This first photo is from 2014. I reprocessed it, mainly to correct some blown highlights in the water. First observation: Blown highlights bother me a lot more today than they did back then.
I made this from the foot bridge near the top of the falls. Second observation: It’s quite a hike, especially with a load of heavy camera gear. But it’s well worth it for the wonderful view! With a wide enough lens, you can try to show the grand scale and sweeping power of the falls.
Amicalola Falls – The grand view from the footbridge near the top. Nikon D800, ISO 50, 16mm, f/22 @ 1/3 sec.
I really like this photo, and I’m glad I made it. Third observation: Four years later, I think that it was a bit too easy. Probably everyone that visits these falls will try for an image that looks like this.
The next three images are from 2018. I must have been anxious to get the grand view photo in 2014 and hiked right by these locations – I don’t recall noticing them. On this recent visit, Mike Boening pointed out several spots along the trail and I stopped at a few and set up for more intimate photos.
Light in the creek. Olympus OM-D M II, Hi-res mode, ISO 200, 28mm eq., f/8 @ 1 sec.
On the way back down, the last spot I stopped at was only a few yards from the parking area!
Flow. Olympus OM-D M II, Hi-res mode, ISO 200, 40mm eq., f/8 @ 1.2 sec.
I like the grand view image I made in 2014, but I think I like these 2018 images even more. There are probably quite a few photos of Amicalola similar to my first one. I suspect that images like the second and third are much less common since the number of possible viewpoints and compositions is so much greater.
Sometimes, only one approach will work for a subject or your style of photography. On the drive up to the falls, we stopped at an overlook and I was fascinated by the fog / mist and low clouds moving through the valley. I was able to poke the small lens on my iPhone through the chain link fence to grab this frame. At the time, I didn’t think about an intimate detail type of composition there.
Foggy mountain view
But that’s just me. I saw a photo later that showed Mike making an image of some graffiti on the road. Last observation: Graffiti isn’t something I normally photograph and I didn’t even pay attention to it at the time. Our usual photo styles can limit the potential images we see.
So what’s the moral of this story? Should we make grand scenic view images or intimate, up-close photos of the details? You know what I’m going to say , don’t you? “It depends”.
Actually, I’m going to say: It depends, but try hard to get both. You’ll grow as a photographer if you can teach your brain to see both ends of this spectrum. Shoot whichever you prefer first, but force yourself to look for the other compositions before you leave a spot.
As an Electrical Engineer and a long time photographer, I’ve been interested in computational photography for a while. You can read some of my earlier posts on the subject at this link. Here’s Wikipedia’s definition:
I’d change this slightly from”instead of” to “instead of or in addition to”, but that’s a small quibble.
Moore’s law keeps driving the computing capabilities in phones and cameras ever higher and it’s fascinating to see what companies do with the extra potential.
Towalga River below High Falls, Georgia. Composite – iPhone default live view and Long Exposure, merged in Photoshop
I made the image above on our recent trip using an iPhone 8+ and Apple’s “Live Photo” mode. After I made the photo, I edited it on the phone and enabled the “Long Exposure” effect. The Long Exposure effect of blurring the moving water is computed from ~3 seconds worth of frames that Live Photo captures. This is Apple’s web page explaining the feature. Here’s what it looked like before I changed the mode – it’s not nearly as photogenic:
Default iPhone live view
Until iOS 11 added this feature, I wasn’t too interested in Live Photos. Now, I’m watching for places to use it. You can get a better image with your high-end camera and traditional optical techniques, but this is easier and a lot of fun to play with.
Here are some hints:
Pick a suitable subject: moving water, traffic on a road, blurring people in a crowd, etc.
Motion blur with a traditional optical approach requires a slow shutter speed – either low light or using filters. Since computational methods works by processing multiple frames, you can use it in bright light without filters.
Apple says it works on their newer phones (6+ and later). You’ll need to have iOS 11 (or later) installed.
The Long Exposure effect has to align Individual frames and then crop where there’s no overlap so you’ll lose pixels around the edges. Ideally, use a tripod – but that sort of defeats the idea of pulling your phone out of your pocket, doesn’t it? Just hold the phone as steady as you can to minimize cropping.
Make several exposures and pick the best one later.
Long Exposure resolution seems to be lower than default iPhone photos. This isn’t a huge problem for the moving parts of the frame – they’re supposed to be blurry. For the static portions, you can load both versions into layers in Photoshop and use masking to paint in higher resolution where you want it. I did this for the first photo above.
You can set a Long Exposure photo as your wallpaper. You’ll see the static Long Exposure version until you press on it from the lock screen. Then it changes to show the three-second animation – cool!
I hope Apple enhances this in future updates. It’d be good to have some control over the blur effect. 3 seconds is nice, but some subjects will look better with less (or more?).
iOS 11 includes other updated computation photo capabilities (e.g. portrait lighting) – but that’s a subject for another day.
Photography’s changing fast – it’s a wonderful time to be a photographer, isn’t it? In today’s digital world, many advances are likely to be computational and not optical. Keep up – don’t be left behind!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go compute some photos!
Last week’s post went over my usual three photo budget. So here are even more images that I didn’t include (and again I’m over budget!).
The Air Force Memorial. (ISO 200, f/5.6, 14mm equivalent FL, 1/640 sec.). I was glad I had an ultra-wide lens. It all fits into the 14mm field of view from a close distance.
The Potomac River at Great Falls. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4.5, 28mm equivalent FL, 1/1600 sec., color image converted to B&W in Lightroom). Although I grew up near Washington DC, I don’t remember ever hearing about the park until Lynn mentioned it on this trip.
Ceiling in the Library of Congress. (4 frame panorama, ISO 200, f/4, 30mm equivalent FL). Our tour of the US Capitol included a stop inside the Library of Congress. I had to shoot from an awkward angle and stitch multiple frames together for this view.
The Burghers of Calais – Sculpture by Auguste Rodin, one of twelve original Bronze casts, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Mall. (Infrared, B&W, ISO 200, 34mm equivalent FL, f/4.5, 1/320 sec.). I really like the way the IR camera rendered this, especially the bronze contrasting with the foliage. There are some very impressive sculptures in the National Mall in DC. You can read the fascinating background on this one at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burghers_of_Calais.
Washington Monument at dusk. (Olympus High Res mode, ISO 200, 62mm equivalent FL, f/5.6, 1/8 sec). There were hundreds (thousands?) of people just behind me at the Lincoln Memorial. I moved to the water’s edge to avoid most of the tourists and frame this view. I like the way this square composition shows off the symmetry. I also like the light and reflections – the last time I was in DC (2008?) the pool was a mess! After we left this time, we heard reports that the pool had been drained due to duckling deaths (www.washingtonpost.com/local/malls-reflecting-pool-to-be-…).
Our visit to Shenandoah National Park this year was extremely enjoyable (mentally not physically!) relaxing, and cooler than back here in Central Florida (highs there in the 70s). It was also interesting from a photography perspective and different from last year’s trip. I did a lot of sunset / night photography and didn’t try very hard to get up early every morning for sunrise.
We were fortunate with seeing conditions on the night we arrived. There were no clouds, and the Milky Way center was above the horizon for about two hours after moon set. Shenandoah has dark skies and the large cleared meadow near the lodge provides wonderful views all around the compass. Lynn hadn’t ever really seen the Milky Way before and I’ve never seen it this well. We were both amazed, and I was also impressed with how much detail my Nikon D800 was able to capture.
Big Meadows Milky Way. Three frame panorama, 24mm lens, manual focus and exposure, ISO 2500, f/1.8, 20 seconds.
Lynn is a big fan of meteor showers, and due to a gravity assist from Jupiter, the Perseid was predicted to be spectacular this year. We set the alarm for 1am the night it was forecast to peak and went out to watch. The area around Big Meadows was crowded with over a hundred people watching the show, and each overlook had cars parked with more people observing. It was a good show. Here’s one of my photos from that morning.
A Perseid Meteor and a cloud in front of part of the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy – From Old Rag View Overlook on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. 24mm lens, manual focus and exposure, ISO 3200, f/1.8, 20 seconds.
I tried sunset photos on most nights. The sky wasn’t as dramatic as I’ve seen it in the past, but there were many wildflowers in bloom helping to make up for that.
The end of the day – Looking out over Shenandoah Valley from Skyline Drive. The wildflowers were beautiful when we were there. Two frame composite, manual masking in Photoshop.
And storms also added interest. We watched this one develop from the balcony outside our room at the lodge.
Shenandoah Storm – A storm built up to the west at sunset. As seen from our balcony at Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park. Multi-frame panorama.
Dark Hollow Falls is one of the most popular places in Shenandoah. When we drove by on Sunday, the parking area was overflowing with cars. We waited until the next morning to hike down. Last year, I didn’t make it to these falls and used one of my 20-year-old photos to illustrate it. For some reason, the hike (especially the return up from the falls) is more difficult than it was when I was 20 years younger. Hmm – I wonder why? This is from very near the same place, and a horizontal, wider view. I like this one too.
Dark Hollow Falls. 14mm equivalent FOV, ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/13 seconds, Olympus hires mode.
We did a bit more hiking this year than last and went on trails we hadn’t tried before. Rose River Falls and Black Rock Mountain were two new favorites. Another one we hiked was Pocosin Trail. It was interesting, although I didn’t like it as much as the others. Maybe it was because of one sentence in the trail guide: “Soon the trail flattens.” It never did!
You can see larger versions of the photos above by clicking on them and more photos from Shenandoah in this album on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
When you think of the desert in the western US, you might imagine extreme heat and monochromatic scenes of empty barren land. If so you probably haven’t been to Death Valley. There is some empty barren land:
Badlands sunrise – This was my first visit to Death Valley and what I thought it would look like.
And there are sand dunes and wind-blown textures:
Photographing Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – A distant photographer lines up his shot.
But there are so many more things to experience there.
It’s the largest national park in the contiguous US at over 3.4 million acres. The habitats are varied and the elevation ranges from 282 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America) to more than 11,000 feet at the top of Telescope Peak.
Panorama of Badwater from Dantes View, looking west toward Telescope Peak
Many of the places we wanted to see weren’t accessible while we were there. The good news is that there were more than enough locations we could still get to, and the water created some rare views of the area.
Death Valley Reflections – Some locations had 5 inches of rain. The following morning, we saw large pools of water west of route 190 and north of Furnace Creek. It was a long walk (~1.5 miles from the road) to get close, and at times I wondered whether it was a mirage. I’m guessing it’s rare to see the mountains and clouds reflected in standing water at this spot.
And are there any waterfalls in the desert? You wouldn’t think so, right? We decided to find out one day and after a long drive, hike, and rock scramble through a gorgeous canyon, we arrived at Darwin Falls, which seems like a miracle in the middle of such arid country.
Darwin Falls – This desert waterfall in Death Valley had about a 40 foot drop. It’s spring fed and flows year round, although the rains may have added some water while we were there.
There’s a lot of history in Death Valley too. The Native American Timbisha tribe have lived in the valley for at least 1000 years. Gold and silver mining started in the 1850s and Borax was discovered in the 1880s. There are also several ghost towns to explore in the park and the surrounding areas.
20 Mule Team Wagon Train – Used in 1885 to haul Borax From Death Valley to Mojave. Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California
There’s also a surprising amount of wildlife. While hiking back from the Mesquite Flat Dunes we spotted some motion ahead that turned out to be my first sighting ever of a fox in the wild.
Kit Fox at Mesquite Dunes – We saw it from a distance. At first I thought it was a coyote, but Eric Vanbergen on Flickr suggested it might be a Kit Fox. Judging by the info on Wikipedia, he’s right. I made the photo handheld (with my tripod still attached!) using a 24-120mm lens that I was using for landscapes. This is a small crop from the frame. It was nice of the Fox to stop, stand in the light, and look at the camera for me – but it should have come closer!
We also saw several of these, curiously along or as they crossed the road. They’re large enough (~3 inches across) to spot as you drive by.
Classic Death Valley (Photo by Kevin McKinney – used with permission) – We saw several Tarantulas while we were there.
Here’s one last photo. We’d been searching for a Road Runner all week but hadn’t seen any. On the last afternoon we finally sighted this one as we drove by the visitor’s center. Of course, none of us had our camera gear – thank goodness for iPhones!
“Beep Beep” – A Roadrunner outside the Visitor Center at Furnace Creek. I think this is the one the rangers have nick-named “Robbie”. It’s very tolerant of humans and went about catching and eating bugs while we watched.
You can view many more photos from our trip at these links:
This is really more of trip report than a review or guide. With so little time on site, I’m not qualified to give you much specific advice on photographing Death Valley. But here is some info I found very useful:
On July 4th, 1936, in the Virginia Blue Ridge mountains along Skyline Drive at Big Meadows, President Roosevelt dedicated Shenandoah National Park. Since that time, people have greatly enjoyed wonderful vistas, beautiful waterfalls, quiet wooded hollows, hiking, wildlife and the night sky.
Sunrise at Spitler Knoll
I’ve been to Shenandoah many times. It’s the first national park I ever visited – too long ago to admit. I hiked there with our Boy Scout troop from Bowie, Maryland when I was a very young man . Hiking’s a major activity at the park – the Appalachian Trail runs along and crosses Skyline Drive in many places.
Appalachian trail view
Lynn and I also took Mike and Mary there when they were younger and we have fond (and scary!) memories of hikes with those two scrambling over rocks and along ridges to be first to see a view. On one of our visits, we also picnicked with our good friends the Sullivans, and hiked with the kids down to Dark Hollow Falls.
Dark Hollow Falls – A gorgeous waterfall, although crowded at times since it’s one of the closest ones to Skyline Drive. (Photo from 1996).
To get the most out of your visit, you need an up to date guide-book. We had one from our previous visits (printed in 1988!), but unfortunately we didn’t realize how out of date it was. Fires and other events have changed places in the park, sometimes quite dramatically. Fortunately, we found updated books at the park. One example of the changes:
Dead eastern hemlock trees – Hemlock Springs, Shenandoah National Park. We really enjoyed hiking through large stands of hemlock trees the last time we were there, 20+ years ago. Now, 95% of the Hemlock trees in Shenandoah have been killed by the hemlock woolly adeligid, an invasive species introduced by humans.
Weather can vary in the park. All of our visit was beautiful, but we spent one day completely socked in with heavy rain and visibility of 50 to 100 feet. I had fun walking around in the fog looking for photos, while Lynn wove a White Oak basket from scratch.
Rain drops in the mist
We saw lots of wildlife while we were there. The deer are all over and not very skittish, since animals are protected in the park. We also saw 2 black bears – exciting! I didn’t look too hard for birds, but managed to spot at least one life bird (Dark-eyed Junco).
If you search the web you’ll see things to do in the surrounding area too. We’ve been to Luray Caverns in the past, although we didn’t have time to explore outside the park this time.
In summary, Shenandoah National Park deserves to be on your bucket list. If you haven’t been there yet, just go. If you have been there, you know what I mean.
You can see larger versions of the photos above by clicking on them and some other photos from our trip in this album on Flickr.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
Lynn and I spent a week in Georgia this month. She had a school reunion and we wanted to visit the north Georgia mountains for a few days beforehand. We have fond memories of weekend hikes along the Appalachian Trail when we were in college. I can report that the area is just as pretty as I remember, but the trails seem a lot steeper now.
We stayed in a cabin at the Enota Mountain Retreat, between Helen and Hiawassee. This was only a few miles from Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. The Cherokee people called this mountain Enotah.
Brasstown Bald is in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and there’s a small entrance fee at the parking area, but if you have a National Park Service Senior Pass, you can use that. The 0.6 mile paved trail from the parking area to the top is very steep, although a bus runs between 10am and 5pm. We arrived after 5 on our first day – it was well worth the hike to the top. The spectacular 360 degree view was the best one we saw.
The view from Brasstown Bald – This is the highest point in the state of Georgia (4,784 feet). 5 frame infrared panorama, B&W.
Compare that to a very similar view from an un-modified camera to see how the infrared sensor helps cuts through the haze.
Color view from Brasstown Bald – Looking a bit to the right of the IR version. Also a 5 frame panorama,
Good vistas don’t seem as common here as they are for instance in the Rockies. The small roads have places to pull over, but the view is often blocked by trees. Which makes the outlook from Brasstown Bald exceptional.
North Georgia also has a huge number of waterfalls – but some are more difficult to find, get to, and see clearly than others. There are four on the Enota Resort grounds. The trail to this one was steep and muddy in spots and led up along the side of a ravine to this spot across from the falls. We couldn’t find a viewpoint with a clear view through the trees, although there were other paths that we didn’t have time (or energy) to try.
Hidden falls – Along a trail inside the Enota campground. ISO 200, f/8, 0.6 sec.
We did visit other waterfalls that are easier to get to and see. There’s even a pull off just outside Vogel State Park where we could view a large waterfall from the road (no hike!). Anna Ruby Falls is on federal land inside Unicoi State park near Helen. The paved path to the falls is about 1/2 mile long and not too difficult with resting places along the way. We also visited Amicolola Falls near Dahlonaga after our wonderful lunch at the Smith House Restaurant. This falls also has a relatively short and easier paved path to a wonderful open view. But the hike might be even easier when your stomach isn’t so full!
Amicalola Falls – Near Dahlonega, Georgia. ISO 100, f/16, 0.1 second.
I used a variety of shutter speeds on the waterfalls and I think 1/10 to 1/2 is the range to play in to make the water look best. Unless you find a pool of swirling water – where a longer exposure might be better. Try different shutter speeds while you’re there so you can pick the best result when you get home. Most of the time I could get my shutter speed in range by adjusting ISO and aperture. I did have a variable neutral density filter with me that I used a couple of times – it was handy when the sun was out. Most of the time it was cloudy enough so that I didn’t have to worry about using the filter or fight the extreme contrast of sun shining on white water.
As far as wildlife goes, we didn’t spend a lot of effort looking and we didn’t see many animals. I was able to photograph one new life bird: a Louisiana Waterthrush. Lynn found it foraging on the ground outside (while we did the laundry!).
After our time in North Georgia, we headed to Atlanta for the reunion. For various reasons, my photo ops there were limited, but we did have a nice vantage point from our hotel room.
Incoming Storm – Atlanta. During a long exposure needed to capture this ominous cloud rolling in, I also caught a flash of lightning.
One place I’ve heard great things about but didn’t get to visit is the Georgia aquarium. I’ll have to save it for next time.
All in all, an exceptional, relaxing, and photogenic trip which we both thoroughly enjoyed. These and other Georgia photos are in this album on Flickr, where you can view larger versions. Also, if you haven’t seen last week’s post about the Narcosee Indian Mound, please take a look at that.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!
So you’re in Florida and you want to make some waterfall photos. I hope you’ve got other plans too – because waterfalls are a tough assignment in the sunshine state. We have plenty of water (well, most of the time), but we’re one of the flattest states in the US – so we tend to come up short on the “falls” part. You can photograph waterfalls here – not the grand vista kind you’d see in other places like Yosemite or Alaska – but still scenic and worthwhile.
Yosemite National Park, California: Bridalveil Falls through blooming Pacific dogwood tree. Sorry, not in Florida.
Where in Florida can you photograph waterfalls? If you look at the Wikipedia article on waterfalls of the world, you’ll see that the Florida section lists just one: Falling Waters State Park is in Chipley just south of I-10 in the Florida panhandle.
Falling Waters State Park sinkhole – When it’s a waterfall, this is Florida’s tallest one. If the stream at the top is flowing, it falls 73 feet down into this 100 foot deep, 20 foot wide sinkhole and disappears into the Florida aquifer.
This park has some unique geology. Sinkholes line the boardwalk and you can descend part way into the main one pictured above. When the small creek that feeds the falls is flowing during the wet season, the waterfall can be quite impressive. It wasn’t on the day I visited :-(. Check with the park before you go – you can reach them at 850-638-6130.
If you do some Googling, you’ll find a couple other Florida waterfalls mentioned. Falling Creek falls is a small (~5 foot) waterfall in north Florida near the intersection of US 41 and I-75. Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park is near Gainesville. Similar to Falling Waters, it’s a bowl-shaped sinkhole over 120 feet deep and 500 foot across. You can follow a trail and see streams falling into the sink and the resulting small waterfalls. You can also descend into this sinkhole to view the inside. The tiny waterfalls here trickle down the embankment before they too disappear into the Florida Aquifer.
Rainbow Springs State Park is the home of Florida’s 4th largest spring. It was a privately owned commercial attraction up until the 1970s. It’s now a state park and in addition to the spring, has some very pretty gardens and several man-made waterfalls fed by water pumped from the spring.
Waterfall at Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon, Florida
Rainbow Springs is a very pretty place. The Rainbow River is one of the clearest waters anywhere. The falls too are pretty. The morning I was there, only one had any water flow at first. Before I left, they’d turned on the others and I was able to photograph them too.
There are also other man-made waterfalls you can photograph. These are too many to list, but here’s one example from the Gaylord Palms hotel in Orlando:
Gaylord Palms Resort, Orlando, Florida – A waterfall in the Everglades portion of the Atrium
To close out this post, here are a few hints on waterfall photography:
If you want to show the water motion as a silky smooth stream, you’ll need to use a slow shutter speed. This depends to some extent on how fast the water is moving, but a good starting point might be 1/2 second or so. Experiment with different shutter speed settings to see which ones you like best.
You’ll need a tripod for slow shutter speeds, so bring yours.
If you have too much light to get the slow shutter speed you want, try using a polarizing filter or a neutral density filter.
The polarizing filter will also help reduce reflections on vegetation and the water’s surface
Be careful with your exposure. It’s easy to over expose the water since there’s often a large contrast range between it and the surrounding area. Make sure to check your histogram and think about bracketing your exposure.
Do you have any other waterfall photography hints to share? Do you know of any other Florida waterfall locations? If so, please let me and others know in the comments.
Lynn and I spent a couple of nights at the Gaylord Palms Resort last weekend. This very nice hotel is located in the Kissimmee area, near the Disney parks. It has several great restaurants and a huge atrium divided into four sections modeled after different areas of Florida. There are also two outdoor swimming pools, one for kids and one that’s adults only. It made for a nice weekend and also provided quite a bit of photographic interest.
One of my favorite photos from the trip. It’s called “One second Koi” or “One second, Koi”, or “One second Koi?”
Info for Photographers
You’ll find photo opportunities just about everywhere you point your camera – so make sure you do bring one!
A small waterfall in the Everglades portion of the Atrium, just outside of the Old Hickory Steakhouse
Photo hints: Light can be a bit on the low side, so be prepared: Higher ISOs, wide apertures, image stabilization and camera supports will all help. I used some pretty slow shutter speeds. If you look at any of these images on Flickr (just click on the photos) and then click on the “More properties” link, you can see the exposures I used for each and use that as a guide for the conditions you can expect.
Tripod/Monopod: Would come in handy, and shouldn’t be a problem. I didn’t see anyone with a tripod, although I didn’t see any signs saying they weren’t allowed. In most areas there should be room for one – just be courteous and don’t block the pathways. I didn’t bring my tripod and ended up sometimes bracing my camera on various objects.
Lenses: The wider the aperture the more flexibility you’ll have, and image stabilization will be a plus. You might especially enjoy using a wide angle zoom and a macro.
Best time to visit: Anytime.
Other: Check Priceline.com for potentially lower room rates. Be prepared to pay for parking. And bring plenty of money for the restaurants.
Interior of the resort’s version of Castillo de San Marco