The Sweet Spot
Because the forecast called for overcast skies with a minimal chance of rain, I decided to take a ride over to one of my favorite little conservation areas to see if the brook was flowing and if there might be any wildflowers about. Pulpit Rock is about 20 minutes away and, while small, gave me 6 hours of solitude and connection with nature. It’s not as remote as I usually get, but that’s part of the appeal. If I don’t feel like driving forever, it’s a terrific option.
This time I “found” a trail I hadn’t noticed before. I’d been almost right on it, but somehow missed the markers. Yesterday was my lucky day. I got to a vantage point that I’d wished for before. The other side of these falls is the only way I’d approached them and the angle is all wrong. This is the way to see them –
I was worried the sun might have been too high for this shot, but I was able to manage the highlights and retain detail in the shadows, which I think add some depth and drama to this shot. And just look at those trees!! Yellow birch I’m pretty sure. I love how the trunk to the far right looks like it is flexing its muscles. I ventured as close to the slippery, sloping side of the rock ledge I was on to frame them around the waterfall itself. It was loud, yet relaxing and very rewarding to photograph it since I’d never seen it this way before.
So downstream I went. I passed the small waterfall where I shot my most viewed photograph and tried recreating it, but I’m not sure I like the result so I kept going. The brook wends its way through gorges and crevasses, sometimes flattening out and meandering wildly off its original course which has left its mark on enormous boulders and ledges.
For all the shots I used a tripod, a 4/5 stop neutral density filter and a polarizer. I fiddled with that last one quite a bit to get just a slight reflection on the water so it wouldn’t blend with the banks so much, and to manage the reflection on the greenery. Shooting in the woods after the rain makes the colors pop all by itself so sometimes too much polarizer makes everything kind of flat in terms of intensity. So as part of my post processing work I turned up the luminance in the green channel just a bit. It made that moss really pop which I think frames the water well and gives the image more depth and vigor.
Finding a higher vantage point for a view that isn’t blocked by trees is tough here. As you can see, there’s a lot of growth, but I found a nice boulder to work from. There’s actually a biggish tree just out of frame to the right, almost right up against the camera itself. I had to hold one of its branches out of the way for this shot, but I think it was worth the effort. The way the brook snakes away out of sight in the trees is pretty great.
Another thing I did on this shoot was to set the camera to ISO 100 which is something I don’t do often since it doesn’t make much difference to image quality. I did this time because even though I was using a neutral density filter and a polarizer, I wanted to be sure I could get longish exposures – 3 to 8 seconds or so. A lot of people would simply stop their lenses down further, but I find that at extremely small apertures most lenses lose their clarity a bit. Staying within the sweet spot on any lens will improve your overall sharpness and I don’t think I stopped down any further than 18 all day and mostly stayed between f7 and 16, which is my lens’s sweet spot for sure.
For more tips on how to use long exposure to make smooth, silky, smokey water, check out this post – Smoke on the Water.
Oh and as far as wildflowers go, I didn’t find many blooming, but I did find some bluebeard lily (aka clintonia) that will bloom in the next few weeks. You can spot it in the last shot there if you know what to look for. So…I shall return!