Tag Archives: Photographic Technique

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.

Posted in Ohio State Park, Photographic Technique Also tagged , , |

Old Rusted Truck


End of the road – Click image to enlarge


A photographer friend of mine told me about an old rusted truck he had photographed recently in Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, just southwest of Columbus, OH.  After he showed me a few pictures that he had taken of it, I decided to go photograph it myself since I had not photographed this type if subject before.

Battelle Darby Creek is one of the larger metro parks in the system and features more than 7,000 acres of prairies, fields, and forests along the Big and Little Darby Creeks.  The Darby Creeks are noted nationally for their tremendous diversity and abundance of aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals.  Fortunately I knew the general area of the park that the truck was in, but I had not hiked the trail the truck was on.  My friend told me that the truck was hidden by trees and bushes and hard to see even though it was not more that 10-15 feet off the trail.  He was right, it was definitely hard to see and only after a few helpful text messages from him was I able to find it.  By the time I started shooting, it was after 7 PM and the light was already starting to fade given that the truck was situated in a relatively heavily wooded part of the park so I had no more than an hour to work.  As you can see there isn’t much of the truck left, but fortunately there was room all around the truck so I was able to shoot from a variety of angles and perspectives.  It was a fun shoot and a nice little adventure.

Looking through the rear window – 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.

Posted in General Photography, Metro Parks Also tagged |

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.

Posted in Ohio State Park, Photographic Technique Also tagged |

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.

Posted in Photographic Technique Also tagged , |

Less is More

In addition to capturing the grand wide vistas we all love, the intimate details in a scene can provide some exciting photographic possibilities.  Streams and waterfalls are perfect subjects for this.

Spruce Flat Falls in the Tremont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park cascades over many rock outcroppings that cause the water to splash over and flow around the rocks creating a variety of patterns in the water.   I isolated part of Spruce Flat Falls as shown below with a telephoto lens at 130mm showing its “mini” waterfalls within the larger waterfall.  The yellow and orange fall leaves and wet green moss create a nice background for this image.  You can see all of Spruce Flat Falls in my gallery here and blog post here.


Spruce Flat Falls close up – Click image to enlarge

When it comes to photographing steams, sometimes it’s not possible to capture a pleasing image because of distracting branches covering parts of the stream or the trees along the stream may be too dense to allow you to get a good composition.  This is another situation when looking for smaller details can give you the opportunity to go back home with some nice images on your memory card!  Indian Run, not far from my home is an example of this situation.  Along most parts of the stream above Indian Run Falls, the trees are very dense and there are many low hanging branches that obscure the steam making it impossible to get a good photograph of the stream.  In the image below I was able to isolate a small cascade in the steam with just enough sunlight at the right angle to make the water sparkle a little at the top of the cascade.


A small Indian Run cascade – Click image to enlarge


When photographing streams and waterfalls, some exposure compensation is usually necessary to make the water look white.  I typically spot meter the water and add 1 to 1½ stops of exposure to the camera’s meter reading to make sure the water looks white.  If you go with the camera’s meter reading the water will look gray.  It’s also helpful to use a polarizing filter to reduce or eliminate distracting reflections.

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

Posted in Ohio State Park, Photographic Technique Also tagged , |

Lower Falls Bridge

Since my previous post, central Ohio has continued to experience winter weather, and for the month of December 2012 we received 13.2 inches of snow, which is more than we got for the entire winter last year!  A lot of people around here don’t like winter, but personally I love it.  When it snows, an otherwise drab and barren landscape is turned into something special with all kinds of photographic possibilities, so I get the camera out and hit the trails!


Lower Falls Bridge – Click image to enlarge

The image above was taken last Saturday (12/29/2012) and is of the footbridge over Old Man’s Creek by Lower Falls at the very southern end of Old Man’s Cave gorge in Hocking Hills State Park.  Most of Ohio received at least 3 inches of snow the previous day so I planned to take advantage of the snow cover and photograph in the gorge.  I arrived at the gorge parking lot just after sunrise and was excited to find that I had the whole place to myself.  It was cold, but quiet and peaceful and there were no other footprints in the snow…a rare occurrence in a popular place like Old Man’s Cave Gorge.  The new fallen snow clung to all the trees, rocks and plants, making the gorge an even more beautiful place.  As I passed through the gorge, icicles were forming everywhere from the slow constant trickle of snowmelt.  In a few weeks, the icicles will be several feet long so I’ll be returning soon for yet another winter nature show.


Lower Falls – Click image to enlarge

For the image of Lower Falls above, I used a polarizing filter to eliminate reflections from the surface of the water revealing the rocks underneath so I could include them in my composition.  The polarizing filter also helped to saturate the color of the rocks and green foliage around the falls.

Winter photography can definitely be a challenge due to the cold temperatures, snow and ice so be prepared with the right clothing and equipment.  Some winter photography tips to keep in mind:

  • This may seem obvious, but dress warmly with layers and wear waterproof boots.  Also buy “shooting gloves” which double as mittens and fingerless gloves, and don’t forget a hat!
  • Make sure your camera batteries are fully charged, and carry a spare battery in an inside pocket to keep it warm.  Batteries will lose their charge more quickly in cold temperatures.
  • When taking your equipment from the cold into a warm car or house, it is very important to keep condensation from forming on your equipment, especially on (and inside) the camera body, lenses and filters.  If it isn’t possible to let your equipment gradually warm up to room temperature, put your equipment in a plastic bag.  Doing this will allow condensation to form on the inside of the plastic bag, and not on or inside your equipment.
  • Your camera’s metering system is designed to make everything it sees mid-toned, and this can cause problems when shooting scenes with a lot of snow.  Without some exposure compensation the snow will look gray.  The easiest thing to do is to spot meter the snow and add about 1 to 1 ½ stops of exposure.  This over exposure will ensure that the snow looks white, but it won’t over expose other objects in the scene.  Use the camera’s histogram to help you determine if any more or less compensation is needed.
  • Use a polarizing filter to help control/reduce reflections especially if a stream, lake, or waterfall is included in the scene.
  • If possible, plan your photography for the so called “magic hour” of light around sunrise and sunset.  The warm golden light at sunrise and sunset combined with the cold blue tones of snow and ice can produce magical effects.
  • Think creatively:
    • Look for interesting color contrasts.  For example, red objects against white snow always look very strong.  Frame your shot carefully.
    • Less is often more so keep your composition clean and simple.  Look for interesting trees, buildings, and other objects.  Simple, clean objects like these framed against a white background of snow make very strong images.
    • Think black and white – stark gray skies and snow covered objects can look very eerie and mysterious in a black and white image.

Winter is a great time for photography so be sure to get out there and take advantage of it!


You can see more of my photography of the Hocking Hills and Old Man’s Cave gorge in 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.

Posted in Ohio State Park Also tagged , , |

Tennis anyone?

USA’s Serena Williams – Click image to enlarge

My wife and I are big tennis fans so this past Tuesday we travelled to Mason, OH. (just north of Cincinnati, OH) to take in the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament.  The tournament, played at the Lindner Family Tennis Center is a top tier tour stop for both the men and women of the ATP and WTA tours.  All the top players like Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Sam Stosur were there so if you like tennis and photography, this is the place to be!

This tournament and Cincinnati have quite a history.  Since 1899, just 25 years after the first recorded playing of the sport in the United States, tennis tournaments have been staged in Cincinnati, and what is now known as the Western & Southern Open is the country’s oldest professional tennis event still played in its original city.

Having attended the tournament for a number of years, I had a good idea of where I’d be shooting from so I knew what lenses would be the best to use.  Except for Center Court and the Grandstand Court, all the other courts are smaller so a zoom lens with a focal length range of 70-200mm is perfect.  For the Center and Grandstand courts a 300mm lens or longer is best.  Having carried around 2 lenses all day at the tournament in the past, I knew that 2 lenses get really heavy by the end of the day so this year I opted for a lighter load and only carried one lens, the Canon EF 300mm f/4 IS.  I was also excited to give the 61-point auto focus system on my Canon 5D Mark III a workout, and it was impressive.  Out of almost 1000 images there was only “one” slightly out of focus.  I used “Case 2” of the 6 available AF Configuration Tool Prests.  Case 2 is set up so that even when a subject momentarily moves from the selected AF points, the camera will continue to focus-track the subject.  The camera will also continue to focus-track the subject even if another object gets in the way.  This is prefect for tennis.  For the most part, I set the camera to aperture priority mode (Av) with an aperture of f/5.6, ISO at 400 and shot away.


Great Britian’s Andy Murray, currently ranked #3 in the world – Click image to enlarge

You can see more tennis images from the tournament my Tennis Gallery here.  If you have any questions about this website or my photography, please click here to email me.

Posted in Photographic Technique, Sports, Weekly Column Also tagged , , |

Middle Prong of the Little River

Cascade and rocks along the river – Click image to enlarge

On the Little River Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park going towards Cades Cove about 100 yards west of the intersection of the road from Townsend, TN., (known as the Townsend “Y”), take a left turn at the sign pointing to the Smoky Mountain Institute and you’ll enter the Tremont section of the park.  Many people visiting the park miss this area completely since they are on their way to Cades Cove, one of the Park’s most popular spots.  I think the Tremont area is one of the most beautiful areas of the park, and definitely should not be missed.  If you want to escape the crowds in Cades Cove and other popular areas and treat yourself to a little solitude and great photography, this is the place!


Boulders in the river – Click image to enlarge

On your left will be the Middle Prong of the Little River, and you’ll immediately see many opportunities for great photography.  Stay on this road and after about 2 miles the road turn to gravel.  This is where the best photography begins.  Take your time once you reach the gravel road because there are many “photo ops” along the river.  The best light is during the morning or evening “magic hours” or on an overcast, foggy, misty kind of day.  Make sure you have a polarizing filter with you, it will be needed to control reflections and saturate colors in the foliage.  The gravel road ends after 3 miles with a beautiful elevated view of the Middle Prong that you see below.  This image was taken in October 2011.


Fall along the Middle Prong of the Little River – Click image to enlarge

You can see more images of the Middle Prong of the Little River in my Great Smoky Mountains Gallery here.  If you have any questions about this website or my photography, please click here to email me.

Posted in National Parks, Photographic Technique, Weekly Column Also tagged |

Rockbridge Natural Arch

Rockbridge Natural Arch – Click image to enlarge

Located in the Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio, the Rockbridge State Nature Preserve is home to Ohio’s longest natural bridge, and of the 12 known natural arches in Ohio Rockbridge is the only one with a town named after it!  The natural arch or bridge is 95 feet long, 3 feet thick, varies from 7 to 26 feet in width and arches 40 feet above the plunge pool of the waterfall behind it.

Rockbridge Natural Arch – Click image to enlarge

The bridge originated as a typical Hocking Hills alcove carved into the soft middle layer of Black Hand sandstone at the head of a short box canyon cut by a small tributary of the Hocking River.  Wind, rain and percolating groundwater worked together for thousands of years, carving a deep cave-like recess in soft Black Hand sandstone.  Gradually erosional forces worked along a natural joint plane some distance behind the brink of the cliff, and over the centuries this ongoing process widened the crevice.  Today all that remains of the overhanging ledge is the narrow rock arch.

Waterfall with steaks of sun – Click image to enlarge

From the Nature Preserve’s parking lot it’s approximately a 1 mile hike to the Rockbridge natural arch. The trail is fairly flat at first and then goes up hill once you enter the woods.  Photographically, the best time to visit is early morning or evening when the sun is lower in the sky.  Since you’ll want to photograph the arch from below, the sky will be too bright during the mid-day hours and it will be almost impossible to get a good overall exposure.  To capture the full length of the arch, a wide angle lens with a focal length in the range of 15 to 25mm is needed.  Move around underneath the arch as many good compositions are possible from either side of the ravine.  I would also recommend visiting in the spring when you’ll likely have a waterfall to include in your composition.

More information about the Rockbridge State Nature Preserve can be found at:

Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Rockbridge State Nature Preserve

Hocking Hills State Park – Rockbridge State Nature Preserve Trail Map

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, please click here to email me.

Posted in Ohio State Park, Photographic Technique, Weekly Column Also tagged , |

Venus Transit

Venus Transit 2012 - Click image to enlarge

Tuesday June 5, 2012 – The sky was overcast all day in central Ohio, and I was beginning to think that I was not going to get a look at the Transit of Venus.  Given that the next transit would not be until 2117 when I would be the ripe old age of 165, I was really hoping the sky would clear!  Unless medical science finds a way to prolong the human lifespan significantly, I don’t think I’ll be around to see it in 2117!  First contact was to begin at 6:05 p.m. Eastern Daylight time and a friend of mine and I planned to meet at a location with a clear view of the western horizon we had picked out.  At 6:30 p.m. there were still thick clouds at our location, but we could see clearing to the north of us.  We decided to move north and after driving 20 miles we had clear skies over us.  We quickly set up our tripods and camera’s and started shooting.

To “safely” view and photograph the sun, special filters are needed.  I used a B+W 3.0 (10 stop light reduction) neutral density filter and a B+W UV/IR blocking filter.  Using these filters, the image above was made with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR, Canon 300mm f/4 IS L lens plus a Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 420mm.  Exposure was 1/3200 sec, at f/11, ISO 100.  The second image below was made using a Canon 100-400mm f/4.5 – 5.6 IS L lens plus a Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm.  The exposure for this image was also 1/3200 sec at f/11, ISO 100.  Some high thin clouds drifted by which gave the image a bit of a mysterious look.

Unfortunately some thick clouds came back and prevented us from watching the transit at sunset, but we didn’t complain since we felt very fortunate to see the transit at all.  Watching the transit was a special experience that I will never forget.  I’m glad I made the effort to go out and see it, even when it did look like sky would be clear enough.

Venus Transit 2012 - Click image to enlarge

Posted in Astronomy, Weekly Column Also tagged , |