Sometimes I stop at a place and have no intention of getting a photo of whatever might be at that location, and that lends itself to being completely unprepared if you do happen to see something worth capturing. It happens, no doubt, to all photographers at some point. The day I captured this image was no exception.
We had just picked up our dog from the groomer and thought it would be nice to let her stretch her legs and have a little bio break for some relief. There’s a place in my hometown called The Mill Dam where the water is always running through the dam itself, but also has a small runoff stream with its own little waterfall that leads back into the river below the dam. I honestly don’t know what the purpose of this runoff is, but I’ve taken photos of it many times during the various seasons.
Oftentimes, when my wife and I are out with the dog, I’ll hand her the leash, pull out my iPhone and start hunting for things to photograph. On this occasion, although I had not planned to go there in the first place, when we did arrive, I knew there was a shot to get somewhere, whether it was a scenic reflection on the river or a macro of some old, dead flower head. Before getting out of the car, the first thing I thought of was that little waterfall. I had no idea what the flow was going to be like as sometimes it’s quite robust while other times it could be a mere trickle, but I was willing to find out.
In the door of my car, I always keep a small tripod with a phone mount attached to it. This thing could fit in a pocket, it’s that small, but it’s always nice to have in case I need it. This was one of those times. Knowing that little waterfall was there, I grabbed the tripod when we exited the car and off we went. As I walked across the wooden platform that allows people to cross over the top of the dam, I could see that the flow was just right in the runoff. To get to it, you have to walk down a steep bank of grass that is kept cut in the summer but with the recent rain we had in the area, I had to be careful not to end up on my backside.
Once on the concrete platform that was built to house the section where the runoff flow into the river, I placed my iPhone 14 Pro Max in the clamp and set the tripod down on the edge of the concrete facing the falls to compose my shot. I wanted to create a long exposure sequence in RAW so I used ReeXpose to make the capture. I did all this while just crouching down rather than laying down because the concrete was damp and I wasn’t about to get myself dirty for a shot I’ve taken many times before. So I was working with a camera that was about 10cm off the surface and all I could do is rely on the level indicator in ReeXpose and a rough look at the composition in general.
To make the shot, I randomly played around with the ISO and shutter speed settings while using the Zebra Stripes feature to make sure I wasn’t over-exposing. When I got it so the Zebra Stripes had just disappeared for the highlights, I set the exposure time to 4 seconds, set the self timer to 3 seconds and tapped the shutter. I took a series of other shots with ReeXpose’s sister app, Reeflex which doesn’t do a long exposure sequence in RAW, but this was the one that appealed to me most, and funny enough it was the only one I shot with ReeXpose that day.
To edit the image, I used my editor of choice, Darkroom, and the reason I’m writing about this image in the first place is because I did something in the edit process that I’ve never tried before. After all the adjustments to get the exposure right, and the gentle massaging I usually do with colour and contrast, I applied a Depth Mask to the image and adjusted it to select the large rock in the lower right of the frame. My point of focus was set to the rock closest to the centre of the frame. After all the editing was completed, I didn’t like how soft – albeit barely noticeable – the big rock in the foreground looked. I hadn’t tried the Depth Mask before so I thought I would experiment with it and with the mask applies, I increased the sharpening to 50%. It was then that I saved out the image and I was done.
The moral of this whole story is twofold: when you’re least expecting it, you could come away from a location with a good shot, and, try new things when working on images. In both cases, you may be pleasantly surprised.