Fall Color – Pennsylvania Waterfalls

Hello all,
It has been a little while since I have had time to get out and photograph and post. Summer has passed and we are in full swing of Autumn now. I made a early morning trip to my one of my favorite spots a few days ago. The weather during the week at Ricketts Glen was showing dense fog for several days. On the 3rd day in a row, I decided to make the trek North. With it being the first week of October, I figured I had a good chance at fall color as well. During the entire drive through PA, it looked really promising. The temp and dew point collided and heavy fog was slowing my drive. I was amazed at how thick it was in some places – reminded me of being in Scotland again. It was great until I made the final turn onto Rt. 487 and I literally drove right out of the fog to the top of the mountain. All was not lost as there was a good cloud cover making for some great photography during my 6 hour hike. The flows were much lower than what I have seen before, but I still made the best of it. Here is a shot of B Reynolds Falls on the Glen Leigh side of the trail. I climbed all the way to the top of bottom of the falls (very slippery conditions) and found some fresh leaves to use in my foreground. I shot this looking back towards the bottom of the falls trying to include as much as possible of the fall color spectacular that was happening. Getting low to the ground with my tripod, I was constantly wiping my circular polarizer to remove the water drops. I was getting pretty wet myself from all of the splashing water. Well worth the effort though in my book. Hope you enjoy…

Fall Color at B Reynolds Falls - Ricketts Glen State Park, PA © Rob Loughrey

In the creek

Hello everyone,
On a trip to Ricketts Glen back in May, I encountered some pretty good flows in Kitchen Creek. Having high levels in the creek has its good and bad sides. The bad – the water was running so hard that at most of the falls, there was a heavy mist making it difficult to get some of the shots I wanted.  When this happens, I spend some time along the creek looking for good compositions at small rapids. I always bring my hip waders to the making it easy for me to setup in the creek and spend some time composing my shot. When shooting images using a wide angle lens (in this case a 24mm) I get as low and close as possible to the foreground interest point. This helps to lead the viewer into the scene. The one issue with this in a fast flowing creek is the water drops flying around and hitting the front of the lens. You have to keep a constant eye on the front lens element. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way on more than one occasion. Nikon D800, 24mm PC lens, Really Right Stuff ball head, Induro tripod, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer.



Hatteras dunes – continued

Just wanted to put out a quick post with another shot from my trip to Hatteras Island. For this image, I used a 24mm PC lens, low to the ground and tilted forward. I believe I had about 1 – 1.5 degrees of tilt after finding a focus point in the foreground. When using this lens, I often have to go back and forth between focus and tilt until I am confident that I have both foreground and distant objects in focus. Post processing was done in Adobe Lightroom (minimal), followed by Adobe Photoshop once again using TK luminosity masks. Hope you enjoy…

Morning light brings out the details in the sand on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC  © Rob Loughrey

Early summer at Ricketts Glen

I have had the opportunity to make a few trips to Ricketts Glen over the past couple of months. Once in mid May and most recently a few weeks ago in mid June. The water levels in May were really good. Results of the snow melt off in the mountains and spring getting into full swing. Some of the falls were running so well that there was either a strong wind coming off of the pool or there was so much mist in the air it made it difficult to get close. For times when the mist is heavy, I keep a clear shower cap in my bag. I know it sounds crazy, but it is really helpful in getting your camera setup and composing a picture. You can even adjust your polarizer with the shower cap in place.  I place the shower cap over the end of my lens before going down into the water and get setup. Once I’m happy with the composition and my exposure is set, I quickly take off the shower cap and snap a few images. At this point, I am going to start getting water build up on the front lens element, but if you move quick, you can get off a couple of good clear shots. After that, I usually remove my camera from the tripod, turn around with my back to the falls and wipe off any of the water. Put the shower cap back on and try again. Here are a few shots from my recent trips to Ricketts Glen. Hope you enjoy…

Mowhawk Falls - Ricketts Glen State Park, PA

More from the Smoky Mountains…

On the second day of my trip, we made plans to view the sunrise from Clingmans Dome. We had not been there yet, so we gave ourselves an early wake up call to make sure we were on-site with an hour to spare. We arrived while it was still very dark. There were clouds moving through and the wind was blowing. We were amazed to see the temperature change go from in 60’s in the valley to around 38 degrees up on top of the mountain. We were a little disoriented being on the mountain top – not knowing which was East. We figured it out pretty quickly and setup our tripods to capture the sun cresting over the mountains. Unfortunately for us, there was some heavy cloud cover looking East, so we never actually saw the sun rise. There was a rain storm in the distance blocking our view but filtering the sun. The sky was light up a bright orange with the dark clouds above, making for some great contrast in colors. I set my camera to Tungsten mode to make the clouds and sky a cooler tone.  I used my 80-200mm f/2.8 lens with a 2.0 tele-converter to zoom in tight on the mountains and rain. I shot a number of shots moving from left to right and stitched them together in Photoshop to create this panoramic image. Minimal processing after the image was stitched using On One Software for Tonal Contrast and increasing the saturation slightly. Hope you enjoy…
Daybreak from Clingmans Dome, Great Smoky Mountains  © Rob Loughrey

Amazing cascades

During a trip to an area like the Great Smoky Mountains, something that I often seek out is one of the many cascades running off the top of the mountain. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by anything from small streams to large rivers. On the way up to Clingmans Dome one evening, we noticed a small brook right at a vehicle pull over. We were running plenty early for the sunset time, so we decided to make a stop and check it out. Before I knew it, I was heading deeper into the woods, climbing higher and higher along the waters edge. Evertime I took a few more steps, I found something else I liked. For me, the moss covered rocks and subdued lighting in the late afternoon really makes for great photographs of these areas. I also like to bring along a set of hip or chest waders with me on trips like this. This allows me to get right into the stream, setup my tripod, perhaps kneeling down in the water to get a nice low perspective on the water. Being in the scene as I like to call it. For this image, I did just that. Nikon D800, Induro Tripod, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, Really Right Stuff Ball Head. I used a 24mm PC lens and shifted left to right to create the panoramic shot. Hope you enjoy…

Forest cascades, Great Smoky Mountain National Park, TN © Rob Loughrey

Springtime trip to Tennessee

Just returned from a trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. I visited with a fellow photographer Ian, spending 4 days venturing around the park. On the first night of the trip, we drove straight to the top of the mountain to visit Clingmans Dome at sunset. The day before, a storm had rolled through and dumped 6-8″ of snow on top of the mountain. The temperature change between the valley and peak of the mountain was 30+ degrees. Needless to say we were not expecting such a difference. To make it worse, upon arriving at the access road to the dome, we discovered that the access road was closed until April 1st. We were there 2 days early – unlucky for us. We made the best of the circumstances and visited an overlook a little lower than what we were hoping for and adjusted our plans accordingly. The trip was great and we both brought home some great images to share. We are already planning our next trip – perhaps in the fall.
This first shot is from a few days later at Sunrise. The clouds were thick and blocked the sun as it passed over the horizon. We stayed around for about 45 minutes past sunrise and were presented with this view.

Hope you enjoy…

Early morning atop Clingmans Dome - Great Smoky Mountains National Park  © Rob Loughrey

Winter wonderland

We have been seeing a good bit of cold weather here in Maryland, along with the recent snowfall, I feel like I am living in upstate PA right now. I think this is the longest time I can remember that we have had freezing or below temps for an extended period of time. I have taken advantage of some of the recent storms and gone out braving the weather looking for some good shots. The wind was blowing with 30-40 mph gusts while I was out this morning earlier in the month. The direction of wind forced me to turn towards the sun for my shots, to protect me and my camera/lens. I found a spot in a field that had some interesting wind carved snow and setup my tripod low to the ground. My camera was only a few inches of the ground, forcing me to lay down to compose my shot. I was well prepared with coat and pants so this was an easy choice for me. Shooting into the sun I knew I was going to need something to help diffuse or block the bright area in my image even tho I was using a 2 stop ND grad filter, so I used the tree branches to accomplish this. I setup to that as the sun moved to the right, it would go further behind a limb for a minute or two before appearing on the other side. Using a smaller aperture of around f/16 helped me achieve a good star-burst effect on the sun.  I processed the image using a sharp foreground photo with a sharp image of the tree, manually blending them in Photoshop. Hope you enjoy…

Snow covered field, Maryland Sunrise Farms, Anne Arundel County, MD © Rob Loughrey

Long Exposure Comparison – No filter vs 10 stop ND filter

Hello everyone!
I was out taking some long exposure shots and decided to show a comparison between two exposures. If you have ever been interested in long exposure photography, here is an example of the difference between using no filter and a 10 stop neutral density filter. The first shot is without a filter and was at 1/5 sec at f/32. I tried adding a polarizer to help lengthen my exposure a bit. I adjusted accordingly to 15 sec at f/25. This still wasn’t what I was going for so,  I pulled out my 10 stop neutral density filter and changed my exposure to 4.5 minutes at f/32. I calculated my exposure from the first shot without any other filters and it came out to 4 minutes. I added the extra 30 seconds in just to play it safe. I have found when dealing with long exposures, it is always good to add 30 sec to a minute on just to make sure I have enough range in the RAW file.

If you are interested in this type of photography, there are a number of apps out there (for both iOS and Android phones) that provide some help. Search on Long Exposure Calculators and you will find plenty to choose from. You have the advantage of being in the digital age where you can view your shot right after it is captured. This will help you determine how to correct an exposure if it is off. Additionally, there are a number of publications out there that explain all of the aspects of long exposure photography. Just do a web search on it and you will find tons of information. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me. I would be happy to help you.

Which do you prefer? For me:  The first image is really boring – It doesn’t have much interest to it at all. I’ll probably delete it from my archive. The second – looks better – getting there but still lacking a bit. Third – a keeper. I will probably get a large print and hang it in my house. I love the look of the sky when the clouds have been blurred for several minutes. It is a way that we aren’t used to seeing things. Make the image look so much more surreal.

Hope you enjoy…


Long Exposure Comparison. 1/5 Sec at f/32 - No filter



Long Exposure Comaprison - 15 sec /f25 - Polarizer filter



Long Exposure Comparison - 267 sec @ f/32 All images © Rob Loughrey


Jekyll Island Cool Toned

Following up from my previous post on Jekyll Island, the tide came in and the sun came up. There was a heavy fog rolling through the area, blocking out the sun but providing some great light. I decided to process this image with a duo tone look to give it a different feel. Overcast conditions are a double edged sword. It is great for taking images of flowers because everything is so evenly lit. There are very little harsh shadows to deal with. The other side of it is because the sun is diffused so much, it tends to make images of greater expanse very flat and uninteresting. I knew this while out shooting that morning and envisioned processing them as black and white or a toned images. On this particular image, I made it a cooler tone to give it a different feel. I positioned myself so that the sun was almost directly behind the tree. After composing, I took several bracketed images to ensure I had a good exposure. Processed in Lightroom ® and Nik Color Efex Pro ®. Hope you enjoy…

Driftwood beach - Jekyll Island State Park, GA © Rob Loughrey