January 9th, 2011

pacman inkee

cataract falls

waterfalls 4, originally uploaded by hep.

yesterday the girls, yoshio, yuriy and i went on a hike to cataract falls in fairfax (evan was spending the day with his girlfriend and her family). it was super foggy and wet, so perfect for hunting waterfalls. this trail is really good for photographing them, there are at least 5 separate sets of falls that you will pass during the 1.3 miles to the base of the main falls. the trail is very well maintained, not too steep during the climbs, with stairs where it is. we brought a picnic lunch and ate at the curve halfway up the main falls. i took a lot of small aperture long exposure shots.

there are two main things you want to remember to bring along when you go to do long exposure water work. the first is a decent neutral density filter or two. make sure you have at least two to four stops worth of filters in various multithreaded combos that you can thread together, if not many stops more. this will be a pain in the ass, but will save you on sunny days when you can't shoot long enough to get the beautiful soft blur of the water motion. i am really fond of tiffen filters because they are cheap and i seem to forget filters where ever i was shooting more than i remember them. plus i like to put them in my pocket and they get scratched up pretty quick. so cheap and replaceable is more important to me than sublime glass. make sure you pick up the correct size for your lens diameter (check the owners manual online if you are unsure how to read a lens for the diameter) and make doubly sure that it is NOT a *graduated* neutral density filter because it will be mostly useless to try and work with outside of very specific conditions (but they are great on landscape photography!)

the next thing you need is a decent tripod. it doesn't have to be super fancy, just something you can set up for 2-10second exposures on. i use fairly cheap tripods (because i have a tendency to bang them up around my warehouse studio), and i just use my photo bag to stabilize them at the base with a plastic hook i bought from daiso. works perfect and never gets shake. a wireless remote or a remote cord are also useful but not required.

now, being me, aka lazy, i left all of these things in the car. so let me tell you my hep brand lazy solutions to common photography issues. there really isn't a solution to not bringing an nd filter, i just lucked out that it was a foggy and dark enough day that i didn't have to fight too hard with overexposure. i was however, shooting at the very small ends of my apertures so i would have been fucked if it was brighter. i was watching the weather however and was pretty sure i was in the clear (read: too lazy to search which other photobag that filter pack is in). for a tripod however, i often use the longest, flattest part of my photobag turned on its back. any flat surface is a decent tripod, and in a pinch brace yourself against a pole or tree to minimize one axis of movement which will minimize most of the others too. if you didn't bring a wireless or cable release, or you are worried about camera shake from touching, set your self-timer to 3seconds or the shortest time you have and use that. by the time the timer goes off, the shaking from pressing the shutter button will have stopped.

set your camera up on the tripod. close down the aperture as much as you can. set your shutter speed from 2-10 seconds, depending on waterflow, water speed, light conditions, and whatever other factors you have going on where you are shooting. you want enough water to go by to give that feathery look, without too much going so it whites out and loses feather detail. experiment with throwing aperture into the mix for narrow depth of field combined with long exposure on the water. this is where having many more stops worth of nd filters on hand will be helpful. this tutorial talks about a great way to combine two polarizing filters to make an ultimate nd filter (see the bottom).

most of these were about 2-4 seconds. at 4seconds i was starting to seriously over-expose and i had to do a lot of post-processing to bring back burned detail in contrast to the dark shadows. thank god for photochop. i wanted to do some ir filter stuff too while out there, but my leg started weakening and it was dangerous enough climbing around on wet slippery slopes and rocks when i could feel both of them. next weekend i want to hit up either cascade falls or carson falls. winter is our spring in the bay area, so everything is green and blooming right now. plus mushrooms. i love fungi scouting (but not ever ever ever ever eating. ever. there are like 50000000 lethal northern california mushrooms. i basically assume every fungus i see is out to kill me. craziness.)

lest you think this weekend was all hiking and photography, we spent today cleaning out and reorganizing the garage. it was getting pretty bad down there and there was lots of purging. now the bikes are all organized and bedded down so they won't rust, the chicken feed has a new waterproof solution (the old bins cracked and the grain feed will sprout+mold with the slightest hint of moisture), got all the tools sorted, fixed up my enlarger so it's in a more useable situation, and got all the camping gear inventoried and ready to restock. now if i can get the yard, laundry room, and under the bed sorted i will have met my monthly organizational goals AND gotten a solid chunk of my spring cleaning to-do list out of the way before it's even spring!