I recently had the opportunity to take a “shooting trip” through the Flint Hills with good friend and fellow photographer Wayne Rhodus (check out Wayne’s photographs at http://www.rhodusphotography.com/). We decided to make a bit of ‘waterfall’ circuit and the first stop we made was at the Geary State Fishing Lake to photograph the waterfall there. I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of water flowing already. The photograph above was made using a telephoto lens to isolate the lower half of the main falls at Geary. I liked how the waterfall split into several smaller streams right at the lower edge of the falls.
The next ‘waterfall’ we stopped at was the old mill located in Cedar Point, Kansas. This is an interesting old building, which by the looks of things, is close to falling in the river. The light wasn’t the best when we were at the mill, but I thought this photograph turned out pretty good. I would have liked a more interesting sky, but the tree branch made an interesting foreground object to put with the mill and waterfall.
The final stop of the day was the Chase State Fishing Lake which has a nice set of 3 waterfalls at the outlet of the lake. I was here a few weeks ago to do some photography but there wasn’t much water flowing at that time. This time though, the water level was about perfect. The photograph above is one I made of the lowest of the 3 falls.
This next photograph is a different view of the lower set of falls. I was trying to create a photograph with a unique viewpoint of these falls so I got as close as I could with my wide angle lens and made a photograph across the top of the falls. This gave an interesting view of these falls that I hadn’t thought of trying before.
After making several photographs of the lower falls I moved on up and photographed the middle, and highest, section of the waterfalls. The rocks here have some beautiful colors in them and I really liked how the rocks and gravel looked in the pool below the waterfall. I framed the photograph above to use these rocks as foreground elements and to help lead the eye into the photograph.
Since my feet were already wet at this point, I decided there wasn’t any point in trying to stay dry and I climbed around the top of the waterfall and was able to find this interesting small cascade in front of the upper falls, seen in the background of the photo above. I think this was my favorite photograph of the day, it was a very peaceful spot and despite my wet feet I think I could have just sat here for awhile.
I think I’m drawn to waterfalls because I like the sound of running water so much. It is very relaxing to me. I also like the way running water photographs. I love the soft ‘cotton candy’ look you can achieve when photographing moving water. How do you do that? The key is a slow shutter speed. Most of the photographs I made at the Chase County falls had shutter speeds of 1/2 second, the ones at the Geary County falls, 1/6th sec. At these slow shutter speeds a tripod is a must, there is no way I could hold my camera steady for half a second. How slow of shutter speed you need depends on several factors including how fast the water is moving, how much of a ‘cotton candy’ effect you want and the available light levels. If you are photographing waterfalls in really bright light you might not be able to get as slow of a shutter speed as you would like. In these situations, a neutral density filter can help. These filters just reduce the amount of light entering the lens and help to slow your shutter speed down. ND filters come in different strengths and you can buy ‘variable’ ND filters that let you reduce the amount of light coming into the lens from 1 to 10 stops with some filters. You can also use a polarizing filter as they reduce the amount of light by 2 stops, whether or not you want the effect of the polarizer you can still use it to slow your shutter speed down.