Starved Rock State Park, Illinois: La Salle Canyon Waterfall in Autumn

This is the fourth in a series of posts on Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois. The park is about 2 hours away from Chicago.

I took these images this past week. If you are close by, there is still time to see the park. Peak time is now.

As is typically the case at Starved Rock, and photographing waterfalls in general, the best conditions possible are bright overcast days with little or no wind.

This past week was cloudy most of the time and winds were calm early and late in the day most days.

Continue reading “Starved Rock State Park, Illinois: La Salle Canyon Waterfall in Autumn”

Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 2 (After a Rainfall)

The Emerald Pools trail is an easy hike, but it is uphill to the falls (assuming there is any water flowing). What’s easy for Zion might be described as moderate somewhere else.

During our stay we hiked the Emerald Pools trail several times. On our last hike there was much more water flowing but many leaves had fallen off. These images were after a rainstorm.

Feature Image Details

Using ISO 50 on Canon is a mistake that I was unaware of on the Zion trip. ISO 50 can make shadow details a bit worse. If wind and other conditions permit, ISO 100 is the best choice.

The feature image is a set of several images combined in a manual HDR process using luminosity masks and curves.  I cannot say I recommend the procedure as it takes a long time to master. Luminosity masks are very complex to setup for the casual user.

Lightroom has HDR merge, but it did not do a good job on this image. There are HDR programs for a Mac that are highly acclaimed. They will be available for a PC this Autumn.

The software tools use luminosity masks so you do not need to learn them directly.

Starburst Explanation

It is easy to produce a natural looking starburst without filters by positioning the sun on the edge of an object. The star is caused by light bending around the diaphragm blades of the lens.

In this case, I positioned the sun right on the edge of the cliff. One can use a tree branch, edge of a building or any other suitable object.

Some lenses produce better starbursts than other. The 9-bladed Canon 16-35 MM lens produces an exceptional star. Canon’s 14 MM lens only has 4 blades and produces a relatively poor star.

An even number of diaphragm blades provides that many rays. An odd number provides double.

Additional Lower Emerald Pool Image

Other Zion National Park Images

  1. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Three – Inside the Subway
  2. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack
  3. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls
  4. Zion National Park Autumn – Great White Throne
  5. Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 1

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Zion National Park – Autumn – Lower Emerald Pools Part 1

Hiking and exploring opportunities in Zion National Park Utah are nearly endless. My favorite time of year is Autumn. I recommend staying in the park lodge, but don’t try to book at the last moment.

Before your trip, the first thing you should do is pick up Joe’s Guide to Zion National Park. It’s free. Joe describes all the major trails and offers recommended hikes.

The Emerald Pools trail is an easy hike, but it is uphill to the falls (assuming there is any water flowing). What’s easy for Zion might be described as moderate somewhere else.

During our stay we hiked the Emerald Pools trail several times. On our last hike there was much more water flowing but many leaves had fallen off. These images were before the rainstorm.

Feature Image Details

Additional Lower Emerald Pool Image

Other Zion National Park Images

  1. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Three – Inside the Subway
  2. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part Two – The Crack
  3. Zion National Park – Subway Trek Part One – Archangel Falls
  4. Zion National Park Autumn – Great White Throne

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 15, Brúarfoss Waterfall – Golden Circle

Feature Image Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 28MM, F/13 for 1/4 second at ISO 100.

Photography tours often speak of  “secret waterfalls” or secret places. This is one of those locations. Brúarfoss is difficult to find, even with instructions. I certainly would not have found it, or even heard of it without instructions.

I talk the need for instructions in my Iceland Guide

Planning a Trip to Iceland.

We planned our trip starting with an eBook Forever Light: Landscape Photographers Guide to Iceland.

If you are planning a trip to Iceland, get the book.

Forever Light gives instructions to Brúarfoss. Now that you have the name, you can likely find instructions elsewhere, but the book is well worth it regardless. Note: I had the first edition. The above links to the revised edition.

We found the spot on our first attempt, using the second of the two ways noted in the eBook. When we arrived at the designated parking spot, it did not look as described. The parking are was on the left, not the right. When I stopped to ponder the situation, I saw some people off in the distance walking. I presumed they were headed to the falls and parked.

To the Forever Light instructions, I will add there was a fence on our right and we followed a very narrow rutted path (one shoe wide) to a the main trail that we had to hop a fence to get to. Thereafter, we just followed the trail.

You come out of the tail into an opening and a bridge over the river. Remember the spot or you might take the wrong trail back. This sounds more difficult than it was, and reading the instructions again now, I am not sure I would have tried.

The book cautions that no one found the location on their first try, but we did, without a Garmin. We went once during the day, then returned for sunset. From where we parked, the waterfall was 20 minutes or so away. The makeshift trail and the main trail were both level. The hard part is making up your mind to try.

Slideshow of Brúarfoss

The images on the left were takes mid-afternoon in the stream beneath the bridge. Yes, I got wet. Yes, it was cold.

The images on the right were taken at sunset, standing on the bridge over the river. Beware of vibrations. It is very difficult to get sharp images if anyone else is on the bridge.

The horizontal image with the very silky water was taken with a Canon 100-400 MM F 4.5-5.6 L Lens at 112MM, F/13, for 13 seconds at ISO 100. You cannot get this shot, if people are walking on the bridge. Even 1 second images will be ruined if people are walking about. I cropped that image slightly, so I could have zoomed in further.

The water really does look blue. The color is different mid-day than at sunset.

It was about midnight when we took the sunset images. We were 20 minutes away from the car, with perhaps 90 minutes to get back to the hotel, with 10:30 AM flight. Nonetheless, my wife Liz volunteered to stay for sunrise. I wanted to, but I had a nagging feeling it was best to go back to Reykavik.

This might sound crazy, but I have learned it is best not to fight strong intuitions. So, off to bed, or so I thought.

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Next Up: Reykavik Sun Voyager Statue

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 15, Gullfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle

After a good night’s sleep in Reykavik, one of about three good sleeps for the entire trip, we set off for a tour of the “Golden Circle”.

It was cloudy when we set out, and stayed cloudy most of the time. We went to see the geysers at Geysir, and had lunch there. Geysir was overloaded with tourists. Masses of buses  constantly came an went. Mid-day is not a great time for photography, and crowds made it worse.

Still, Geysir is worth seeing, especially in good light at off-peak hours. Good conditions were not to be on this trip so we headed off to nearby Gullfoss.

When we arrived it was still overcast, but a scan of the horizon suggested the clouds might break if we simply waited it out. That took a couple of hours and these are the results.

Feature Image Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 35MM, F/16, ISO 100 for 1/2 second.

Spray

Once again, spray was a huge problem. Carry lens wipes.

Shooting Tips

I like to take vertical and horizontal images of the same scene. If you have hopes of magazine covers, it’s best to consider vertical images. Here are some of my Magazine and Book Cover Credits.

Also consider people. Do you want them in or out. Here is the same image, two ways, with and without people.

The only difference in the above images is people. The first image has them, the second doesn’t. The people did not move. Rather, I edited them out in Photoshop, via a bridge from Lightroom.

Photoshop tools are much better at editing out distractions than Lightroom. Most often I use Photoshop’s clone align feature. Lightroom has nothing similar. At times, especially for small spot corrections, Lightroom is easier.

Both programs compliment each other nicely, but it’s irritating having to learn two products and two sets of commands.

Forced to make a choice between Lightroom and Photoshop, I would choose the former. Lightroom’s catalog and library functions are essential.

Pretty soon it may be impossible to make a choice. Adobe wants subscribers to “Creative Cloud” and bundles all of its programs in that package.

Human Interest

Travel magazines generally like human interest. People also add a sense of scale. But calendar companies most likely do not want people in the images.

If shooting and editing for yourself, simply shoot and edit what you like.

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Next Up: Brúarfoss Waterfall, Golden Circle

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 7, North Iceland, Goðafoss Waterfall

After leaving Selfoss and Dettifoss waterfalls in a sunset/sunrise combo, we headed to our hotel and had some difficulty finding it. I feared we were in for another night in the car but eventually found our room at something like 3:00 or 4:00 AM.

Fortunately, we had a two-night stay. I suggest three days minimum in the Reykjahlid (Lake Myvaten) area. There is much to do and see.

Instead of having to scramble to the next location, we took a relaxing dip in the hot springs and visited the Hverir Geothermal Area. Afternoons in Iceland are for exploring, traveling, and relaxing. The images of the geothermal areas I took in the afternoon all went in the digital wastebasket.

We took too much time relaxing and sightseeing that it was a mad scramble to get to Goðafoss for sunset. For the third time on the trip, we barely made it. I took images at sunset, and once again my wife Liz was patient and volunteered to sleep in the car for a bit, waiting for sunrise an hour or so later.

Feature Image Details: Sunset Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 21MM, F/16 for 1.3 seconds at ISO 100.

Spray was a huge problem on this side and I was constantly wiping off the front of my lens. If the wind is blowing in your face, spray is guaranteed to be an annoyance.

The next two images were taken on the other side of the river at sunrise. There are several nice vantage points on each side, with lots of possibilities, especially if you arrive at the location with ample time.

 

With another sunset/sunrise combo out of the way, it was off, not to bed, but to the Hverir Geothermal Area.

Equipment List

Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

Other Area Waterfalls

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Up Next: North Iceland, steam vents at the Hverir geothermal area.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 6, North Iceland, Dettifoss Waterfall

As noted in my previous article, Dettifoss and Selfoss are a pair of waterfalls on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river. You arrive at Dettifoss first. A short 10-minute hike or so leads to Selfoss.

This pair of waterfalls was on my “must get good images” list. We arrived near sunset, with Dettifoss in a deep shadow. I thought we would have to come back.

We hiked on to Selfoss and the light was amazing. After photographing gorgeous rainbows at Selfoss, we hiked back out. That’s when I met Tony Prower, the proprietor of Iceland Aurora Photo Tours and Workshops.

Tony told me to wait around for a while to photograph Dettifoss at sunrise. While my wife Liz slept in the car, I was out with Tony. Here are the results.

Feature Image: Canon 24-105MM F4 L lens at 47MM, ISO 100, F/16, for 3.2 seconds.

dettifoss-waterfall-north-iceland-36

Image Details: Canon 24-105MM at 28MM, ISO 100, F/18, for 0.4 seconds.

jokulsa-a-fjollum-river-north-iceland-7

The above image is looking downstream of Dettifoss along the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river.
Image Details: Canon 24-105MM at 47MM, ISO 100, F/16, for 10 seconds.

Yes, those exposures are wildly different, which I explain in a moment.

All of the images on this page were taken pre-dawn. In Northern Iceland you can photograph sunset, wait an hour or so and photograph sunrise. Over the course of that wait, light levels can change a lot. The second image was also way underexposed. It took quite a bit of effort in Lightroom to bring out the shadow details.

The horizon was relatively flat, so graduated neutral density filters work reasonably well. If you are going to use such filters, I highly recommend the Galen Rowell series. I have a 3-stop soft and a 2-stop hard. There are other densities. I almost always use the soft.

There are other techniques. Tony taught me an interesting one: He used his coat sleeve as a filter, holding it over the top portion of the lens, sliding it up and down. It takes some practice. And it takes a long exposure, at least 3 seconds.

I used his technique, setting my exposure compensation to +2, boosting the exposure, then reducing it with my coat sleeve. Results are obviously not repeatable, but you can get some interesting effects. I believe the feature image and the final images used this method.

Thanks Tony!

I have not used Tony’s method much since, but I now take my graduated neutral density filter, hold it by hand, and move it up and down rather than putting it in a holder (which I never had), or holding steady as I did do.

Once again, it takes long exposures to use either my method or Tony’s. One might also try painting a piece of cardboard black, or using a black piece of plastic in lieu of a coat sleeve. I have been meaning to try that, but I haven’t yet.

Right at sunrise, a huge fog bank rolled in. Tony said, “I know this experience well. That’s it for the evening”.

We were quite a ways from our hotel and it was early AM already. The saving grace for this stop was we had a rare two-day stay in Reykjahlid (Lake Myvaten), the only multi-day stop on our trip except for a final stay in Reykavik.

Please see our Iceland Guide for recommendations and details.

At this spot, the best shots at Selfoss were right at sunset. The best shots of Dettifoss were pre-dawn. Seconds after sunrise, everything turned dense grey.

For Selfoss rainbows, please see Iceland in 16 Days: Day 6, North Iceland, Selfoss Waterfall.

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Up Next: North Iceland, Goðafoss Waterfall

Mike “Mish” Shedlock