Monday, May 5, 2014

Perfect Ending To A Perfect Day

My several weeks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was an incredible opportunity to get immersed in photography all day, every day, for many days in a row. Usually my days are filled with a combination of work, personal responsibilities, and some photography, but this was a unique opportunity to get away, and just explore and shoot.

This was shot on my last evening in the park, and the late afternoon light was perfect. We had been searching for a good view of the stream with soft evening light. Usually when I shoot moving water I prefer the view looking upstream. That provides good views of the rushing water spilling over rocks, creating a series of miniature waterfalls. But looking downstream instead, the view took my breath away. This was the light and the view I had been hoping for.

I quickly set the camera up on the tripod and began to shoot. There was a slight breeze, so I did not want the shutter speed to be too long since that would have tended to blur the motion of the leaves and branches. But I wanted to be able to represent the water's movement somewhat, and create a silky look. With a shutter speed of 2.5 seconds, and being careful to time each exposure for when the wind was least, I got the look I wanted.

When shooting moving water, if you want to show the water's movement and create a silky look to the water, set your ISO at 100, and your aperture as small as you can (f/22 or f/32) for maximum depth of field. Then focus on the closest object that you want to be sharp (in this case it was the rock in the lower right), and everything else in the image will be rendered acceptably sharp.

With your camera set on Aperture Priority, the shutter speed will set itself, usually slow enough to show the motion of the water. If the shutter speed is not slow enough for your taste, you can use a polarizer or a neutral density filter or both to cut the amount of light entering the lens and thus enabling a slower shutter speed.

It is hard to express the excitement of seeing a scene that was all I had hoped for and more. And the fact that it was on the last night of my trip made it even more special. I took many shots until the light changed and the magical scene was gone. When photographing either early or late in the day, it is important to understand that the light changes very quickly. The moment is fleeting, and it is important to shoot many exposures quickly. It is also important to be able to enjoy the moment, as well as the photos you are capturing. Look with your eyes and feel with your heart, in addition to experiencing the excitement of the photographic opportunity. 

I'd like to thank my friend CL for making this wonderful opportunity possible. She invited me to accompany her on a multi-week trip to the Smokies. Using her RV as a base enabled us to stay close to the action, and put all the beauty and photographic opportunities of the Smokies within easy reach. This full immersion in photographing an area is a luxury I have not had before. Generally I move on to new areas after a few days, but there is much to be said for being in one place for a longer time, being able to return to a location on another day if the flowers or the light is not right, or just to repeat a great shooting spot. This was a great opportunity to slow down, and REALLY appreciate all that was around me. So thanks, CL, for the kind and generous invitation, the wonderful shooting options, and for all the fun!

Shutter Speed 2.5 seconds.  Aperture f/32.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you."  --John De Paola

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