22. August 2015 · Comments Off on Planning waterfalls and fall colors · Categories: Composition · Tags: , ,

South Lake roadThis October, rather than our regular Eastern Sierra Fall colors trip, we are planning a trip to Oregon for waterfalls with fall colors.  Part of the issue is that for my son and I the Eastern Sierra are becoming cliche; we know where a large number of great shots can be taken from, not that there are not more, new and different ones, but the obvious shots have been collected, in my LR catalog I have over 33,000 fall color frames, clearly not all of outstanding quality  (LoL, 🙂 ).  I have only done the waterfalls twice, one in the spring and once in the fall, it is still new.

Columbia gorge

Columbia gorge

There are the usual logistical issues of where to stay so that we can maximize photo time and have the greatest possibilities.  Then there is the question of what places should we plan on stopping at?  In this case, a guided book is invaluable, and I like Photographing Oregon, the whole ‘Photographing <state>’ series is designed for photographers.  But, beyond the logistics of the trip there are other challenges that should at least be given some consideration.  In sunny California, water, and in particular waterfalls are not common, blue skies are.  How should we shoot a waterfall? High noon doesn’t work!   Waterfalls are difficult to shoot because of the high contrast between the water, shade and sky.  The high contrast makes it difficult to capture an image that matches the experience of the waterfall.

There are several ways to deal with the high contrast so often found when shooting waterfalls;

  • Make sure that everything in the photo is in the shade (implies no sky).  The picture below violates sky clause, however most of the photo is in the shade , but even then the contrast in the water is still large.
    waterfall in the shade

    Silver Falls Park, OR

    This usually means knowing the right time of day for each scene that you want to shoot. (not 2PM like this one)

  • Do not include the sky even if there is direct sun on the scene
    Can require great creativity in composition to make this work.

    waterfall, no sky

    San Jose, Uvas Canyon

    Waterfall without sky

    Waterfall without sky

    Waterfall with sky

    Waterfall with sky

  • Use HDR with bracketed exposures (Usually need 3 to 5 stops on a sunny day)PL20100412-Waterfalls-4519
  • Shoot with overcast skies so that the light is more even, less contrasty, and the colors are richer
    Although I like HDR for the increased range, I have not yet had great success with waterfalls when I include the sky.

    Overcast, rainy day waterfall

    Multnoma, Columbia gorge

I couldn’t resist using this picture of my wife and I. Multnomah falls is a popular wedding location. 🙂 Luckily the Oregon weather tends to cooperate with this aspect!

30. June 2015 · Comments Off on Composition – Framing – no not the wood around the photo · Categories: Composition, Practice · Tags: , , , ,

“Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern. “

Alfred North Whitehead

Dancing Trees

There are several composition topics in photography that are most easily learned through examples rather than prose.  I thought I would write a series of articles on several of these with a few photos in each to help illustrate the point.

I’m starting with framing because it was one of the easier ones to start with, not because it is more or less important, but just easier for me to write about.

One way to look at framing is that the subject around the edge draws your attention to the main focus point.  I would encourage you to log onto 500px.com and see what you can identify as successfully framed photos.

Laurie in Little Wild Horse slot canyon

It could be reasonably argued that the above photo is really about lines, but notice how we have both lines and color framing my wife.

The photo below is an example of classical framing.CRW_0598You probably recognize this type of framing from travel post cards.

For the opening photo, notice how the branches frame the moon.   This would not have been as effective if the branch split the moon.  This also illustrates that not all framing needs to symmetrical in position or content.

Early morning light catching the spray from a waterfall

This photo illustrates a classic concept involved with framing; that is that the borders or the frame is darker than the central point of focus.  Eyes are typically drawn to the bright parts of the photo.


In this example, the bright trees frame the waterfall which is itself framed by the dark rock.  This photo illustrates again that framing does not need to be symmetrical, nor even conventional with bright being the framing of the waterfall.


This photo is again asymmetrical framing, this time of El Capitan framed with trees.

The challenge to you is to experiment with framing in your photos and decide what works and does not work for your photos.

“If you see a whole thing – it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives… But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.”   Ursula K. Le Guin

Check out other images for framing or the lack there of… on my website