I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I was doing some presentations in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids for Norman Camera so I was traveling with my projector for my presentations there. I had to travel light with my photo gear because of that so I just brought my 2 pro camera bodies along with the Sigma 12-24mm lens, a Cavision 6×6 circular polarizer, and a Lee 6×6 neutral density filter. I also brought along my carbon fiber tripod and Induro BHL2 ballhead for long exposures. I knew I would be photographing waterfalls so the Sigma 12-24 would be the perfect choice to get the dramatic wide-angle images I was looking for. In the image above, I used the wall on the left to lead you towards the waterfall and include as much of the fall foliage as I could.
The image above also shows how I like to work a subject. It was very windy while I was there and I was trying to balance a long enough exposure to render the waterfalls in a pleasing fashion and still keep the fall leaves as sharp as possible. This is the same waterfall as the top image but photographed from behind it. When photographing waterfalls, I like to bracket my shutter speed, as this will greatly determine the “look” that I am going for. When the flow of the water isn’t that strong (as in the 2 images above) I use very long shutter speeds to accentuate the flow. Solid neutral density filters allow you to achieve this effect. I used the 3 stop 6×6 ND filter hand-held in front of the lens to slow down my shutter speed sandwiched with the 6×6 circular polarizer to reduce glare and further slow down the shutter speed. If I had taken an exposure much shorter, the water may not have even been visible towards the lower section. If the flow was stronger, that same shutter speed may have been too much so let the flow of the water dictate your shutter speed. Bracket the scene with your shutter speed and decide which flow look you like best when you get home. You already own the card; so don’t be afraid to use it!
I find that you get the best results photographing waterfalls when it is cloudy and overcast. You can get interesting results when the sun is out and you stack neutral density filters but most of the time, I try to avoid photographing waterfalls on sunny days. Sometimes, even when it is cloudy, the sun pops out as it did in the image above. Initially, I was upset and figured that I would have to retake the image when the clouds covered the sun. Much to me surprise, the sunburst wound up at the top of the falls and created a very cool effect. The irises of the lens will determine the sunburst pattern and you have to stop way down to get this effect.
Whenever I know I am going to photograph waterfalls, I always have my tall boots on! Invariably, I am at some point going to be standing in the water, as was the case in the image above. A very sturdy tripod and ballhead are a must and try to place the feet of your tripod where the vibration of the water won’t affect your image! Be careful of the power of the water flow and know your limits when attempting to wade into a river. The flow of the water was so strong in the image below that I dare not step into it or risk both injury and losing my gear!
I was simply amazed at the beauty of the Upper Peninsula (UP) and even though I wasn’t able to capture a spectacular sunset in the image below along Lake Superior, the storm clouds were simply amazing as was the color of the water. I had to blend two images, one for the sky and one for the foreground, to achieve the results I was looking for. It was very windy, so I couldn’t focus on the foreground grasses or beautiful fall colors, as they would just become too blurry with the long shutter speed.
Every once in a while a scene grabs my eye that I don’t want tack sharp and just try to capture the mood! My personal preference is to get images tack sharp but sometimes the mood of a location just calls out to me to try something different. Just by going to f/22 on an overcast day will automatically give you a slow shutter speed so I just get rid of my tripod and move my camera intentionally. I find that I have to take many images with different movements to get one I like but it does give you an option to explore your creative side! That is what I did with the forest scene below to try and capture the mood of the woods and the fall colors. I plan on going back to Michigan and the UP soon and I will definitely be bringing the Sigma 12-24mm which is fast becoming my wide-angle lens of choice!