Taking Advantage of the Flood Waters

· Reading Time: 8 minutes

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Chocolate Fountain“, Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, 6 image pano stitched in Lightroom

Having just gotten back from a quick trip out to Virginia, I was still wanting to do some more shooting since I had gotten pretty much rained out when I was out trying.  The forecast for Sunday was supposed to be a washout with rain all day long, but I knew that there was a slight possibility that the forecast might be wrong.  Before bed, I asked Toni to wake me up when she was getting ready to go to the gym so I could see what the weather was doing.  She did, and when I looked, it appeared as though the rain was going to hold off till 11 or so.  That gave me enough time to go out for something quick.  It was wet outside from the recent rains, so I wanted to avoid doing much decay photography since that tends to mess with the patina a little bit on the old cars.  With the heavy rains recently, I wanted to do some waterfalls.

The question was which waterfall did I want to do.  If I went to Hanging Rock, I would likely shoot the same compositions that I have done in the past.  That didn’t really appeal to me.  I would have loved to have gone out well into the mountains, but I was coming due for a service on the 4Runner and had only about 80 miles to play with before I needed to do some work on it.  That limited my operating area slightly, but with the time constraints before the rain hit again, that wasn’t that big of a deal.  My mind went quickly to Styers Mill Falls, or Shacktown Falls as it is sometimes called.  I remember Toni and I going there after a lot of rain and the mud and sediment were all churned up causing some really surreal colors to be visible.  This interested me since this doesn’t really happen all that often.  It was well within my range for the day so I decided that I would go out there.  As an added benefit the hike is pretty much just walking down a short slope so if it started to rain, I could retreat to the truck quickly.

I grabbed my gear and off I went.  I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular, I just wanted to get out with the camera for a bit before turning wrenches in the garage.  I knew the lay of the land, and I really wanted to try for another panorama since it has been some time since I have been able to shoot one with this waterfall.  Also, I had never included the trees in a pano, and I wanted to give that a try since I was expecting a lot of water coming right up to the two trees on the shore and the single one a bit further out should be surrounded by water.

Green Bonnet“, Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

When I arrived, the water was just as I had anticipated.  The mud had turned this lazy waterfall into a psychedelic natural phenomenon which I have always been fascinated with.  I made the short walk down to the water and started to look around.  My first idea for a composition wasn’t the panorama, but a shot that focused on a pair of trees right on the shoreline.  I wanted to emphasize these trees, so I started out with my Canon 5D Mk3 camera fitted with the 16-35mm lens for that bit of perspective I was after.  It was all mounted on a Manfrotto 055 CXPRO3 tripod using an Acratech GP-S Ballhead.  In order to control the glare on the water, as well as punching up the color, I added a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer to the Lee Filter Holder.  I worked on the composition and found the one that I wanted with a good deal of drama.  I featured the tree that was surrounded by the water as a midground leading to the waterfall itself.  This actually turned into my favorite image of the day I believe, and you will see it shortly in this entry.

From here, I decided to switch things up and replaced the lens with my 24-70mm lens for a little more reach.  My goal was to capture an image of the lone tree with the water forming a leading line into the image.  The trees in the background would be the color balance that the image needed.  For this image, I decided to accentuate the length of the tree and flip the camera into portrait orientation which is just so easy thanks to my RRS “L” bracket.  I found that this composition told the story of the flood waters that were rushing by the tree which has stood there for many years.  The resiliency of nature is a wonderful thing and the story is worth being told.  The texture of the water adds all the drama that is needed in the foreground, but there is one little root that provides a visual anchor in the foreground which I really liked.  It brings the eyes right to the start of the leading line that I used to keep the eyes traveling through the image.

I tried a few more shots with the 24-70mm lens which is about the best walk around lens you can have on a full frame camera.  What I was running into was that the compositions that I was shooting were ones that I have done many times over here.  I wanted to do something different, and I remembered wanting to shoot a panorama of the whole scene.  This was going to be a little difficult to organize since my plan was to include the trees as foreground interest.  To keep the perspective under control, I was going to need to step back and use a longer lens than I had been using.  I swapped in my 70-200mm lens for that bit of added reach which framed things up quite well in fact.

These Three Trees“, Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I got the tripod leveled and confirmed the sweep of the Acratech would be level from side to side.  Once that was done, I picked my boundaries and decided what I was going to include in the shot.  Zooming out to 70mm gave me the field of view that I wanted with the camera on its side.  I checked the focus to make sure that I had enough depth of field and that everything would be sharp.  From here, I did an exposure sweep to make sure that I wasn’t going to overexpose anything based on the histogram.  I started the sweep from the left and shot a new frame ever few degrees as I swept to the right.  There were a total of six images captured which were later merged in Lightroom to create the panorama that opened this entry.

After about 45 minutes or so, the rain was starting to fall which made it difficult to keep the lens clear.  I decided to pack everything up in my Lowepro Whistler bag and head back to the truck.  It had been a short adventure, but I did have a lot of fun getting out in the field again so soon after my last shoot.  It is always easier to improve on your skills when you are working on them regularly.  That has been my goal here lately.  I want to get out and try a lot of different things so that I can add them to my tool box.  It won’t be long before I start going further out and spending more time discovering new places.  I don’t want to use that as my opportunity to learn new things.  When I get there, I want to know how to capture the images that I have in my mind.  This has been a tremendous year for learning new techniques, and it is only half over!

The rest of the morning was spent doing a full service on the 4Runner which took a few hours to complete.  Now, I am set to travel and take advantage of the weather pattern that seems to be over us right now.  There should be many days with lots of clouds, and many opportunities for photography.  I’m looking forward to creating a lot of new images in the coming days as the light should be much better than it has been over the past few weeks.

Stick around, it will only get better from here!  If you would like to explore some of NC’s waterfalls, I would highly recommend purchasing a copy of Kevin Adams’ book on the subject.


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