I remember the first time I came across Bastion Falls on my way up route 23A in the Catskills. We rounded the turn and boom! There was this magnificent waterfall right there at roadside!
This 71-foot, multi-dimensional waterfall has three drops that form as the falls are split on the right by a mass of large rocks. I say multi-dimensional due to the right side facing at more of an angle than straight ahead. Most waterfalls have drops that spill straight out. This also allows for easy access to a small pool that sits just above the second drop on the right.
On this mostly-cloudy day, I was happy to have the sun obscured by the clouds so I could take full advantage of a number of shutter speeds for this high-water occasion. A combination of snowmelt and recent rains made for a great opportunity and a soft, diffused light would be the icing on the cake!
I set up my tripod on a spot higher up at the level of the road that offers a great view of the falls as a whole. I wanted to be sure to include that first drop at the top. I attached a circular polarizer to lower the light a bit and also to reduce some glare coming from wet spots on the sides. I used my wired shutter release and set my camera to the mirror lock-up setting to help reduce vibration during a longer exposure. I then turned to manual mode, got a meter reading, and set my aperture and shutter speed.
I lined up the falls to capture the drops on right side as well as the bottom left where the water flowed away. As the clouds drifted across the sky, momentarily offering relief from the bright sun and contrast it brought, I released the shutter at varying speeds so I could capture different looks of the water as it moved along its course. I also wanted to preserve that reddish color of the rock there and bright sun would lighten that too much.
I wanted to show detail in the water as it bounced from spot to spot on a series of small “shelves” on its way down so I wanted to use a shutter speed somewhere “in the middle” as I put it. Not too slow as to give that “smokey” look and not so fast as to freeze it too soon and give it an unfinished look. I wanted to show motion, but did not want to capture a big blob of white that would overtake the photograph.
In the end, I chose the photograph that follows because it had the look I was after. The striations in the water and the detail as it bounced along the smaller shelves showed off the profile of this great waterfall very well.
Camera: Nikon D7000
Shutter Speed: 0.7 sec
Exposure Bias: 0