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

Equipment List

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

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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

Feature Image Details: Canon 100-400 MM F 4.5-5.6 L Lens at 112MM, F/13, for 13 seconds 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 would not have found it, or even heard of it without instructions.

For instructions please refer to 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.

Brúarfoss Images Getting Cold and Wet

The above image was taken mid-afternoon in the stream beneath the bridge. Yes, I got wet. Yes, it was cold.

The following images 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.

You cannot get these shots, if people are walking on the bridge. Even 1 second images will be ruined if people are walking about.

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.

have learned it is best not to fight strong intuitions. So, off to bed, or so I thought, as explained in my next post.

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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

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

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 more of the results.

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

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.

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 but now I prefer using Lightroom controls.

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. The feature image was shot with this technique.

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

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

Selfoss and Dettifoss 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.

I was driving like mad to get to this location, fearing we would be too late for sunset. We were, in fact, too late for Dettifoss. The waterfall was in deep shadow. The light was gone.

I figured we would have to come back the next day, but we took the path to Selfoss. Although Selfoss is lower in elevation, light from the setting sun had a clear path. The result was a magnificent rainbow, the best I have ever seen.

The light was quite bright, and a polarizer barely provided enough light reduction to smooth out the water.

I did not help matters one bit by shooting at ISO 160 instead of 100. It was an accident that I did not catch. Not wanting to overexpose the the highlights, I made a second mistake by underexposing the shadows. That would have helped smooth out the water as well.

Feature Shot Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L lens at 24MM, ISO 160, F/16, 1/5 second.

Water on the rocks above is not from the river, it’s an accumulation of spray.
Details: Canon 16-35MM L lens at 16MM, ISO 160, F/16, 0.4 seconds.

The above shot is looking across the scene.
Details: Canon 24-105MM F4 L lens at 65MM, ISO 160, F/22, 0.4 seconds.

Shooting at F/22, as I did, is a mistake. That focal length is not as sharp as mid-range F-stops. From this distance F/11, focused on the waterfall would have been about right (there was no foreground to keep sharp). However, F/11 it would not have blurred the water like I wanted.

The solution, as I have mentioned before , is a set of neutral density filters. Polarizers can help, but you have to be careful in how they are rotated or they will obliterate the rainbow. A better choice would have been a neutral density filter. I now carry B&W ND filters of strength 3.0 (10 stops), 1.8 (6 stops), and 0.6 (2 stops). Six stops would have changed the exposure to 2 seconds or so at F/11.

Spray from Selfoss is intense, with emphasis on intense. You don’t exactly get soaked, but if the wind is blowing towards you, which it was for us, your lens will be covered with spray between every shot.

Have a box of lens cleaning tissues handy. Even though I wiped the filter between every shot, I spent a very long time in Lightroom removing spots caused by spray on the filter. Many shots were so covered with spray as to be unusable.

I also took some images with a Canon 14MM F2.8 L lens, capturing the complete rainbow plus more of the side waterfall. The images were beautiful except for one thing: The water looked awful (frozen, not silky), so I tossed the images in the digital bit bucket.

The problem was of my own making.

The 14MM lens does not take outside filters but it does take gel filters in the back, and I had them with me.  However, I was not about to be fiddling around with gel filters with all that spray and with the light changing fast.

If you have a 14MM lens and are going to be photographing waterfalls, put the gel filter in ahead of time. For further discussion please see the section on the 14MM L lens in My Equipment List.

Rainbow Tips, Rainbow Math

The apex of a rainbow is 180 degrees from the sun. You will not see a rainbow looking towards the sun. If you see rainbows images that face the sun, they are fake. Here, you can see the light on the waterfall and the foreground rock. The rainbow is from sunlight refractions through the spray, just like a prism. There is no rainbow in the third image because camera positioning was at a right angle to the sun.

When looking for rainbows, make sure the sun is at your back. The lower in the sky the sun is, the higher the rainbow apex.  At noon, depending on latitude, rainbows may be below the horizon, invisible. Thus, it is appropriate to consider terms like “rainbow rise” and “rainbow set”.

The huge, more than 180 degree arch in the second shot is because the sun is on the horizon and the foreground was below the horizon.

From an airplane, it is possible to see a 360 degree full circle rainbow.

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Up Next: North Iceland, Dettifoss Waterfall

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Iceland in 16 Days: Day 1, South Region, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Welcome to Mish Moments!

Please visit my About Page for my background, guest submissions, and information about the focus of this website.

I kick off Mish Moments with a series of articles on Iceland. In the summer of 2015 my wife Liz and I had a glorious trip. We spent 15 nights (16 days) on the island.

We will take you around Iceland, and the amazing trip we had with scenes of waterfalls, ice beaches, puffins, whales, geysers, rainbows, glaciers, and colorful fishing boats in small harbor villages.

My free Iceland Guide is packed with information about what to bring, where to go, what to do, where to stay, what to expect in each location, and what literature to read before your trip.

Feature Image Details: Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at 22MM, F/14, ISO 100 for 1/13 second. This is my favorite general purpose lens. Check out my Equipment List page for additional ideas and discussion.

Iceland Day One

We arrived in Reykjavik at 6:00AM. It was cold and rainy. We could not get our Garmin to work. I feared the entire trip might be the same.  Such fears were soon dashed. Once outside of Reykjavik, the weather turned, the sun came out, and we were on our way.

I had a bad case of jet lag, not getting any sleep on the Icelandair flight from Boston.  Seriously tired, we pulled into the Hotel Ranga for breakfast, between Reykjavik and Vik, with Vik being our first night’s stop.

The operators were extremely generous. They saw me half-asleep on one of their benches and said we could lie down for a while in their beautiful upstairs sitting room.

After a few hours nap and an excellent buffet breakfast, we were on our way to Vik.

We passed two major waterfalls along the way. Seljalandsfoss, shown here, was the second. Skógafoss was first, but I will comment on Skógafoss in a collection of images between Reykjavik and Vik.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

 

Best Angles

There are two very nice vantage points for photographing Seljalandsfoss. The first behind the waterfall. The second is high up the hillside parallel or slightly above the waterfall. Down below, where most people were, is an inferior location.

Depending on wind direction, it may not be possible to photograph from behind the waterfall. As it was, I was wiping off the front of my lens after every shot. Spray is a huge problem even if the wind is not blowing at you. Most of those behind the waterfall gave up.

Get a box of lens-cleaning wipes. I nearly used an entire box when photographing waterfalls in Iceland.

Contrast

There is a huge variation in light in the sky and light on the cliff behind the waterfall. There are several ways of dealing with contrast.

  1. Expose for the highlights and let the shadow areas go black
  2. Take multiple exposures and blend them with an HDR (High Dynamic Range) program
  3. Take multiple exposures and manually blend them yourself in Photoshop
  4. Take a single exposure pushing the exposure as high as you can without blowing out the highlights, and working as best you can with a single image

The feature image at the top uses method 3. The image above uses method 4.

I tried using Lightroom’s HDR merge program but the results were not acceptable. Part of the problem was my own doing. I did not capture the shadow exposures correct. The result was purple-green in shadow areas. I did better blending multiple exposures of the scene myself, using Photoshop.

Words of Thanks

  • To my beautiful wife and best friend Liz, with whom we have shared many special moments traveling the United States, Europe, and Iceland.
  • To all our friends and the many people we met on our many travels
  • To the folks at WordPress for spending countless hours tweaking this layout until I was finally convinced I had it correct.

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Up Next: In and around Vik

Mike “Mish” Shedlock