Catlins Photography Trip Part 3 – McLean Falls

The McLean Falls was very close to my campground, just a few km up the road to the track, so I headed out on a hot bright sunny morning armed with my camera backpack, tripod and excited at my first time to try out my Variable ND circular filter for photographing the waterfall.

One of the things I noticed about all the walking tracks I visited in The Catlins, is how well maintained they are. Lovely wide tracks, well shingled, good steps, handrails where needed and viewing platforms.

Three tiers of McLean falls taken with ND filter

Three tiers of McLean Falls taken at high speed and no ND filter

McLean falls has three tiers, the bottom two being the most accessible for photos, also the most picturesque, falling down layers of rocks and framed with ferns and foliage.

The traditional way to shoot waterfalls is with the ND filter to give the lovely soft flow effect.  I like that effect and it is used in the top image above.  Because of the fine weather, the falls were low on water volume and I wanted to capture that as well, so the bottom image is shot at higher shutter speed, without the ND filter in place.  I like it as well, it clearly shows the low volume of water and all the splashing action as it drops through all the steps of rock.

Which do you prefer?  Why?

Top two tiers only, taken from the rock platform that makes up the bottom of the second tier

The second tier of waterfall comes down to a large flat rock platform that you can carefully make your way down to, and plenty big enough to set a tripod up on.  In fact you could set up a dinner table for 6 people with the water level the way it was on the day I visited 🙂

So this is a closer up shot of the top two tiers, again with ND filter.  I really struggled with the two extremes of lighting, some areas are in shade and some are in bright sunlight, completely blowing out the highlights.  This is where the variable nature of the ND filter became really helpful, as all I had to do was take a shot, move the filter round a notch and keep going, then I had a whole range of filtered images to work from.  I did experiment a bit in camera with shutterspeed settings before I settled on a combinationg that I was happy with.  It is always hard to tell of the LCD screen, so I am pleased with my first experimental shots.

Closeup of second tier – click for larger version

This is my personal favourite image of the day, I moved the tripod really close to the water and got down at a much lower angle, framing for maximum action.  I like how the ND filter is a bit lighter in this image, giving the froth effect but also some translucency in the foreground as well.

Due to the height differential and also the challenge of finding somewhere to set the tripod up, I also shot the bottom tier separately, as it made a nice image on its own.

Bottom tier of McLean falls with ND filter in place

Bottom tier of McLean falls shot at high shutter speed

Again two quite different shots, and I like both of them for different reasons.

The Variable ND filter is an expensive piece of kit, and this is the first time I have used it since I purchased it over a year ago, but looking at these shots, I definately see the value in having it for waterfall shots.

Lots of different images above, which one is your favourite? What draws you to it?  I am curious if the fashion for the white flow effect in waterfalls by the photographers who take them is matched in the people who view them 🙂

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About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
This entry was posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop, Waffle and Burbling and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Catlins Photography Trip Part 3 – McLean Falls

  1. Rob. says:

    Between the last two shots I prefer the last, mainly because of the lovely gold-green glowing triangle of the moss above the water. The slow shutter version has this slightly over-exposed and I think it distracts somewhat from the soft water. The other shot I like best is the one of the top-two tiers only, though there the water on the LHS of the bottom tier is slightly over-exposed. For a first effort you’ve done extremely well to manage challenging lighting conditions, and I’m tempted to go buy a variable-ND filter and have a go myself now!

    Best wishes,

  2. Victoria says:

    1, 3 and 5, are my favorite. Absolutely GORGEOUS, all of them. I think I like them best because of the softer water flow. I’m not a pro photographer, only a pro looker. 🙂

  3. nzrileynz says:

    The first comparison I prefer the softer photo with the ND filter, it has a lovely feel. The bottom comparison I prefer the second non-ND filter as the greenery of the moss really gives the photo some depth, the ND filter version tends to wash it out a bit. Absolutely love the location, nice find!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks Tracey, I like the mossier look in the bottom series of images too 🙂 Except for it being 7hrs drive from home, its a GREAT location!

  4. Pingback: Swirling Water Long Exposure « Raven Photography UK

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