On Almost Seeing Bond Falls

On Monday afternoon, I impulsively decided to grab my camera and go check out Bond Falls, which is supposed to be one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula  I’ve been living within a thirty minute drive of it for a year and a half now and had yet to go see it, so when someone happened to mention it at a meeting that morning, I decided it was time.

Unfortunately I wasn’t planning on the fact that to reach the overlook at the base of the main waterfall, I would have to descend a set of steep stairs, which at this time of year were covered in a layer of snow and ice. Really, you couldn’t even see the stairs, just a very steep slope with a thick glaze of ice and the slight suggestion of the outlines of stairs visible underneath. I think if I’d known my way around I could have found a way down, but I stared at this for a long moment and decided it wasn’t risking my neck and (worse) my expensive camera, so I turned around and took some photos of the smaller cascades upstream instead.

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Not too shabby! This is on the middle branch of the Ontonagan River. The series of falls and rapids is natural, but there’s a dam a short ways upstream that keeps the flow of water fairly steady. (Fun fact: “flowage” is Yooper*-speak for what most of us would call a reservoir. The body of water behind the dam is the “Bond Falls Flowage.”)

Have you all seen those photos of waterfalls where the photographer uses a slower shutter speed to capture the movement of the water, so that it looks all soft and misty? I wanted to try that, but I didn’t have a tripod, so I wedged my camera into the forked trunk of the cedar tree that you can see on the left in the above photo. Here is the result.

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It’s overexposed, of course (is there a trick for taking this kind of photo without it coming out looking overexposed?), but not bad for a first attempt. I like the effect.

For anyone who remembers my post on not seeing O Kun de Kun Falls last summer, I swear I’m not purposely writing a series of posts on failed attempts to see the Upper Peninsula’s waterfalls. I’m determined to actually lay eyes on both of them this spring, once hiking becomes possible again. Until then, this will have to do.

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that there is a much easier way to get to the base of the falls. Apparently I parked in the wrong place. Oh well, I’ll go back.

*Yooper: someone who lives in the Upper Peninsula, better known as “da U.P.” The people of the Lower Peninsula are called trolls. Why? Because they live under the bridge, of course.

6 replies on “On Almost Seeing Bond Falls”

When I was younger, and had much more free time, I tried to visit every waterfall in Michigan, and was close to completing my goal, Bond Falls are spectacular for Michigan.

Your photo isn’t that bad, the main reason that it looks overexposed is that snow as a background is one of the hardest subjects to photograph well because it is so bright. In this case, the nice sunny day was actually working against you. The light meter of your camera set the exposure correctly for the dark rocks and water, leaving the snow around the edges overexposed. I have no idea what controls are available on your camera, but if you have manual exposure compensation, you could try a series of shots, dropping one third of an f-stop after each shot and see how that works. Of course that’s pretty tough to do without a tripod.

Waterfalls are best photographed by visiting them once so that you are able to visualize what time of day would be best as far as lighting, but usually, the first hour after sunrise, and the last hour before sunset work the best when the sunlight isn’t as harsh. Cloudy days are sometimes better than bright sunny days with harsh shadows. Hope this helps!

I’ve read that a polarizing filter is needed when doing these slow shutter speed shots in bright daylight, so maybe try that next time. The water portion is nice though, and you could probably fix the overexposed snow part in Photoshop if you were so inclined. But I think you ‘made do’ very well without the tripod — that tree looks like a natural tripod!

Kim has it right – regarding BOTH filters, actually! A polarizer (circular preferably) can bring out the natural color of shiny surfaces and help with sky blues as well. And a ND filter (Neutral Density) cuts down the amount of light that reaches the lens. This allows for a slower shutter speed without overexposing the shot. These filters can usually be “stacked” or screwed together. This can create a problem, however, if you are using a wide angle lens, especially with a full frame sensor. The filter’s ring, if it is sticking too far from the end of the lens, will interfere with the corners of the picture, causing vignetting.

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