Some people hike for exercise, some for solitude and some for the ultimate challenge. Simply put I hike to take pictures. I’m always on the search for hikes that have good photo to hike ratios. What I mean by that is a hike that has great opportunities to shoot in multiple locations without the time and energy to make a long extended hike. With limited time on weekends, hikes in the 2 to 4 mile range fit that requirement. Many parks in the NYNJTC area have extensive trails that allow for people to create their own combinations to fit their objectives. I did such a hike at Harriman State Park this past weekend. I’ve done this loop about five times. It’s not terribly difficult and the photo rewards are numerous. The photo to hike ratio for this hike weighs heavily in favor of photography. Starting behind the Reeves Meadow Center the trail combination is as follows Red-yellow-white-orange- red (see map). It makes an approximate 2 mile loop with some grade changes.
The reason I enjoy this hike are the various creeks and brooks that can be photographed. With enough rain small streams form as they race down the mountain with the ultimate destination of joining the main attraction, Stony Brook Creek. The creek has amazing colorful rocks embedded in the stream itself and along its shores. Pine Meadow Brook emerges midway on the hike. A smaller more delicate stream but offers many cascades. On this loop Cascade of the Slid can be seen. It’s a series of small waterfalls working their way through large boulders as it makes its way down hill. Under wet conditions both streams offer numerous opportunities to shoot and create beautiful images.
Timing is everything here. Weather conditions and time of the year are very important. Fall and spring, especially after some rain like this weekend, brings out the best in the creek. Fall obviously explodes with outstanding color and the springtime is a rejuvenation of intense greens and new blooms. Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel line the upper portions of this trail and can certainly add to any composition. Water, rocks and blooms when incorporated together in a composition are a recipe for excellent images.
I spent a Sunday morning recently shooting in Harriman State Park with fellow photoblogger Dean Cobin. While we had talked about shooting together in the past on this particular Sunday it was a spur of the moment shoot concocted the night before. So, with some mad social media skills we arranged a time and location. According to my trusty accu-weather app the forecast wasn’t great…….sunny skies no clouds. Atmospherics always play an important role in the ever allusive epic image whether it’s at Harriman State Park or at Yellowstone National Park. Except for some early morning passing clouds it became a cloudless bright blue sky by early morning as predicted. Undaunted, Dean and I ventured off. While I’ve shot at the park numerous times it’s actually Deans backyard having spent much of his formative years there. As we traveled around we went to some of the more off the beaten path sections that he was familiar with.
For a state park so close to New York City Harriman has such a varied landscape for photographers. Lakes, creeks, pine groves, flowers and vistas are all hiding within its boundaries. On this day though, we spent most of the morning shooting all along Tiorati Brook. To our surprise, especially considering the lack of rain, we found many pools of water that had beautiful reflections along with interesting cascades guiding the water along. Given the light that morning it played out perfectly as the pools became reflective of all the colors and shapes around it. The moss on the rocks was becoming a beautiful electric green that occurs in the springtime along brooks and creeks.
Life is regenerating again all around us and springtime in Harriman is a wonderful place to be …….especially as a photographer.
I’m always looking for simple graphic images in any chaotic environment. The river at Ken Lockwood Gorge is filled with so many photographic opportunities. I spent a fair amount of time in this one river location working the composition and waiting for the light. I’m sure the hikers who passed me coming and going were curious as to what I was shooting. Was I photographing a fish? Was it a cool Amphibian? No, it was a lone rock in the water.
There are 3 main elements that caught my eye: the colors reflecting into the water, the way the water was moving around the rock itself and finally the distinct shape and colors on the rock. Presenting those 3 elements in a neat and tidy composition is the challenge.
My 70-200 allowed for the tighter composition and I purposely positioned the subject low in the crop and used the rest of the frame to enhance the story. Next, taking a cue from Dean Cobin’s blog (see below….thanks Dean) and his use of neutral density filters I broke out my 4 stop ND filter. This filter doesn’t get to see the light of day very often but coupled with my polarizer it gave me about six additional stops to play with. Having the ability to shoot with a longer exposure allowed the cascades to be soft and white. The curves of the water are essential elements in the composition without over powering the rock.
Learn to shoot long exposures and you will really start to gain creative control of your images. It’s actually very simple and lots of fun. Here are the basic’s ; you will need a tripod mounted camera and a simple understanding of how to increase the length of your exposure time, you’ll also need something to shoot such as a stream, rushing water at the beach or clouds on breezy day . Once you pick your scene go head and meter your shot. In this example I will be shooting in aperture priority so once I set my f stop the camera will choose the correct shutter speed accordingly.
Take your exposure and keep track of the exposure time. Now comes the question how do we extend the length of the exposure and the answer is we need to block some light, the first and simplest way to do that is to “stop down” or close down your aperture. This means to move it to a higher number. Remember that for every stop you add you are decreasing the amount of light by half or doubling the exposure time. For example if your first exposure ended up being ¼ second then by stopping down to the next stop your next exposure should end up being ½ a second which is an eternity in photographic terms , if you stopped down again your exposure would end up being a full second long . You might ask what happens when I run out of stops on my lens, where here’s where it gets more interesting you can also control the light by putting something called a Neutral Density Filter in front of your lens which I will leave for another discussion.
Light is the big factor here and if you want to realize immediate success when trying this I suggest you attempt this during very early light or very late light the results you can achieve with just your lens will be quite significant. The image posted here was slightly more difficult to capture because It was shot at noon , but with the aid of an overcast sky and a variable neutral density filter I was able to extend this exposure to 4 seconds which creates a dreamy effect for the pour off’s and strong flow lines in the water which add the intended effect for my composition. Try it I think you will really enjoy the effects and never be afraid to take risks with your creativity that’s what makes us all unique. Of course there are countless hours of reading and info on this subject on line which I strongly encourage you to explore…
I’d like to introduce everyone to a another photographer by the name of Dwight Hiscano. An accomplished landscape photographer of 30 years from New Jersey who has published a book entitled New Jersey :The Natural State and is a trustee of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. His beautiful work is in many private and corporate collections through out the country. Reading his biography from his website you realize that Dwight has a deep seeded concern for the environment and its protection for our well being. As an aside, for the past year I’ve been giving talks about New Jersey and its photographic possibilities and at those talks Dwight’s name has come up many times as another photographer who has combined his interest in photography and conservation. Dwight was raised in the NJ Highlands and is very familiar with the NYNJTC region and we look forward to seeing more work and contributions from Dwight. Check out Dwight’s website. www.dwighthiscano.com Larry