When the afternoon sunshine is streaming through the throng of comets, ever wasting, ever renewed, the marvelous fineness, firmness, and variety of their forms are beautifully revealed. At the top of the fall they seem to burst forth in irregular spurts from some grand, throbbing mountain heart. –  John Muir

Warm breezes and spring drenchings have driven away the shroud of winter burial and the clear waters have arisen with a shout.  I could not resist the invitation to join the throng so I have been out playing in the water – jumping, splashing, falling, laughing.


Early spring is a great time to be around the water personally, but it is bit hard on the camera; lots of water splashing and mist flying. The lenses constantly need cleaning. The water is everywhere and running fast making it difficult to capture without it becoming a formless blur.

Great Gully

Water leaps out of bed at the first hint of spring. Still tired from wild Autumn parties, trees like to lie about, grab some extra sack time, and ease into things. As they stand about the forest rubbing their bleary eyes, their still bare limbs cast stark bars of shadow across the stream – no gently dancing dapples of summer sun filtered through myriad leaves.


The unhindered sun flashes and sparkles across the constantly shifting mirror surface of the water. The intense bursts of light burn holes through the scene leaving spots that float on the inside of my eyes.

The early water is thick and muddy from its new excavations of the stream banks; later it runs crystal clear and icy cold. The stones are black and grey and blue. Winter’s hand has wiped them clean of living green and orange and brown. The colors will return, but not until things calm down a bit.

If you read just about any tutorial on how to photograph waterfalls, you will be told that it is extremely important to go out on an overcast day, maybe even a rainy day. If you are cursed with sunny weather, you should make sure that you only go out in the early morning or late afternoon so that the falls will likely be covered in shade. This evens out the light avoiding bright highlights and dark shadows. It lets you slow the shutter speed down and smooth out the water for that misty flow effect. The exposure of your photographs will be nice and even and Kodak approved.

Me, I like to go a different route. I love being out in the bright sun smack dab in the middle of the day. Working among the hard shadows and bright flares lets me isolate and highlight hidden features. I think that bright sunny days are when the water is happiest and I try to capture that in my photos. It’s tricky to get the camera to work in these conditions – I’m often disappointed when I’m unable to capture the image that I see in my mind.

When I do get what I want, the images certainly aren’t to everyone’s taste. High contrast, lots of solid black with no shadow detail, definitely not HDR, empty areas, bright flares, strange shapes – not what most people think of when they think nature photography. My wife worries that I’ve gone over to the dark side. Oh well.



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7 Responses to “Water”

  1. uphilldowndale Says:

    Third shot down is my favourite

    • forestrat Says:

      That is a shot of a fall at Great Gully. I’ve been there a few other times and it is amazing how different things look depending on the time of the year and the amount of water in the stream.


  2. kseverny Says:

    these shots are excellent.
    So well captured

  3. Cutthroat Stalker (Scott) Says:


    As you know, water is my favorite (that fishing thing). I was just out yesterday morning taking a couple of the classic “soft” water shots since it was overcast and early AM. My water was an 18″ wide creek, so I don’t have to worry too much about a wet camera.

    I love the fourth shot down–I especially like the texture, shape and space of it. I’m not sure why, but the last shot reminds me of Arawan’s water stallions that she sends down the river to wipe out the Nazgul.

    • forestrat Says:

      The fourth shot is a close up of some splashing water that I took at a really high shutter speed – 1/2500. Still some of the water is blurred. It just runs too fast in the spring.


  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    I like them all, and the poetic quality of the writing too.
    When I read the excerpts of John Muir, I realize that it would be a very slow read for me, since each word carries its weight and length and breadth. It’s rich and profound – not the sort of thing to be skimmed, but the kind of thing to be examined and savoured.

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