Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spearfish Canyon - a South Dakota Gem

When you think of South Dakota, most people don’t think of beautiful mountain canyons.  Spearfish Canyon just outside of Spearfish, SD is a beautiful canyon to photograph.  It has impressive limestone cliffs colored with a pallet of brown, pink, red and gray rock.   At the end of September, you get the beautiful fall colors mixed in for a delightful affect.  You can get to the 20 mile long canyon via the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 14A)

Roughlock Falls

The three big landscape photographic attractions for this visit were waterfalls.  Yes, there are waterfalls in South Dakota.  The first waterfall we visited during our photo weekend (Oct 15-18 2011) was Roughlock Falls.    There are a couple of spots overlooking the falls from the top and a walkway to get below the falls.  At Savoy, SD, there is a turnoff to a gravel road from the highway to get to the falls.

We arrived before sunrise (the falls face southeast) before the sun comes up over the canyon walls.  I used a polarizer filter to help slow down the shutter speed and to remove any reflection from the water (my shutter speeds were from 0.3 to 3.2 seconds). I wanted to capture the small white water in front and the Roughlock falls in the background.  Unfortunately, it was past the peak fall color season.  It would have been nice to get there at the end of September to capture that color and the falls together.   

I used two different lens at Roughlock Falls, the Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle Lens angle and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Telephoto Zoom lens. 
Bridal Veil Falls

Another waterfall - Bridal Veil Falls, flows off the canyon walls between Savoy and Spearfish.  There is a pull off area on the west side of the highway which many visitors use to view the falls.  You can get a nice shot of the falls from the road with with some trees acting as a border to the falls but we climbed cross Spearfish creek to get closer to the waterfall. 

We arrived at the Bridal Veil Falls at the end of the day’s light.  When you are up close to the waterfall, you need a wide angle lens (Canon EF16-35mm) to capture the entire falls (50 feet) in a single shot.  As before, I used my polarizer filter and tripod shooting 1-2 second shutter speeds.  To capture the entire falls, I found the best location was right in front of the falls standing in the run off.  I found I really liked the top section of the falls and used my Canon 70-200mm Telephoto Zoom lens to capture the top part of the Bridal Veil Falls.

Little Spearfish Falls

The last waterfall we visited, Little Spearfish Falls, was close to Roughlock Falls just off the highway.  It is a short walk from the highway to the falls and you will be surprised by how close the falls is to the highway.  The waterfall is about 80 feet and you can see the entire falls from the trail.

We arrived before the sunrise to be able to photograph the scene before the sun hit it.   I wanted to capture the waterfall with as many fall colors as possible and of course with the silky smooth water using a slow shutter speed and a polarizer filter. I minimized the sky in the photo since a slow shutter speed would blow out the sky.  The other challenge was the falls looks like it falls from the sky so the waterfall had to start near the top of the photo.   I also tried to show the water flowing from the falls along with the colorful grass on the water’s edge to provide some depth.

Little Spearfish Falls throws off a mist that could be felt all the way to the other side of Spearfish Creek.  Shortly after the sun came over the canyon wall, the interaction between the sun and the mist made for a most interesting effect.  (Remember to bring a cloth to clean off the lens).  My photo partner, Sean Key, captured a nice photo in that that light.
Also, we walked downstream for more photo opportunities and found a beautiful reflection in the creek of  the sunlight hitting the tops of the canyon walls.  We noticed a small rock in the creek where the water flowed around it which provided a nice subject.  I used a slow shutter speed to make the water silky smooth and the reflections of the colors turned out well

Spearfish Canyon had a lot of beauty to photograph.  Even though I live in Colorado, Spearfish Canyon is a top choice for me to shoot.

website:  www.perryralph.com
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Monday, January 17, 2011

Bronco Orange and Blue Sunrises

The best photos to shoot in the middle of December thru the middle of January are the stunning sunrises in Colorado.  I have not seen sunrises as colorful as they are here in Colorado during this time.  I sure there are some really good reasons for this and smarter people than me could provide the explanation.  All I know is that they provide great items to shoot during the cold winter months. 

The photo below was taken at the Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area in southwestern Fort Collins.   There a number of colors in the sunrise from oranges, purples, reds, and yellows reflecting off the clouds.   The formation of the clouds also helps create places for the eye to roam.  With the stunning colors in the sky and the clouds, the foreground I look for is basic and will be silhouetted.   In this case a cluster of trees in the area.
As mentioned in the blog 7 things to look for in a photograph, the colors of the sky reflecting off the clouds provide the "wow" factor.  The clouds painted with the Denver Bronco colors of orange and blue are on the opposite sides of the color wheel and provide the key subject of the photo.   I made sure the trees where in sharp focus using LiveView, zooming in and making minor focus adjustments.

There are a number of places to go in Northern Colorado to get a shot like this.  I have taken Lone Tree sunrise shots at the Fossil Creek Reservoir just east of Fort Collins and windmills in Larimer Country, Colorado just north of Wellington, Colorado.  There are also a lot of ponds and lakes in the area which can provide some reflections although many of them are frozen over.  I usually drive around the many county and dirt roads to find places which to shoot. 

As i mentioned, the color of the clouds is the key subject and I wanted to make sure that the colors are at the peak.  I try to get to a location 45 minutes before sunrise and take shots until after the sun comes up.  That way I make sure i get the best colors for the shot.  Needless to say, I always shoot the sunrise on my tripod.

The best way for me to pull out all the color of the sunrise is to make sure that I don't underexpose or overexpose the image.  I do have a habit of underexposing sunrise shots because they look better on the back of my camera.  Instead, I have learned to look at the histogram on the back of the camera to make sure it leans to the right of the histogram.  This way, I get the most information on the photo possible.  After returning home, during the post production of the photo, I reduce the exposure by 1/2 to 1 stop on my computer to darken the foreground and pull out all the colors in the photograph. 

The Bronco blue and orange sunrise is a beautiful time to be out taking photos.  But make sure you are dressed for the cold weather.