 7 or 8 feet away from my subject, I was able to get a very shallow depth of field and isolate the leaves.

Variable ND Filter

Last Friday, on All Hallows's Eve, a friend and I went on an all day photo excursion which led us to Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, GA.

Although the forecast wasn't calling for it, the weather turned out to be perfect for waterfall shooting...it was really overcast and was even starting to spit rain a bit.  

Once we arrived I noticed the color in the canyon was off the charts good!  So we start walking the 6, 450, 000 stairs to the bottom (that's a rough estimate based on my heart rate coming back up) and we finally make it to the big waterfall, which I believe is Cherokee Falls.  While the color around the falls was good, the sky was not so good...just a boring white, no nothing sky.  So that was the first obstacle to overcome.  The next obstacle was leaves in the water.  See, I wanted them to swirl around and look all cool like, but they weren't moving all that much and my exposures were in the 2 second range with only my circular polarizer on. Here's an image with just the polarizer:

ISO 100, 70mm, F/16 @ 2 seonds

ISO 100, 70mm, F/16 @ 2 seonds

Notice how the leaves really didn't move enough to cause much of a fuss about?  Enter stage left...Vari-ND filter.  I normally don't use ND filters on waterfalls themselves, however in this case I wanted the leaves to show a lot more movement than 2 seconds would allow for...so I dialed it down until I got to about 25 seconds.

ISO 100, 70mm, F/16 @ 25 seconds

ISO 100, 70mm, F/16 @ 25 seconds

The only thing that has changed here is the shutter speed (I took both of these shots with my Sony A7R camera, Metabones Lens Adapter, Tamron 24-70mm Lens and Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT Tripod)...and what a difference it has made!  Now we can see the movement much, much better in the leaves!  We've also smoothed the water itself out quite a bit.  

The moral of the story is:  1. Get a Vari-ND filter (or a regular ND filter in a 6 or 10 stop would work, too).  and 2. Always carry it with you!