How I got that shot - An Ansel Adams inspired black and white cascade

How I got that shot - An Ansel Adams inspired black and white cascade

Focus Editor Philip discusses the how he got his monochrome waterfall shot and how he overcame dull shooting conditions and lack of useful equipment

Recently I was lucky enough to visit the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York, which has an abundance of natural landscapes, in particular, huge cascading waterfalls.

When I think of American landscapes, the person (and images) that springs to mind the most is that of pioneer and photography master Ansel Adams and his epic black and white shots of the American West. While my photography isn't quite the same (!) I felt no less inspired by the work of Adams to capture an image of the epic cascade at Ithaca Falls Nature Area.

I'll admit, though, it wasn't my smoothest photography session. I happened to be there as possibly the worst time of day with less favourable (dull) weather conditions; early afternoon on a bright but hazy early Autumn day. I also didn't have my usual trusty tripod with me (there was only so much I could pack for my trip); however, I did have my mini tripod, and it just meant that I could do some long exposure shots but had to get really close to the water.

Having only my mini tripod with me, there was only so much I could work with in terms of setting up to get the shot. In this case, that meant placing it literally in the water, but I must say, it worked fine on this occasion!

I shifted a few spots near the waterfall and tried different vantage points to get the best shot. As always, when I take pictures, there's only one image from the entire shoot that I like, which is the one below that I decided to convert to black and white.

Ithaca Falls by Philip Mowbray

Below you'll see the workings behind how I got that shot along with some of the edits I made in Lightroom. I wouldn't say this is one of my best images, but I'm pleased with the result because the light conditions weren't ideal at all, and I didn't have my usual tripod with me (it's incredible how just lacking one piece of kit can throw you out of sync like that!).

What could I have done better?

I think the biggest thing would have been to visit at a different time of the day; for example, sunrise or sunset would have brought beautiful soft hues to the scene and could have made an excellent colour version of the shot. But as mentioned before, sometimes, as photographers, you just have to settle with what you've got.

Kit shopping:

- Camera:
- Filters: NiSi
- Tripod: Manfrotto

Further reading:

- A beginner's guide to black and white photography
- How to photograph waterfalls
- A beginner's guide to long exposure photography

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