One of the benefits of living in the DC Metro area is having access to places like Great Falls National Park. I spent some time there this past weekend with my camera and tripod and a few few hundred other nature lovers. There was a very long line to get in the park but, having been here before, I knew that it would be totally worth it.
The shot above is from the 1st observation deck, which is the closest one to the falls. I usually start my shoot from here because you never know exactly what the river is going to look like. Depending on rainfall, the falls can change between raging torrents to smooth cascades. This day was somewhere in-between. I could also see from here that the lower area of the falls was low enough for me to get down to my next favorite spot.
It’s called the boat launch because a lot of kayakers like to use it to enter the river and it is usually less crowded because it requires a little bit of a climb down the rocks to the shoreline, which is more of a loose scattering of boulders. The climb down is worth it though because it offers a view of the falls from water level that most visitors don’t get to see.
Of course the other reason for getting down low is the possibility of catching some of the local white water enthusiasts enjoying the river. After shooting a few more shots of the falls my patience was rewarded when several kayakers made their way my part of the river. It’s kind of a favorite place for them to hang out because of the boat access and the way the river runs, offering some fast moving areas with side pools that allow them easy access to swing back up river.
I put on my 70-200 f/2.8 with a 1.4 extender and started shooting some of the action. As for the other camera settings; I was using my Nikon D7000 camera shooting at f/4 at around 1/800 of a second at ISO 100. I switched the camera from RAW to JPEG-fine format so that I could shoot faster sequences without filling up the buffer.
I wanted to try something a little different with some of my shots so I slowed down my shutter speed to about 1/20 of a second. Instead of freezing the action, I wanted to get a more fluid shot of the river and the kayaker in motion. It’s kind of like taking a panning shot except the boat was mostly stationary as the river and paddles were in motion. I took a bunch of shots but this one was one of my favorites.
If you live in the DC area or are going to be visiting, make it a point to get out and enjoy one of the truly great sites along the Potomac River. You can find out more info by visiting the National Park Service website.