Category Archives: Waterfalls

2017 Lake Jesup Wildflower Season: RIP

Hurricane Irma certainly brought her share of misery to my Florida.  My family fared well…6 days without power isn’t that much of a hardship compared to some of the devastation I’ve seen on TV.

Once I got power back, one of the first things I did was take a look at my website to see what I may have missed.  I saw that a number of folks had sent messages to me about Irma.  It make me chuckle when I read them and found they weren’t wishes for my family’s safety, my fellow photographers were asking me if all the rain from Irma would have an impact on the annual Lake Jesup wildflower bloom!   Well, photographers do have their priorities:)

Anyway, I drove out to the fields yesterday to see how things were looking.  As I feared, they are completely flooded with only a handful of flowers visible above the water.  The waters will certainly recede, but not quickly.  In past years, the peak of the bloom is around the first of Oct. so it might be a bit early to write-off all hope for 2017 but I’m not optimistic.

I’ll make another scouting trip in another 10 days and let you know what I find!
Jeff

2017 Lake Jesup Wildflower Update

We probably won’t be treated to scenes like this in 2017 This is what I fear we won’t be seeing this year…a photo of the Jesup bloom last year

 

Also posted in Central Florida Photo Locations Tagged , , |

My Twelve Best of 2015

Writing my annual Top 12 blog is always interesting.  Yeah…interesting.  It’s a good word.  It covers everything from fun to frustrating…and that’s very appropriate.  Trying to filter 12,000 images down to 12 is a challenge.  Don’t get me wrong, it is fun to remember the trips I took to capture these shots…those are some wonderful memories.  But just 12 images…wow…it’s really frustrating trying to narrow it down that much.  On, the other hand, I guess it’s a good problem to have, it meant that 2015 resulted in a lot of work I was proud of.   Well anyway, you didn’t click on this blog to hear me ramble…you want to see photos, so here we go…my best work of the year 2015 (in no particular order):2015 Smokies_04_30_03285 3260 blendI know I said the photos aren’t ranked, but this might be my favorite shot of the year.  Heck, this might be my favorite shot ever.  I have huge metal print of this image hanging right over my desk and every time I see it, I seem to stop and drink it in for a moment or two.  Not only does it inspire me, but I always think of the improbable chain of events that resulted in me capturing this image.  It’s a shot that I shouldn’t have gotten, but I did…and I’m grateful.

2015 Smokies_04_30_02492 cropJust adorable.  I came upon this cub and his sister playing on the edge of a field in the Smokies and they couldn’t have been more cute if they had tried.  I spent a few hours  photographing them while hand-holding the ‘beast’ (my 200-400 lens…which weighs as much as the cub’s mom)…but it was worth every aspirin I had to swallow!

2015 Smokies_04_28_00219 blendGeorge Jetson was here!  Well, that’s the type of graffiti I was expecting to see on top of Clingman’s Dome when I was setting up this shot.  I love how the spiral observation tower mimics the grace of the Milky Way.

 

2015 Scuba 17 March 11879 crop2_1My wife and I were diving on a wreck in the Caribbean when this big kahuna joined us and made my day.  I’d never had much luck photographing sea turtles but that all changed on this trip!  I’d be the first to admit that I still have volumes to learn about underwater photography, but even so, my family considers this shot to be one of their favorites!

 

2015 PAC NW 08 12 2628My son and I had an epic hiking trip to the Pac NW last summer and came home with some lasting memories and killer waterfall photos…this shot of Ryan in front of Wachlella Falls is my pick from that litter….

 

2015 PAC NW 08 11 2353

On second thought, I kinda like this long exposure perspective of Ponytail Falls too…

 

2015 PAC NW 08 09 1205cropwm24x36

When I get to visit a location on my “Photographic Bucket List” I rarely come back with a photo I would consider ‘world class.’  After all, when you only have a day or two, what chance do you have to really learn how to best capture the scene PLUS be blessed with weather that makes the image truly something special?  This shot of ‘Thor’s Well’ was a welcome exception to that rule.

2015 Northwest 06 30 451 (1)

This Alaskan harbor seal appears due to the lobbying efforts of my wife.  I would have put it in my top 25 but not top 12…she disagreed.  Over the years I’ve learned to carefully listen when she speaks…

2015-northwest-06-24-656-blendskewsky

 

I have a love-hate thingy going with the Oregon/Washington coast.  I love that the coast line has some of the most breathtaking incredible vistas anywhere but I hate that the weather is often, usually, always crappy.  Okay…not always, but it sure seems that way to me.  So it takes some perseverance and luck to get a memorable image.  On the other hand, since you have to go back to the same spot multiple times hoping for good weather, when it finally does clear up, you have scouted the spot to death and know how you want to shoot it!

 

2015 Northwest 06 20 904

Washington’s Palouse Falls is an incredible sight and I’ve long believed that it would be even more impressive at night with the Milky Way rising over it.  Well, over the years I’ve tried many times to get that shot but the falls are in a deep, dark gorge and it is real challenge to light it up well. I tried long exposures…I tried light painting…  Nothing I did looked ‘right.’  One frustrating and unproductive night when I was breaking down my equipment a guy walked up and asked if I minded if he tried some light painting.  I chuckled to myself and told him to have at it since I’d thought I had already tried everything.  He pulled out the most powerful flashlight I’d ever seen and proceeded to do a masterful job of illuminating the gorge.  I snapped away and ended up with the shot I had always dreamed of.  My thanks to Ariel Rodilla for showing me that I still have a lot more to learn about light painting!

 

Best Photos of the Year

Perfect Palouse

Every photographer should have the chance to shoot the Palouse region of eastern Washington State at least once before they die.  It truly is a land that time forgot (in a good way) and the 360° views of the sensuous, smooth, and seemingly liquid landscape from Steptoe Butte are stunning.

 

Best Photos of the Year

Manatee Sunrise

I’ll finish with the most popular photograph I’ve ever published.  When I posted this one on my Facebook page, it seemed to really strike a chord with folks and it went viral.  Oddly enough, this photo bothers me.  When I look at it, all I seem to notice is that the front of this manatee’s nose is out of focus.  Sometimes being a perfectionist means you get hung up on small details and I’m certainly guilty of that.  It was an incredible moment though, when this manatee surfaced right in front of me while I was taking a shot of the sunrise.  If only he had given me the time to make sure the shot was in focus…

It was an incredible year for me professionally and personally.  I explored more of this incredible planet, met lots of wonderful folks, sold some prints, won a contest or two and got a few images published.  Plus, even after all these years, I found that photography continued to challenge and inspire me.   Even better, my wife and I got my first Grandchild (little London Grace)…which helps keep my photography obsession in perspective.

Life is Good.

Jeff

Also posted in Best Photos of the Year, Landscape Photography, Milky Way Photography, Night Photography, Pacific Northwest USA, Underwater Photography, Wildlife

North Georgia Photo Trip: Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

Last week I had a conference in Atlanta and found myself with a free day afterwards.  Of course I’d brought my camera gear (Question: “How do you know when you are a photographer?   Answer:  When you travel with two large backpacks stuffed with photo gear and a single miniscule bag with the unimportant stuff (like medicine, clothes and toiletries!”)

In years past, I’d already hit metro Atlanta’s photo spots (the Zoo, Aquarium, Stone Mountain,  Botanical Gardens, etc) and besides, I really wanted to get out of the city.  A fellow photographer had told me that there were neat waterfalls in the Georgia mountains only about an hour and a half from Atlanta, so the next morning I got in the car and headed north.  Oddly enough, although I’ve driven thru the area dozens of times, I had never stopped to explore it before.

Toccoa Falls

North Georgia Photo Trip: Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

Taccoa Falls…only 95 miles north of Atlanta!

My first stop was Toccoa Falls which is on the grounds of a private university (Toccoa Falls College).  Although not well known, I was surprised to learn that Toccoa is one of the larger falls east of the Mississippi with a drop of 186’ (57m).  After a brief five minute walk up a gravel path, I came upon the view you see above. Unlike Niagara or Yosemite, Toccoa doesn’t overwhelm you with grandeur, but its smaller scale makes it somehow more intimate and personal. It certainly wasn’t crowded, I saw only a few other folks during my Tuesday morning visit.

The setting is certainly peaceful, but it was the site of tragedy in 1977 when a dam burst upstream of the falls sweeping 39 people to their deaths.  You will see a granite memorial inscribed with the victims names located on the trail

Photo Tips:

North Georgia Photo Trip: Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

Gate Cottage: Park next to this this building

Finding the falls was a bit of a challenge.  My GPS tried to take me off-road when I typed in “Toccoa Falls.”  Instead, use Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia as your GPS destination.  This is a small, quiet campus and you will find plenty of signs directing you to the falls.  Drive to the end of Forrest Drive and park when you see the “Gate Cottage.”  It opens at 8am and there is a small admission fee (I think it was $2).  Here is a link to Google Maps that you might find helpful.

The best time of the day for photography is either right after sunrise while the falls are totally shaded or mid-morning when the entire falls are illuminated.  Often the sun is already hitting the falls by the time the Gate Cottage opens, so you might not really have a choice.  Although most waterfalls are best photographed on overcast days or when shaded, I think Toccoa is an exception to that rule.

The best vantage spot for photography might be among the easiest to get to.  Just walk to the base of the falls at the end of the gravel path.   There are some large flat rocks in the water and if you set up your tripod on top of them you will be treated to a really nice perspective of the Falls.  There is a also a small (and slippery) trail running up the left side of the falls.  I took a number of shots along the trail, but none of those viewpoints are as nice as the first one I mentioned.  I didn’t see an easy way to get to the other side of the stream, I might give it a try the next time I visit to see if the views are good from that angle.

Experiment with different shutter speeds to see the resulting effect on moving water.  Personally, I often use HDR since it allows me to capture the attractive ‘silky’ look of rushing water and the full dynamic range often present in waterfalls (especially when in direct sunlight).

Back Road SurprisesNorth Georgia Photo Trip: Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

On my way to my next stop, 2014  Georgia Waterfalls  May 13 00099_ hwy 255 1 mile n of 114I rolled down the windows and enjoyed the cool morning as I rode small two lane country roads.  At the junction of Hwy 255 and 115, I saw a sign for the Stoval Mills Covered Bridge and took a 3 mile detour. As covered bridges go, it wasn’t terribly impressive, but they are a rare sight in the south and worth a photo.

The barn on the photo to the right resulted in another unplanned stop a few minutes down the road.  I loved the brilliant field of yellow flowers contrasted against the green hill and blue sky.

Anna Ruby Falls

North Georgia Photo Trip: Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

Disappointing Panorama

After a leisurely hour drive from Toccoa,  I passed the quaint (and tourist intensive) Alpine village of Helen and reached the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.  My goal was Anna Ruby Falls, which is actually two separate streams that fall over the same granite cliff, then merge before heading to the Chattahoochee River and finally concluding its journey 500 miles later in the Gulf of Mexico.   It was a much shorter trip for me:  I was setting up my tripod after a short (.8 mile) walk on the asphalt trail.

I photographed the falls for nearly an half hour, but to be honest, I wasn’t able to find a perspective that attractively showed both falls.  Trees and the walkway seemed to conspire to block my shots and it wasn’t until I gave up on a ‘grand panorama’ and instead concentrated on smaller views of the site that it began to yield some decent frames.

North Georgia Photo Trip:  Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

Once you look for details. there is plenty to photograph!

This is a very popular location: you won’t find yourself alone.  Nonetheless, the area is beautiful and the park is well maintained by the US Forest Service.

Photo Tips:

North Georgia Photo Trip:  Waterfall Photo Tips and GuideThis link will take you to a Google Map that will help you find the falls.  North Georgia Photo Trip:  Waterfall Photo Tips and GuideYou actually first drive through Unicoi State Park before you reach a small guard shack near the parking lot for Anna Ruby Falls ($3 entrance fee).

You might be able to capture both falls in a single shot in the winter when the trees are bare, otherwise, concentrate on smaller sections of the view.  The wonderful cascades you will pass on the path to the falls will likely keep you entertained as well.

Minnehaha Falls

Another hour in the car and I found what turned out to be my favorite location of the day:  Minnehaha Falls.  It was an adventure even finding this one…my directions eventually took me down a poorly marked, remote and twisting gravel road.  Believe it or not, I actually had a pack of howling dogs chase my car for a bit.  If I had heard somebody playing banjo music right about then, I would have had my Prius rocketing down that road like a 4×4 Monster Truck!   I was about to give up and turn around when I noticed this wood walkway on the side of road.

North Georgia Photo Trip: Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

Can you see “To Minnehaha” carved into the handrail? Easy to miss…but it is your only clue!

This small trail marker was next to the handrail...but it is nearly impossible to see from the road

This small trail marker was next to the handrail…but it is nearly impossible to see from the road

The walkway led to a short dirt trail (6/10th of  mile each way) and the soothing sounds of falling water intensified with each step.  I didn’t see a soul at the falls…it was certainly the least visited and most isolated location of the day.  When I pushed aside the last branch at the end of the trail, I could see that Minnehaha is really a huge series of cascades…not a ‘classic’ vertical waterfall.   Although the total height is only 60 feet, the falls widen with every 4 foot drop and it is impressively wide by the time it settles into a pool at the bottom.  It is an exceptionally beautiful and tranquil setting.  I wish I could have stayed for hours

North Georgia Photo Trip: Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

I let the lightly colored rounded boulders at the end of the cascade anchor the bottom right corner of the image. Overall, Minnehaha is one of the most photogenic waterfalls I have seen anywhere.

Photo Tips:

  1. First of all, don’t get these falls confused with the better known Minnehaha Falls located in Minnesota!   Click on this linkto access an interactive map.  The map should help get you to Seed Lake Road which runs along Crow Creek. However, I found that things got a bit confusing after that.  Here are some details that will help make it a bit easier for you:
    • Once you turn off Seed Lake Road onto Low Gap Rd, you will immediately cross a bridge over Crow Creek (you can see the small Nacoochee Dam to the right from the bridge).
    • About 500’ past the bridge, you will turn left onto a dirt road called Bear Gap Rd.  This road runs along the south bank of Crow Creek (it looked like a river to me).
    • Continue 1.7 miles. After a sharp left turn, watch the hillside on the right for that handrail inscribed with “To Minnihaha”.
    • Parking is nothing more than a wide shoulder on the left side of the dirt road.
  2. The falls are heavily shaded and receive little direct sunlight.  This means you won’t have severe problems with dynamic range which is often the case with waterfalls caught in direct sunlight.  No need to wait for an overcast day.
  3. The hillsides on either side of the falls are filled with rhododendron which bloom in mid to late May (if only I had been there two weeks later!)

Final Thoughts

I only had 8 hours available for this daytrip, but there are other photogenic locations in the area (like Amicalola Falls, Tallulah Gorge, Ravens Cliff Falls and many more).  One thing is for sure, on my next fall trip to the Smokies, I certainly won’t be driving nonstop like I have in the past…I’ll be stopping for a day or two in the mountains of north Georgia!

Jeff

 North Georgia Photo Trip:  Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

North Georgia Photo Trip:  Waterfall Photo Tips and Guide

Also posted in Southeast U.S.A. Tagged , |

Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

One of the things I love most about photography is that it entices me to venture out into the world and see wonders I would never otherwise experience.  For example…have you every heard of a ‘moonbow’?  Well, I hadn’t either until a few weeks ago.   I was doing some research for a trip to Yosemite when I saw a mention about moonbows and it caught my attention.  It turns out that a moonbow (also known as a lunar rainbow,  white rainbow or space rainbow) is a rainbow created by full moon at night (instead of direct sunlight during the day).  Although recorded by observers from Aristotle to Benjamin Franklin, they are still not well known due to their rarity.   Not every waterfall can host a moonbow, in fact, the list of well-known locations is pretty small: Yosemite, Victoria Falls in Africa, Hawaii’s Waimea  Falls and Cumberland Falls in Kentucky.   The five required conditions are:

  1. Correct “rainbow geometry” when the moon lines up correctly with a waterfall’s mist
  2. A clear sky (few, if any clouds),
  3. Abundant mist at the base of the fall,
  4. An absence of artificial light,
  5. Bright, direct moonlight (full or nearly full moon)

So how do you know if there is “correct rainbow geometry?” Well, that was a problem for years.  Although back in the 1870s, famed naturalist John Muir was singing the wonders of Yosemite’s “elusive, ethereal moonbow”, no one could predict when you would be able to see one.  It wasn’t until 2007 that astrometers in Texas figured it out and published a schedule of future moonbow dates.  So there is no guessing anymore, a quick click onto the Texas State University website and you are good to go. Note:  don’t confuse the Texas State University with the University of Texas (which is a mistake I made when I first wrote this blog)…my thanks to William Cardwell for pointing out my error…Go Bobcats!)

Well, by the time I finished reading all this, I was very interested.  When I checked the Texas website and saw that one of the predicted moonbows would occur while I was at Yosemite, I was EXCITED!  All I needed now was a bit more luck… a clear night.  Did my luck hold?   Check out the shot below:

Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

Looks just like a regular rainbow…right?  Whoops, not quite…check out those stars!   To be honest, it doesn’t quite look like this to the naked eye (this is a 30 second exposure).  In person, a moonbow has very subdued colors .   It really depends on the cone color receptors in your eyes, if yours are sensitive, you will see colors, if not, you will see more of a greyish-white ‘bow.’  Either way, it was everything John Muir promised.  In fact, even though it was wet and freezing, each time the moon hit the mist just right, the moonbow would shiver into sight and you could hear the assembled photographers gasp and call out to one another in amazement.  And that’s saying a lot, because my experience is that landscape photographers have a tendency to be quiet and reserved…but you would have never known it that night.

Personally, I was so enthralled that I stayed at the falls for nearly three hours the first night, and nearly as long the next.  I’ll tell you, it is really nice to be able to feel that same sense of wonder that you experienced as a child.  Perhaps it doesn’t happen as often, but I think the emotion is deeper felt than when I was younger.

Tips for my fellow Photographers:

  1. Where to Photograph From

    • There are usually at least two locations that the moonbow is visible from:
      1. Lower Yosemite Falls:  The bridge and terrace at the base of the falls (see map below)Moonbow map for Lower Yosemite Falls-
        • There is parking available on Northside Drive, just east of Yosemite Falls Lodge.
        • Plan on a short 10-15 minute stroll on the paved trail.  Just follow the signs to ‘Lower Yosemite Falls.’  When you come to a 50 foot bridge at the base of the fall, you have found the spot.
        • The concrete terrace just to the west of the footbridge is the favorite location of most photographers because the bridge can shake a bit when folks walk on it and the terrace tends to get hit with less mist
        • At the terrace, move as close to the north end as you can (closest to the falls).  There is a large fallen log that borders the edge of the terrace, if you can get right up to it, I think you will have the best seat in the house. This location is ‘up close and personal.’  The view, sound and mist are incredible.
      2. Upper Yosemite Falls
        • You can see a different perspective of the moonbow from the parking lot at Sentinel Bridge or just south from Cook’s Meadow
        • It won’t be as crowded but frankly, this view just doesn’t excite me nearly as much as the terrace at the lower falls.
  2. When to Go

    • Check the Texas Website and see when moonbows are predicted.
    • The water flow is usually best in the spring which should generate more mist, which should result in a better moonbow.  That isn’t a sure thing, but if you had a choice of when to go, choose the predicted dates earliest in the year.
    • The best tripod locations fill up early, so I’d get there about an hour before the start of the predicted moonbow
    • When the moonbow first appears, it will be high on the falls.  As the night progresses, the bow will move lower and lower toward the base of the falls.  Many viewers think earlier views are the best
  3. What to Wear

    • You will likely get wet photographing from the terrace/bridge at the Lower Falls.  Bring good Gore-Tex raingear (preferably something with a hood)
      • If your camera isn’t weather sealed, you will want to have something to cover it with.  You can find everything from cheap plastic covers to high-end Think Tank Hydrophobias easily on Amazon.
      • If you get wet, you will likely get cold unless you have a good jacket under your raingear.  I was dry but freezing my first night because I had thought a forecast of 60 degrees Fahrenheit didn’t require anything warm under my raingear….I was wrong.
      • Thin fleece gloves will make the experience more comfortable as well
  4. Bring a Headlamp

    • A headlamp will keep light on your subject while keeping your hands free
    • If your headlamp has a ‘red light’ feature, it will help preserve your night vision
    • Please be careful not to shine your light into the eyes and cameras of your fellow photographers.
  5. Tripod/Remote Shutter Release/Extra Batteries

    • You will be taking long exposures and will need a tripod.  And, if you have a tripod with an extending center column, then bring it.  I had my full sized tripod with me and by raising the center column to its full height, I was able to photograph OVER the heads of photographers who had got there before me and staked out the best locations.
    • A remote shutter release will ensure that no vibration will ruin your shot.
    • You will be taking a lot of shots over a couple hours and if it is cold, your batteries will drain quicker than normal.
  6. Lens suggestions

    • Bring the widest, fastest lens you have.
    • On a full frame camera  you will need about 28mm to get the entire falls in the frame (about 42mm on a cropped APS-C sensor camera).
    • A 2.8f or faster lens is ideal but you can still get good shots with slower lenses…you will just need longer exposures.

      Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

      Check out the double moonbow! This spot closest to the fallen log on the northern edge of the terrace has a great perspective. To see this shot in full res, click anywhere on the photo

  7. Lens Cleaning/Drying Cloths

    • Bring LOTS of these.  I found that I had to dry my lens after EVERY shot.
  8. Focus on Infinity

    • Getting good focus at night can be a challenge.  Autofocus will not be your friend, so use Manual Focus.
    • If your camera has a Live-View feature, use it
    • Check your LCD after every shot to make sure you have the focus tack-sharp
    • Be careful that you don’t mess up your focus when you are cleaning the lens.  I made this mistake a couple times before I could figure out why my focus kept changing!
  9. ISO/Shutter Speed

    • There is a trade-off decision you will have to make between these two settings.
    • If your shutter speed is over 30 seconds, the stars will no longer show as pinpoints…they will start to streak
    • Higher ISO settings will let you use shorter shutter speeds, but will result in higher noise levels
    • With a Nikon 800E and a f/2.8 lens, I was able to shoot at ISOs between 140-200 at 30 seconds with fine results.  Experiment with your camera/lens combination and see what works.  Fortunately, the moonbows often last for a couple hours, so you have time for some trial and error.
    • Use your histogram to confirm that you got a good exposure.
    • Even with a histogram, I’d suggest that you bracket your shots to ensure that you do get shots with perfect exposure.
  10. Okay, I’m all set…but where is that darned Moonbow?

    • Remember, the skies need to be pretty clear for a good moonbow, even if you are there on the right night.  If it is a bit cloudy, stick it out and with a bit of luck, the moon will peek thru the clouds before your ‘window’ is over,
    • After you spot the moonbow once, you will know what to look for.  Remember, the colors won’t be vivid to your eye, but the ‘rainbow’ shape will still be there…look for it.
    • See if you can find your head’s shadow and then draw a line between it and the base of the falls…the moonbow should form a 42 degree arc above that line.
    • Even if you still can’t see it, I’ll bet that when the moonbow appears, the folks around you will start pointing at it…that should help!

So, there you have it.  A new potential adventure for you to try and certainly one that will be long remembered.  In fact, often my ‘non-photographic’ friends only pay ‘polite’ attention to me when I drone on about my photo shoots, but when I started talking about moonbows, I think they were truly interested;)

Remember, photography is about a lot more than just pretty pictures!
Jeff

Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows: A Photographic How-To Guide

This image was taken later in the evening. Note that the moonbow is much lower than in the previous shots taken earlier.

 Photo Tips for Yosemite Moonbows:  A Photographic How-To Guide

Also posted in Landscape Photography, Night Photography, Photo Tips and Guides, Yosemite Tagged , , , |

Little Surprises: Little Wailua Falls…Maui’s Subtle Hidden Treasure

One of the lessons I’ve (painfully) learned over the years, is to be open to the unexpected and unplanned.  Honestly, it isn’t an easy lesson for me.  By nature, I’m a planner..perhaps excessively so (at least my wife THINKS so!).   My perspective has always been:  This might be a once-in-a-lifetime trip…what if there is a killer photo op two miles away but I don’t know about it!  So often I leave on a trip with a twenty page itinerary complete with maps, notes, GPS coordinates and more.

On the other hand, I honestly have to admit that much of my best work has been the result of an unplanned opportunity (or flat-out, total mistakes).  Like this shot below:

Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls...Maui's Subtle Hidden Treasure

To see this shot in full resolution, just click on it with your mouse.

I love this photograph.  Of the dozens or so huge, magnificent, incredible waterfalls I photographed on a recent trip to Hawaii, this quiet, secluded, almost miniature cascade is by far my favorite.

It happened like this:  My wife and I had stayed overnight in Hana so I could get some sunrise shots.  I had planned to photograph Wailua Falls (about 7 1/2 miles south of Hana) since it was right on our the way to the trailhead for a hike we were making later that morning to Waimoku Falls (another 400′ tropical wonder). When we got to Wailua Falls (here is a link to a map on Google Earth) it was obvious that over 99% of the photographs falls are taken from the bridge which runs right in front of it.   So I decided to hike down to the base of the falls and get a shot with a different perspective…but I made a mistake.  I knew from my pre-trip research that there was trail from the bridge to the falls but I didn’t know where it started.  I looked around and spotted one just past the bridge (west) on the ocean side (south) of the road.  After ten minutes of slipping and sliding down a wet and muddy slope, I had worked my way back to the bridge…which is where I found this delightful little pool.  As it turns out, I couldn’t get any closer to the big falls from this trail (apparently, the correct trail is on the other (north) side of the road).

Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls...Maui's Subtle Hidden Treasure

View from the other side of the pool

And here is where I got my second unplanned gift.  The best thing (to me) about this shot are the streaks caused by the the swirling leaves in the pool.  I had seen this before in work done by other photographers, but I hadn’t ever done it myself.  Honestly, I didn’t even notice at the time that the leaves were moving. But since the spot was very dark, I took a series of seven bracketed shots hoping that HDR would be able to capture what little light there was.  A couple weeks later when I processed the shot with HDR , I was shocked to see that the slowly moving leaves were now wonderful looping swirls of color.  In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that that seven shots, taken over a two or three minute timeframe, would transform the languidly moving leaves into mesmorizing streaks of color.

So there.  I didn’t know this little falls even existed and I had no idea that the HDR would result in the beautiful leaf swirls.  Despite that, the result was far better than my hundreds of well-planned shots of other, more impressive and well-known waterfalls.

The moral of the story?  Planning is vital and it will dramatically increase your chances of great captures, but don’t be a slave to your plans or ‘pre-visualized’ shots.  Keep one eye open for the unexpected…and see what happens!

Have a great Holiday and may all your surprises be happy ones!
Jeff

PS: Here is a shot of Waimoku Falls from later that same morning.  It is an incredible vista (yes, that little green dot at the base of the falls is my long-suffering wife Anita waving at me)!

Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls...Maui's Subtle Hidden Treasure

A human figure sure helps you get a sense of scale! Click on the photo to see it in FULL resolution!

 Little Surprises:  Little Wailua Falls…Maui’s Subtle Hidden Treasure

 

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