Off to Blackwater Falls

Finally, after waiting over a year to go, I am heading off to Blackwater State Park tonight.  The Park is located right in the middle of EBF, West Virginia…a few miles southwest of the world famous town of Davis.  Google maps is telling me the drive should take about 3.5 hours.

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The main purpose for the trip is to photograph a few of the many waterfalls in the area, specifically Elakala Falls…which from my research seems to be the most photogenic of the falls.

The ideal conditions to shoot a waterfall are just after a rain shower under cloudy skies, when the rocks are still wet and shiny.  Put on a polarizer to minimize the glare, and the deep saturation and texture leap through the lens.  Thunderstorms are in the forecast for the area over the next couple of days…hopefully I’ll get lucky and have a chance to shoot the area just after a nice downpour.

On a completely unrelated note, I am leaning toward sleeping in my car tonight once I get there.  TripAdvisor.com is telling me there are hotel rooms available in nearby Canaan Valley, but they seem a bit pricey.  Plus, it’s much easier to wake up and get moving pre-dawn when you’re in a car seat and your lower back is on fire…as opposed to trying to get out of a warm, comfy bed at 4:30am.

Spa Creek Bridge

This is one of the oldest shots I’ve taken with a full frame camera.  It was a passive touristy sort of shot, with just a circular polarizer affixed to the font of the lens and *gasp* no tripod.  No work went into the prep…just saw it and shot.

The Spa Creek Bridge in Annapolis connects State Street and Compromise Street in the downtown harbor.  For my money especially during the golden hours, this is one of the most  beautiful places in Maryland.

I was standing along the top of the bridge when I got this shot, looking west to what I believe is the Charles Carroll House.

Even though it was sunny out, there were patches of thick clouds to help the polarizer diffuse some of the sun.

Nikon D700 with Nikkor 28-300mm lens at 70mm, ISO 100, f.8 at 1/00s.

 

Downtown as seen from Spa Creek during the middle of the day.

Downtown as seen from Spa Creek during the middle of the day.

Sebastian

sebastian

 

This is Sebastian, our 15 year old silver Persian…although he was 10 when this image was taken.

Shot with the Nikon D700 and 50 f/1.4 lens at 1.4, ISO 800, 1/125s, no flash.

If I could only recommend one prime lens to someone, it would be the 50 f/1.4 .  In my opinion, it’s the finest lens on the market when you include all factors (weight, portability, sharpness throughout the aperture range, price, etc…).  It was the first lens I ever purchased, and I still own it and use it.

If you’re a beginner or novice in photography, I recommend you purchase or rent this lens.  Especially indoors, this lens rocks at f/1.4.   Just open up the aperture, set your ISO to 800, and you can shoot indoors all day long without a flash.

 

The Tony Sweet Soft-Ray Filter

OregonRidgeFall

 

I was looking through my old library in Lightroom and came across this one from a few years ago…taken at Oregon Ridge in Baltimore County in early Fall.  For those of you who live in the area, this driveway is off of Shawan Road, almost directly across the street from the Oregon Grill.

This photograph serves as an interesting example of how one grows in their craft.  When I first took this image, I was quite pleased with it.  But, almost 3 years later I look at it and almost cringe at the mistakes I made.  For starters, I rushed the shot.  I was driving by and just happened to see these trees lined along the driveway, quickly pulled over, got out and took a few hand-held shots.  I had my tripod with me, but didn’t even think about using it.  There was no reason to rush…I was just so excited to see this beautiful shot, I kind of got lost in the moment.  It’s an important lesson to learn…there’s no reason to rush unless there really is a good reason to rush.

I misjudged composition.  You’ll notice the driveway is off to the right of the photograph, and the first tree on the left has a bit of space between it and the edge of the photo.  This one mistake makes the whole image look a little right-handed (at least to me), when I was ideally going for the driveway to sit dead-center down the middle of the shot.  That could have been corrected if I had taken my time and worked the scene…something I instinctively do more when I’m on a tripod as opposed to hand-holding.

I was also using a zoom lens (the Nikon 24-70) for this shot.  These days I would have preferred using a prime lens, which, as opposed to using a zoom, will make me slow down and look more deliberately at the scene.  When I need my feet to alter composition (as opposed to simply turning the barrel to zoom), I tend to look around and study the area more consciously.

I also think I overexposed parts of the photograph…which would have easily been corrected by adjusting exposure to -0.3 or -0.7 (a third or two-thirds of a stop faster).  These days I live by the adage that it’s easier to bring detail out of shadows in post-processing than it is to get detail out of blown-out highlights.  You can increase exposure in post with success, but decreasing exposure in post, especially to save overblown areas, is an ugly business.

One thing I enjoy about this photograph is the successful use of the Tony Sweet Soft-Ray Filter.  It’s a filter designed by Singh-Ray which basically acts as a diffuser, adding a soft and gentle blur to the image.

In this particular image, it adds a dreamy feel to the driveway.

I rarely use the Soft-Ray filter…it’s the kind of filter that would go over well with wedding photographers wanting to add a sort of surreal look to their portraits…but this one time it seemed to be made for the occasion.