Category Archives: Photographic Technique

Glade Creek Grist Mill

Glade Creek Grist Mill

Glade Creek Grist Mill – Click image to enlarge

Having read about the many wonderful state parks in West Virginia, I decided to visit Babcock State Park to photograph fall color. I picked Babcock because of the Glade Creek Grist Mill which is one of those “must photograph” subjects every photographer visiting West Virginia should shoot. The mill is very photogenic at any time of the year, but is definitely at its best in the fall. Many local photographers I talked to said the fall color around the mill this year was the best they’d seen it in years so the timing of my first visit was perfect. With overcast skies, and an occasional splash of sunlight through breaks in the clouds, the light was perfect! As you can see from my photos, the mill is in an absolutely beautiful setting.

 

Glade Creek Grist Mill-0121

Glade Creek Grist Mill – Click image to enlarge

Originally known as Cooper’s Mill that stood on the present location of the park’s administration building parking lot, the Glade Creek Grist Mill is actually a new mill that was completed in 1976 at Babcock. The mill is fully operable and was built as a re-creation of Cooper’s Mill which once ground grain on Glade Creek long before Babcock became a state park. The mill was created by combining parts and pieces from three mills which once dotted the state. The basic structure of the mill came from the Stoney Creek Grist Mill which dates back to 1890. It was dismantled and moved piece by piece to Babcock from a spot near Campbelltown in Pocahontas County, WV. After an accidental fire destroyed the Spring Run Grist Mill near Petersburg, Grant County, only the overshot water wheel could be salvaged. Other parts for the mill came from the Onego Grist Mill near Seneca Rocks in Pendleton County. For all my images, I used a circular polarizing filter to reduce reflections on the water and leaves. Reducing reflections on the surface of the leaves helps to saturate the wonderful red, orange and yellow color of the leaves. My shutter speeds were generally ½ second to as long as 3 seconds at f/16, at an ISO of 100.

 

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Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery

While in the Hocking Hills area for the annual “Shoot The Hills” photography contest, several fellow photographers and I visited Saint John’s Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, just outside Maxville, Ohio in Perry County. For its age, the gravestones and church are in amazingly good shape. Several of the residents in the area take care of the cemetery and keep the grass cut.

 

Gravestones under the window

Gravestones under the window – Click image to enlarge

 

The photo above is from inside the remains of the church and was taken in the early evening around 7:30 PM. Given the bright light outside and the much darker interior of the church, the only way to achieve a balanced exposure was to take a series of 5 exposures, 1-stop apart and combine them in software to produce an HDR image. I used Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro V2 to create the file and then converted it to black and white using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 to get the image you see here. I really like this shot of the old gravestones lined up against the wall under the window. Pictured below is a low shot from outside the church that includes the gravestone of Daniel Nunemaker who lived to be a little over 92 years which was amazing given that he was born in 1771! All the images in this post are from HDR files.

 

Daniel Nunemaker gravestone - Click image to enlarge

Daniel Nunemaker gravestone – Click image to enlarge

 

Sunstar in the doorway - Click image to enlarge

Sunstar in the doorway – Click image to enlarge

 

Sunset outside the church - Click image to enlarge

Sunset outside the church – Click image to enlarge

 

While we were there photographing, one of the residents stopped by to talk to us and gave us a brief history of the church and cemetery. The St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church was started by Rev. Frankenburg July 14, 1841 in Monday Creek Township, Perry County, Ohio. Rev. Frankenburg had been preaching in private homes and barns for six year prior to starting the church. Jacob Goodlive, Wife Mary (Marie), son Henry and his wife Elizabeth were some of the very first members to sign the register.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you. Please click here to email me.

Snow Rollers

Snow Roller - Click image to enlarge

Snow Roller – Click image to enlarge

 

A strange and rare winter weather marvel appeared earlier this week called Snow Rollers. Snow Rollers are weird cylindrical snow formations that are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind. Once the “seed” of the snow roller is formed, it begins to roll, and pushed by the wind it collects additional snow from the ground as it rolls along leaving a trail behind it.

Unlike snowballs made by people, snow rollers are sculpted into different shapes such as doughnuts and hollow tubes. Some snow rollers have been seen to grow as large as 2 feet in diameter. For snow rollers to form the ground must be covered by a layer of ice to which the snow won’t stick, the layer of ice must be covered by wet, loose snow with a temperature near the melting point of ice, and the wind must be strong enough to move the snow rollers, but not strong enough to blow them apart.

Many snow rollers - Click image to enlarge

Many snow rollers – Click image to enlarge

The precise nature of the conditions needed to form snow rollers makes them a very rare phenomenon. I have never seen or heard of Snow Rollers, so I just had to go out and photograph them despite the subzero temperatures. I waited until just before sunset to take this shot so that the light of the setting sun would light up the snow roller showing its many layers. I positioned the camera low and very close to the snow roller to create a more dramatic effect using the trail. The actual air temperature when these shots were taken was about -5 degrees, brrrr!

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Upper Falls In The Winter

 

Upper Falls In The Winter - Click image to enlarge

Upper Falls In The Winter – Click image to enlarge

 

Upper Falls at the east end of Old Man’s Cave Gorge is a beautiful sight in the winter with snow covering the ground, but it’s a hard subject to photograph because the area around the base of the falls is very plain and doesn’t have any rocks or other objects to add interest to the scene. Despite temperatures close to zero degrees on a recent visit there, I took the time to look for a more interesting view, and found this composition right at the bottom of the stairs that lead down into the gorge. I’ve walked past this spot many times and never thought to photograph this view. Framing the falls with the footbridge at the top, and a nice view under the footbridge of Upper Falls Cascade, some icicles at the upper right, and the snow covered tree roots at the bottom creates a much more interesting image of Upper Falls.

The Upper Falls Cascades, shown below is just above Upper Falls where Old Man’s Creek begins its run through Old Man’s Cave Gorge. Over thousands of years, Old Man’s Creek has carved many unique features such as The Devil’s Bathtub out of the gorge’s Blackhand Sandstone. This image was captured about an hour and a half after sunrise, and as you can see the warm orange glow of the rising sun is reflecting off the water flowing over the cascades.

 

Upper Falls Cascades reflects the light of the rising winter sun - Click image to enlarge

Upper Falls Cascades reflects the light of the rising winter sun – Click image to enlarge

To see more of my photography of Old Man’s Cave Gorge and Hocking Hills State Park, please see my gallery here. If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

Highbanks Bridge

 

Underneath Dripping Rock Trail bridge - Click image to enlarge

Underneath Dripping Rock Trail bridge – Click image to enlarge

 

Highbanks Metro Park located just north of Columbus Ohio is appropriately named for its massive 100-foot high shale bluffs that tower over the Olentangy State Scenic River. Tributary streams cutting across the bluff have created a number of deep ravines exposing Ohio and Olentangy shales on the bluff face and sides of the ravines.

The Dripping Rock Trail winds through a hardwood forest, passing steep ravines and shale outcroppings. I was photographing various scenes of a stream in a deep ravine along the trail when I looked up and noticed the interesting patterns created by the support structure of the bridge. I climbed up the steep bank under the east side of the bridge and photographed the underneath view of the bridge you see above. The image consists of 3 separate exposures (1-stop under normal, normal, and 1-stop over normal) combined and processed in Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro Version 2 to create the final HDR image. Below is a low view of the stream covered with leaves showing its shale streambed as it flows under the bridge through the ravine.

 

Stream with leaves - Click image to enlarge

Stream with leaves – Click image to enlarge

 

Please click here to see other images from Highbanks Metro Park. If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

Back to the Smoky Mountains Again!

I recently made another trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 2 ½ days of photography.  I had an ambitious schedule planned, with the first afternoon at the Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill, then a sunset at the Morton Overlook later that evening.  The next day started with a sunrise from the Foothills Parkway West followed by Cades Cove, a hike to Abrams Falls, then photographing along the Middle Prong of the Little River in the Tremont area.  My last morning in the park was to be spent in the Roaring Fork area.

The historic Mingus Mill was originally built in the 1790’s by the Mingus Family who owned it until the 1930’s when the National Park Service acquired it.  The current mill, built in 1886 by Sion Early replaced the original mill and uses a water-powered turbine to power all the machinery in the mill instead of a traditional water wheel. Today you can buy cornmeal and other mill-related items in the mill house.  This view shows the water swiftly flowing through the millrace to the mill.  I used a polarizing filter to adjust the amount of reflection with a 4 second shutter speed to clearly show the motion of the fast moving water.

 

Fast moving water flows through the millrace to the mill - Click image to enlarge

Mingus Mill – Click image to enlarge

 

It was about a 20 mile drive across the Newfound Road to the Morton Overlook from the Mingus Mill.  The clouds were pretty heavy so I was keeping my fingers crossed when I arrived at the overlook that I would get some timely breaks in the clouds at sunset.   I chose the Morton Overlook for my sunset location because in late July the sun sets directly in the “V” of the receding ridgelines. As the time for sunset approached, the clouds were very heavy just above the horizon so I knew that once the sun reached those clouds it would be the last I’d see of the sun.  Although I’m pleased with the image below, it’s not quite the shot I hoped to get.  Little did I know that the cause of those heavy clouds on the horizon was a thunderstorm hidden from my view by the mountains.  I ran into it while driving the dark, narrow and twisty Little River Road to my hotel in Townsend, Tennessee….it was a very long, slow drive to Townsend!

 

Smoky Mountain Sunset from the Morton Overlook – Click image to enlarge

The next morning I woke to rain, but got dressed and headed out anyway. If you aren’t out there, you won’t get the shot so off I went! When I arrived at the 2nd overlook on the Foothills Parkway West, fog filled the entire valley between my vantage point and the mountains.  Only the tops of the trees were visible above the fog, with an orange glow in the sky from the rising sun.  Just minutes after this shot was taken, the fog shifted and I couldn’t see anything, including the sunrise!

 

Sunrise from the Foothills Parkway West - Click image to enlarge

Sunrise from the Foothills Parkway West – Click image to enlarge

After shooting in Cades Cove and hiking to Abrams Falls, I was hot and tired from my hike and decided it was past time to get away from all the people in Cades Cove. I thought seriously about going back to my hotel and relaxing, but decided to keep shooting for a few more hours and end my day in the Tremont area, which is a beautiful and much quieter area of the park.  I was really looking forward to the peace and quiet this part of the park offered!  As luck would have it, as I turned into the Tremont area it started raining again. Undeterred, I drove several miles until the paved road turned into a gravel road.  Having photographed in this area before, I knew that all along the gravel portion of the road there were great scenes of the Middle Prong of the Little River.  After getting my rain gear on, I started walking along the river and just a short distance from the car I came upon this scene.  The light was fantastic, the kind every landscape photographer dreams about (and knows won’t last long)…the rain, fog and mist combined to give this image a wonderful ethereal quality.  I could have easily gone back to the hotel and relaxed instead of staying out to shoot in the rain, I’m really glad I didn’t!

 

Middle Prong of the Little River - Click image to enlarge

Middle Prong of the Little River – Click image to enlarge

To see more of my photography from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit my gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

Hilton Head Sunrise

Sunrise over the Atlantic – Click image to enlarge

I just got back from a family vacation in Hilton Head Island, SC.  We had a fantastic time, and no one wanted to go home when it was time to leave….that’s a good sign that everyone had a great time, and we’re already making plans to go back again!  Of course, I took all of my camera gear, but I didn’t spend as much time shooting as I usually do.  Photography wasn’t the priority on this trip, but I definitely did “some” shooting.  Our rental house was just a short walk from the beach so I got up early every morning to photograph the sunrise.  I was amazed at how many people were out on the beach walking and running at 5:50 AM!  When I thought about it, I wasn’t all that surprised since its cooler then and very quiet and peaceful.

Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t completely cooperate with me for good sunrise photography….it rained on me twice and even though I stayed out there I didn’t get any breaks in the clouds, and two other days there were heavy clouds on the horizon again without any breaks in the clouds.  As all of us photographers know, if you aren’t “out there” you aren’t going to get the shot so I was persistent and kept going out every morning and I did get two nice mornings to shoot before the week was over.  The image above was taken the first morning we were on the island which also happened to coincide with low tide.  This situation provided a great opportunity to get some interesting reflections and I took advantage of it.  In this image I positioned the camera very low, just above the sand, and captured a reflection of the rising sun in a tide pool along with a nice foreground of many little reflections off the rippled wet sand.  I really like this shot!  For the image below, I set up the camera at the bottom of a sand dune so I could include the pattern of the vines growing in the sand and exaggerate the height of the dune, and position the fence and sky at the top of the frame.

Sunrise (and sunset) is a great time to shoot, but you have to work fast since the wonderful golden color from the low angle of the sun doesn’t last long.

 

Sunrise on Hilton Head Island – Click image to enlarge

 

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

Saltpetre Cave Cave Nature Preserve

Interior of Cave 2 with waterfall – Click image to enlarge

 

Saltpetre Cave Nature Preserve is a small but beautiful area located in Hocking State Forest, Hocking County Ohio.  The preserve gets its name from the fact that the mineral saltpetre was mined from the caves a long time ago.  Potassium nitrate is one of several nitrogen-containing compounds referred to as saltpeter.  The major uses of potassium nitrate are in fertilizers, food additives, rocket propellants and fireworks; it is one of the constituents of gunpowder and why it was mined from the caves originally.

Within the preserve there are 4 caves and 7 distinct recesses. The view above is from the second level interior of cave 2 which has 3 tiers in all.  I used an external flash to light the dark interior of the cave to reveal details in the cave walls and ceiling.  I don’t normally carry flash equipment with me when I’m hiking, but since I knew I would be photographing inside the caves, I brought my flash on this hike. Without using the flash, the cave’s interior would have been completely dark compared to the bright exterior.  If you look closely at the top left of the image, you can see some saltpetre in the ceiling of the cave.  The waterfall you see at the right side of the image is seasonal and only occurs if the has been enough rainfall.  I was fortunate to visit the preserve after an inch or so of rain had fallen in the area so the waterfall was definitely a  bonus and adds a lot to the image!  Moving outside the cave and down the hill I captured the image below by positioning the camera low to the ground with a wide angle lens and close to the lichen and moss covered tree roots to create a more dramatic image with the waterfall in the background.

Lichen and moss covered tree roots with waterfall – Click image to enlarge

 

To visit the nature preserve you must obtain a permit issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  The permit should be requested at least 14 days prior to the day you want to visit.  Information about obtaining the permit can be found here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me or leave a comment.

Light Painting Ash Cave

Ash Cave after being “light painted” – Click image to enlarge

 

Located in the southernmost reaches of Hocking Hills State Park, Ash Cave is beyond doubt one of the most spectacular features in the entire park. It is the largest, most impressive recess cave in Ohio, and is named after the huge pile of ashes found in the cave by early settlers. The horseshoe-shaped cave is massive; measuring 700 feet from end to end, 100 feet deep from the rear cave wall to its front edge with the rim rising 90 feet high. When there has been enough rain, a small tributary of the East Fork of Queer Creek cascades over the rim forming a beautiful waterfall.

This image of Ash Cave was taken about half an hour after sunset in almost complete darkness. I wanted the scene to be fairly dark so I could try a technique called “light painting.” Light painting isn’t a new technique, but I’ve wanted to experiment with it for some time and decided this would be a good opportunity to give it a try. After a few test exposures, I decided to use an exposure of 30 seconds at f/11 with an ISO speed of 800.  A good friend helped me by lighting the cave wall directly behind the waterfall with a powerful spot light while I fired an external flash several times to bring out additional details of the cave during the exposure.  I’m really pleased with this image, especially since it’s my first serious attempt at light painting. Now that I’ve gotten a little experience with it, I can’t wait to try it again…. I’ve already thought of a lot of creative uses for it!

To see more images of Ash Cave and other areas of the park, see my Hocking Hills State Park gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me or leave a comment.

Polarizing Filters

The polarizing filter is probably the single most used filter in a landscape/nature photographer’s bag because of its ability to cut glare and increase color saturation.  I find that I have the filter on my lens more often than not when I’m out in the field.

Polarizers are best used with normal to telephoto focal length lenses.  Regarding using a polarizer with wide angle lenses, I would recommend that you use caution because you may get uneven effects across your frame.  This uneven effect is especially noticeable if you have a lot of clear blue sky in the frame, and how noticeable the unevenness is depends on how much polarization you’ve dialed in.  Do some experimenting to see what you can get away with.  A polarizer relies on what’s called Brewster’s Angle as described in Brewster’s Law, discovered by a Scottish physicist named Sir David Brewster. For photographers, Brewster’s work gives us a simple tool to predict how a polarizing filter will affect the scene.  Using your thumb and forefinger, point your forefinger at the sun and point your thumb straight up.  As you rotate your wrist, keep your forefinger pointed at the sun, and everywhere your thumb points is where the polarization will be most pronounced.  Look through the viewfinder of your DSLR or use Live View to see the image on your camera’s LCD to adjust the filter for the effect you want.

Mid-day normally isn’t the best time to use a polarizer, but as the angle of the sun gets lower on the horizon, it can make a huge difference.  Overcast days are actually ideal for polarizers because they cut the reflections that rob the scene of color saturation.  Anytime you’re photographing water a polarizer can make a HUGE difference by cutting glare.  As you rotate the polarizer, you’ll see the surface glare disappear and you can see what’s under the water.  This effect is very useful when there is something just beneath the surface that you want to show.

In addition to cutting glare and increasing color saturation, polarizers also cut the amount of light reaching your sensor by 1 ½ to 2 stops so they’re useful for reducing exposure in high-contrast conditions as well.  The polarizer can also be stacked with a neutral density (ND) filter for ever greater light reduction with the added benefit of polarization.

The two images below show the effect of the polarizer on images of the “Devil’s Bathtub” in Hocking Hills State Park.  The first image has no polarization and the second does.  Notice how once the glare on the water is reduced, you can see the rocks underneath the surface of the water and how saturated the colors are.

 

The Devil’s Bathtub no polarization – Click image to enlarge

 

The Devil’s Bathtub with Polarization – Click image to enlarge

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.