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Among the more challenging places I explored in Iceland were the incredibly gorgeous blue water cascades of Brúarfoss. I was drawn to the area from pictures I'd seen but was also pretty discouraged by the difficulty I'd heard I'd run into in just finding it. In-fact, I removed it from my planned list of places to go at one point... and boy am I glad I put it back on!
When I first found it, I understood why people had such a hard time getting there. Two of the routes go through a neighborhood with gated entrances while the other one is a less direct route but fortunately has no gate (when I was there in March, 2014). I headed into the neighborhood without the gate and eventually found the closest parking spot to a walking bridge (which is a big clue on the waterfall's location). After I parked, I was concerned that the route to the walking bridge would mean I'd have to hop over a fence to get there. And with inquisitive neighbors watching from their vehicles, I decided to show some patience and continue looking around. At one point, I doubled back and passed one of the neighbors who asked what I was looking for.
I told him I was looking to get to the walking bridge but that I was concerned about crossing into public property because of the fences. He promptly helped out by saying that it was all public property and encouraged me to proceed. So with that, I geared up and headed over the fence and the walking bridge and proceeded on to find the gorgeous falls of Brúarfoss.
As it turned out though, I left feeling like I might need to return. I saw wonderful color in the falls but the cloudy skies did little to provide great lighting. So after a new snowfall, I made time to swing by the area once again. I timed my visit to be there in the late afternoon which worked out perfectly as the skies began to clear just a bit before sunset - enough to give me some great evening light on the top of the falls. And with that, my return to Brúarfoss worked out even better than I had hoped.
How I Got The Shot
I had tried a couple of different wide compositions that looked pretty good. But I had brought one telephoto lens all the way to Iceland for just this purpose - to try for a simpler scene with a focus on just one area of an immense series of waterfalls. Its my biggest lens at 300mm, f/4 and when mounted on my tripod, I know it can be very stable and sharp. This is the same lens I used on my tracker to catch a long-exposure image of Comet ISONS and later, the Orion Nebula.
But since I was positioned on a bridge with a couple of other photographers, I had to make sure their moving around wouldn't lead to motion blurring in my image. So as there were just two other photographers, I was very friendly with them (they were from the Netherlands) and when it came time for my shot, they didn't mind staying still at all. In-fact, when they saw me applying the "Magic Cloth" in my practice exposures, they became really interested in what the heck I was doing!
So I proceeded to have them come closer to watch me demonstrate how I used my mouse pad to block some of the light from the area in the top right where the sun was hitting the image. They could see an image without the cloth with the highlights blown out. Then they could see another exposure with the cloth used with the highlights getting pulled back in with a soft yellow glow instead of the blown out peaks. It was the beginning of what I think will lead to many in-field demonstrations of the "Magic Cloth". It's certainly not for everyone or for all cases, but it worked really well here and it was a lot of fun showing people how!
To do the "Magic Cloth" technique, I first focused with my vari-nd set to the low end then turned it up to the high end. This allowed me to focus when I could see elements in the viewfinder or lcd - before turning up the nd filter, making the elements go dark. Then, I adjusted my settings to get a signal in my histogram that looked a little too high. I like a signal shifted to the right, but at this point, I'm looking for a few blown highlights that I'm going to pull back in with this technique. I don't want my whole signal pushed up against the right side of the histogram, more like a quarter of it. Make sure your shutter speed is at least 4 seconds (ideally 8) to give yourself time to block some of the light.
Then, with a remote trigger and a black mousepad in hand, I fire the remote and quickly move the mouse pad down over the front of the lens in a karate chop type of motion. Once the bottom of the mouse pad gets below the bottom of the lens so it's all covered up, I then move the mouse pad slowly up and down in a motion that gives more exposure to the bottom foreground area and less to the top. In many cases, I only raise the cloth enough to expose the lower half of the content - depending on what your scene looks like. Repeating this motion within each exposure is what makes it smooth and on-site evaluation of your results and repetition will help to give you a balanced exposure.
• Camera Body - Nikon D800 Digital SLR Camera
• Camera Lens - Nikon Telephoto AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF Autofocus Lens
• Tripod Head - Acratech GV2 Ball Head / Gimbal Head with Lever Clamp
• Tripod Legs - FEISOL Elite CT-3472 Rapid Tripod Legs
• Remote Trigger - Vello FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Select Nikon DSLRs
• Vari-ND Filter - Singh-Ray 77mm Vari-ND Variable Neutral Density Filter
Exposure Settings - Single Exposure Photograph
• ISO: 100
• Aperture: f/16
• Shutter Speed: 6 seconds
March 23rd, 2014
Viewed 81 Times - Last Visitor from New York, NY on 09/01/2014 at 4:55 AM
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