Tag Archives: CA

Discovering my vision at Rainbow Falls, CA

I went to Rainbow Falls in California’s Eastern Sierra over the July 4th weekend.  My first visit to the falls was in the middle of the day, with my family.  Since the sun was shining into the falls at that time of the day, it formed a rainbow at the base of the falls upon which it is named.  From a photographer’s perspective, the light was too harsh and no good waterfall image could be produced at that time.

I came back the next day, early enough before sunrise, to get the light right for a waterfall image.  While the grand view from the standard vista point was great, it did not offer anything satisfying for me.  For example, one search for Rainbow Falls, CA in images.google.com, yields several images of the standard view.  I began by making a standard view image as well.  Here it is.  It does not impress me and therefore it has not been published in my web gallery.

Rainbow Falls, CA

Rainbow Falls, CA. (Standard View from Vista Point)

After getting the standard shot out of the way, I started exercising my visual imagination to make additional more satisfying images.  Using my 70-200mm f2.8 lens at 200mm, I made a frame that was later cropped to this 1:3 format.  This is a section of the waterfall towards the right side of the view from the vista point.  To me, this image is a compelling composition.  It has a series of waters falling from the top right into the bottom one-thirds of the image, where there is a diagonal flow of water from the left to the right.  There are distinct shapes and flows in the top, middle and bottom one-thirds of the image that grabs attention.

Rainbow Falls (section), CA, USA

Rainbow Falls (section), CA, USA

Another shot using my 70-200mm f2.8 lens with 2x teleconverter (set at effective 400mm), is shown below.

Rainbow Falls (section), CA, USA

Rainbow Falls (section), CA, USA

This one shows a single strand of waterfall to the right of the image counter-balancing the diagonal cascade going left to right.

Another 400mm shot is shown below.

Rainbow Falls (section), CA, USA

This one emphasizes the wall of water towards the right of the view from the vista point.  The wall of water and its shapes/texture is counter balanced by the rocks at the bottom right.

As I wrapped up my shoot, I used the same 400mm setup to frame a couple of shots of the runoff from the falls.

Runoff from Rainbow Falls, CA.

Runoff from Rainbow Falls, CA.

This one showcases the whites from the falls runoff counterbalanced by the green grass on the shore.  I saw this first and upon closer examination, I found a dead fallen tree bark whose branches pointed towards these whites.  I thought that they formed a perfect set of complementary subjects to juxtapose in an image.  Here it is.

Dead tree bark and whites from Rainbow Falls runoff, CA, USA

Dead tree bark and whites from Rainbow Falls runoff, CA, USA

Notice how the shapes in the branches of the dead tree bark, mirrors the shapes of the whites (the branches pointing one way and the whites following it).

Using this post, I want to encourage more photographers to look beyond the obvious.  The first thing that you see when you get to location should be photographed, but one should not stop there.  The better photographs come from staying there, a bit longer, and looking for what else is there, or, how else the scene may be photographed.  Changing viewpoints and changing lenses are the simple exercises to get you started on the road to eventually change what you see and see more.

7 Lessons from a Waterfall Image

Fall leaves and small waterfall, Uvas Canyon, Morgan Hill, CA, USA

Fall leaves and small waterfall, Uvas Canyon, Morgan Hill, CA, USA

  1. In overcast conditions, look for colorful subjects (flowers, foliage etc) to make intimate landscapes.  Given the time of the year (mid-Nov), photographing fall leaves was a no-brainer for me.
  2. If possible, emphasize something in the foreground, against the background subject.  In this case, I found this colorful leaf for the foreground to anchor the shot of a background waterfall and more leaves.
  3. Photograph extensive depth images with a wide angle lens.  I used my 17-35mm f2.8.
  4. Use f22, if there is a foreground object very close to the lens, along with background that is far away.  This ensured front to back sharpness due to extensive depth of field.  My lens was about 9 inches away from the foreground leaf.
  5. Use your camera’s native ISO to keep the noise to the minimum.  I used ISO 200, native to my Nikon D300.
  6. Use a tripod.  The shutter speed for this shot was 30 s.  I could not have done it hand-held.  I used my light GK1580TQR5 tripod, coupled with my Kirk BH-1 Ball head.  This tripod is light enough and small enough to actually fit inside my camera backpack.  At the same time, I was not impressed by the ball-head that came standard with this tripod.  I therefore took it out and fitted my Kirk BH-1 ball-head to it.  I now have a fine light tripod, with an extraordinary ball-head.  This tripod provides the stability to shoot long exposures.  This ball-head provides ability to quickly and easily fine-tune my composition, once the tripod is setup.
  7. Do not trigger with your finger.  Use an electronic cable release.  I used one for this shot, to eliminate any camera shake, resulting in a sharp image.

Best time to shoot landscapes

June Lake and Sierra Crest at dawn

June Lake and Sierra Crest at dawn, Mammoth Lakes area, Eastern Sierra, California, USA  (6:57AM)

June Lake and Sierra Crest at dawn

June Lake and Sierra Crest at dawn, Mammoth Lakes area, Eastern Sierra, California, USA (7:19AM)

June Lake and Sierra Crest at dawn

June Lake and Sierra Crest at dawn, Mammoth Lakes area, Eastern Sierra, California, USA (7:21AM)

I made the first image at 6:57 AM.  I made the second image at 7:19AM.  I made the last image at 7:21AM.  All on the same day.

I am reminded of a lesson that John Shaw taught us in his January 2011 seminar in Santa Clara, CA.  “Don’t be late to work”.

Should we consider making black and white images today?

Eastern Sierra Mountains seen from Twin Lakes Road, CA, USA

Eastern Sierra Mountains seen from Twin Lakes Road, CA, USA

Every image has three components in it.  They are lines, tones and hues.

  1. Lines – These are edges of forms.  Curves are included in this.
  2. Tones – Brights parts, dark parts and gray parts.  The brightness of things.
  3. Hues – Color.

In a color image, all these three are present.  In a black and white, only the first two are present.  Therefore, inherently, a black and white image has less information and is simpler.

Consider for a moment – what pleases us in well composed images?  There could be many answers to this question, but one thing commonly heard back as an answer to this, is simplicity.  People love to look at visually simple compositions.  No complications, no distractions.  A clear story told simply.  Since we just talked about black and white images being simpler, it should follow that for many images, black and white could be more pleasing.

Obviously, for an image of an aspen tree in the fall season, black and white would be the wrong choice.  However, for graphical images that don’t rely on its color to tell its story, black and white should be considered.  In my opinion, every photographer should at least look at, “How does this image look in black and white?”, as often as possible.  It is a great way to look at images graphically, thereby enhancing his/her composition skills.