Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Stone Bridge Falls

with 47 comments

Monday night it rained. Tuesday morning I followed the Smith Memorial Trail to Stone Bridge Falls on Bull Creek, hoping the rain would have invigorated the waterfall. It had, as you see in the scene-setting first photo.

Me being me, I experimented with portraying the falls in different ways.
One approach was to use a slow shutter speed (1/13 of a second) to create silky water:

But more often than not I stayed with high shutter speeds, as is my wont.
Along with that, some of the time I leaned toward abstraction, as I’m also inclined to do:

At times I also used my camera’s burst mode to take high-shutter-speed photographs in quick succession. The point was to document how much the water changed in very short intervals. The following consecutive closeups are all time-stamped 9:10:17, meaning that they were recorded in less than one second; each lasted just 1/2500 of a second. I think you’ll agree that it’s easy to spot some changes. For example, one difference is the prominent oval over on the right side of the middle image, which hadn’t fully closed in the first image and which had disappeared by the time of the third picture.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 10, 2019 at 4:00 AM

47 Responses

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  1. these are stunning, Steve

    ksbeth

    July 10, 2019 at 5:47 AM

  2. Oh, I love the differing shutter speeds. Those are lovely shots and of a favorite place of mine!

    Tina

    July 10, 2019 at 7:26 AM

    • I get the impression that relatively few people—but not you, I’m glad to hear—know about the Smith Memorial Trail, and therefore also about Stone Bridge Falls. Parts of the path were more heavily overgrown yesterday than I remember seeing before, due to all the rain we’ve had in the past couple of months; things were still wet yesterday from the previous evening’s rain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2019 at 7:47 AM

  3. Very interesting to see the radically different appearances. Was the first shot, which I assume is closest to what the naked eye would see, at 1/100th of a sec?

    Robert Parker

    July 10, 2019 at 7:53 AM

    • You can add a zero: the first shot was at 1/1000 of a second. To take it I climbed up on a boulder so I could include part of the creek upstream.

      Yes, differing shutter speeds make a big difference. By experience I’ve learned that normally fast and slow speeds produce pleasing (though of course different) results, but intermediate speeds like 1/100 or 1/200 often give results that look blurred in an unpleasant way.

      Speaking of waterfalls, which are your favorite ones in the Finger Lakes?

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2019 at 8:06 AM

      • 🙂 Here goes, off the top of my head & random order: Taughannock, Lucifer (Treman State Park), not Buttermilk, Cowsheds et al (Fillmore Glen State Park), Watkins Glen, Excelsior Glen, Lick Brook Falls. There’s a whole host of little ‘uns, unnamed, on the little rills throughout the area, in the Finger Lakes Nat’l Forest, etc. that I always detour to see, too, especially in winter.

        Robert Parker

        July 10, 2019 at 8:24 AM

        • Thanks for the list. I hadn’t heard of the Finger Lakes National Forest until recently. I don’t think it existed during my half-year in the Finger Lakes in 1971. Northwest Austin isn’t central New York, with its many and grand falls, but we do have a few pretty waterfalls like the one in this post that not many people know about.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 10, 2019 at 8:37 AM

          • It’s a patchwork of land, mostly 2nd growth, some old pine plantations, and some of the “forest” is cow pastures.
            On weekends in the summer, I usually avoid the “name” waterfalls and visit the little lesser-known ones, some of them no more water than comes out a kitchen faucet. This one you pictured today is nice.

            Robert Parker

            July 10, 2019 at 8:44 AM

            • I read about the cow pastures in the “forest.” Like you, I try to avoid well-known places on weekends but that isn’t always possible, particularly during my travels, when I can’t afford to waste 2/7 of a week.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 10, 2019 at 8:52 AM

  4. I’ve played with the photo burst function too, and really enjoyed the results. I particularly liked the last image. The balance and contrast between textures is perfect to my eye. I like the first image a lot too. I’m not much of a fan for silky water.

    melissabluefineart

    July 10, 2019 at 8:14 AM

    • So shall we say that the last image burst into your consciousness? I think of the first picture as setting the scene so viewers will get a realistic view of the place. To get high enough to include part of the creek upstream I climbed atop a convenient boulder but that meant I couldn’t get far enough to the right to keep the protruding boulder on the left from blocking the left edge of the falls.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2019 at 8:26 AM

      • I liked the boulder, too.

        melissabluefineart

        July 11, 2019 at 7:45 AM

        • Ah, then the boulder on the left left you happy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 11, 2019 at 7:51 AM

          • Yeah, I’m just a rive gauche kind of girl at heart.

            melissabluefineart

            July 11, 2019 at 8:02 AM

            • But certainly not gauche.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 11, 2019 at 8:06 AM

              • Bien sur, quelquefois je suis un peu gauche.

                melissabluefineart

                July 13, 2019 at 9:02 AM

                • Ah, ça nous arrive de temps en temps.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 13, 2019 at 10:34 AM

                • C’est vrai, mon ami, c’est vrai.

                  melissabluefineart

                  July 14, 2019 at 8:19 AM

                • By the way, gauche is a slight on left-handed people.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 14, 2019 at 8:47 AM

                • Yes~there is no acceptance of the other, is there? Are you left-handed? We are little better than animals that will attack and kill a member of the herd that looks or acts differently from the masses. But think of all the brilliant and extremely talented people who are left-handed. How foolish to slight them.

                  melissabluefineart

                  July 14, 2019 at 8:58 AM

                • No, I’m right-handed. Our words dextrous and dexterity come from the Latin word for ‘right,’ while sinister comes from the Latin word for ‘left.’

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 14, 2019 at 9:41 AM

                • I remember reading that when I was reading the book, “Drawing on the Right side of the brain”. I think it is a great joke on people with that prejudice that the right side of the body is controlled by the left side of their brain (usually, and of course this is a simplification) There they are thinking they are all superior…
                  Whereas the non-verbal right side of the brain is very important to an artist.
                  When my daughter was very small we were taking her to a specialist who would take measurements of her brain activity. She was born extremely early so doctors were keeping a close eye on her. This doctor was delightful~he truly loved his patients. When he would show us her brain scans, the right side of her brain would look like a map of NYC at night, while the left side looked more like Wyoming. “She’s going to be an artist!” He would proclaim, with a chuckle. And so it has proved. A right- handed one, although now that I think of it, she was very late to show a preference.

                  melissabluefineart

                  July 15, 2019 at 9:26 AM

                • I’ve got to hand it to you for your comparison of NYC and Wyoming night views.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 15, 2019 at 1:47 PM

                • Well, I like to be even-handed with things.

                  melissabluefineart

                  July 15, 2019 at 2:50 PM

                • Better even-handed than the odd one out.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 15, 2019 at 4:19 PM

                • Right you are.

                  melissabluefineart

                  July 16, 2019 at 9:17 AM

  5. Of all the various ways of taking pictures of flowing water I like the long exposure photos best. They create a more natural effect. But in the end it is a matter of personal taste. I like the way you experimented with high-shutter-speed photography. Best wishes! Peter

    Peter Klopp

    July 10, 2019 at 8:44 AM

    • As you said, Chacun à son goût, or Each to his own goo, as I like to say. I generally favor a high shutter speed to delineate the strange and ephemeral shapes that falling and splashing water take on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2019 at 8:49 AM

  6. I’m a longer exposure guy myself, but the last three are fascinating. And they do make compelling abstracts.

    Michael Scandling

    July 10, 2019 at 10:54 AM

    • What I like about high-speed takes is the sculptural abstractions that result—assuming I can keep the important things in focus at the wide apertures and relatively shallow depths of field that those speeds usually bring with them. I shot the last three at f/4.5, just a third of stop down from my lens’s maximum aperture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2019 at 12:22 PM

      • If you need to stop down for focus, you can adjust the ISO an equivalent amount. One or two stops shouldn’t make too much of a noise penalty.

        Michael Scandling

        July 10, 2019 at 1:33 PM

        • Yes, I do that. My default is ISO 400. In this case I’d dialed the ISO up to ISO 1000 and was still able to stop the diaphragm down only to f/4.5. In some cases recently when I’ve worked in dark areas I’ve had to go as high as ISO 3200, but I don’t like the resulting noise.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 10, 2019 at 2:34 PM

  7. You captured some very captivating details, Steve. I am always amazed at what can be discovered if you look closely. Being aware opens an entirely new reality!

    tanjabrittonwriter

    July 10, 2019 at 3:48 PM

    • And having a good camera also leads to new realities. Our eyes don’t see things the way they’re shown in these photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 10, 2019 at 3:56 PM

      • That’s true. But I think they help us pay better attention the next time we are out, and then we might see the insect crawling on a petal, or another animal hiding out in the corner. And if not, the surprise when we review them on our computers will endow the viewing with additional pleasure.

        tanjabrittonwriter

        July 10, 2019 at 4:47 PM

        • Yes, from time to time I’ve been surprised by what I find on my computer screen later that I didn’t see at the time I took a picture. Sometimes it’s good as is, while in other instances I wish I’d originally seen the thing so I could have focused on it and gotten better pictures. Things have happened so many ways.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 10, 2019 at 5:21 PM

  8. As you know, I prefer the longer exposure of water. Your faster shots do capture some of the energy water presents. I will also use ISO to control the length of exposure but am in the woods most often where even 400 isn’t always fast enough to freeze action in the low-lighting.

    Steve Gingold

    July 11, 2019 at 3:27 AM

    • Your long exposures have an advantage in low light, where I can hope to freeze action only by dialing up the ISO. Even with the bright white reflected off the waterfall, I ended up resorting to ISOs of 800 and 1000. Beneath a limestone overhang in the woods a couple of mornings earlier I had to push the ISO in a few cases to 3200, where noise is a problem—and that was for a still subject. Stopping motion would’ve been impossible.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2019 at 7:02 AM

  9. Beautiful shots of the water.

    inspirationforwellness

    July 11, 2019 at 1:05 PM

    • I’m pleased they’re to your liking. When waterfalls are flowing well, they inspire lots of pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2019 at 1:53 PM

  10. I’m especially fond of the third photo, because it shows the water in three quite distinct ways. The bottom third reminded me the patterns found on certain brain corals. It’s interesting to see how the vertical falls at the top dissolved into chaos before being transformed into an essentially horizontal pattern.

    shoreacres

    July 11, 2019 at 7:55 PM

    • I’m especially fond of the third photo, too, given the transformation of each layer into the next. Just this evening I showed the picture to some photographers and described its lowest portion as “brain-like,” though without any coral reference. At the very top there’s another layer, which in reality corresponded to greenery on the far shore of the creek, but in this treatment it came out essentially black in contrast to the brightness of the falling water.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2019 at 10:03 PM

  11. I like these very much – and I appreciate that you tried several ways of photographing the waterfall and showed them here. In the third photo – the vertical one showing the whole scene – it’s nice that there are three “zones” of water texture – the water pouring over the dam, the splashing water, and the rippling water at the bottom. And I love the three detailed views. It’s true, they are very different from one another. Really cool! 🙂

    bluebrightly

    July 12, 2019 at 1:44 PM

    • I agree that the third photo is interesting for the reason you said, namely the three zones of differing water texture, capped by a layer of rock, an intimation of water flowing in the creek, and above everything a thin layer of black. I wonder how much of that I really saw at the time and how much I intuited, or whether it chanced to be an unusually successful experiment.

      The taking of pictures in burst mode was deliberate and hopeful, yet at the same time experimental, given the unpredictability of the results. I was pleased with the trio I showed here.

      I happened to be back at these falls today and found the level of the water had dropped a fair amount, so that no water now flowed over the top of the bridge, but only through the notch near the center of the wider flow shown here three days ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2019 at 3:27 PM

  12. Enjoyed seeing these Steve! That’s a pretty little waterfall.

    denisebushphoto

    July 15, 2019 at 11:32 AM

    • It is indeed, especially right after we’ve had a good rain. I returned there a few days later and the volume of water had decreased noticeably

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 15, 2019 at 12:08 PM


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