I recently made a brief trip over to my favorite local stomping ground, Kilgore Falls. And by brief, I mean I had time to fire off a grand total of four shots.
The park closes at sunset, (6:35pm on the day of my visit). I arrived in the parking lot at 5:50. The park police cruiser was already on the scene to make sure everyone cleared out by sunset.
(The park police don’t mess around in Maryland. If you’re not out of the lot by sunset, you risk receiving a fine. Maryland’s park regulations are way out of hand. Compare this to Yosemite National Park: At several locations near the tops of various waterfalls in Yosemite, the park sign says, “Do not swim. Death can result.” In Maryland, if there were any dangerous waterfalls, that same sign would read, “Do not swim. Death results in $300 fine.”)
After throwing my backpack on, I hustled across the easily navigable quarter-mile trail and made it on site just after six o’clock. I took a few minutes to survey the scene, then settled in on the composition I had in mind. Usually, some people-dodging is required to avoid placement of a random human in the shot…but fortunately, I had the falls all to myself.
Being in a hurry or feeling rushed while shooting is never helpful. But, you work with what you’ve got. I set up the camera, fired off four shots (one shot at optimum exposure with the Tony Sweet filter, one shot purposefully underexposed with said filter….one shot exposed optimally without the Tony Sweet filter, and one shot underexposed without the Tony Sweet filter), and double-timed it back to the car.
I made it with 5 minutes to spare.
I spent those five minutes mourning over the loss of my favorite pair of sneakers, which I had forgotten to change out of in my haste. Sneakers are never the same after you wear them in a stream. They shrink and lose their cushion when they dry. I will miss those sneakers. My new pair of sneakers will have big shoes to fill.
Oh well, look at the bright side: Now I have a new favorite pair of stream shoes.
A few notes on the image: I used a 5 stop neutral density filter to slow the exposure. In the image at the top of this article I used what is quickly becoming one of my favorite filters: The Singh-Ray Tony Sweet Soft-Ray Diffusion Filter…which, as its tongue-twisting name suggests, diffuses light and creates a subtly soft and dream-like appearance to the photograph.
To give you a basis for comparison, the photo below was shot without the Tony Sweet filter. Every other aspect of the shot was identical to the photo at the top of this article. The differences are subtle, but to me, the photo below (the photo without the Tony Sweet filter) appears to display a bit more contrast and sharpness than the photo with the filter:
As stated previously, in addition to the shots at optimum exposure, I also purposefully underexposed both images by 1 stop. I do this as standard operating procedure when taking landscape shots with the Nikon D810. For whatever reason, my copy of the 810 has always consistently overexposed by about a third to two-thirds of a stop. In lieu of using exposure compensation, I simply take an additional shot slightly underexposed.
As a general rule, whenever in doubt, I always recommend underexposing slightly. At low ISO, DSLRs are capable of recording significant detail in underexposed areas without introducing noticeable static (noise)…and those areas can easily be recovered in post-process (provided they aren’t too dark). By comparison, even slightly overexposed (blown-out) highlights contain very little recoverable detail.