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.

Bird Photos!

My big Christmas present was a Nikon D3000 DSLR camera, which came with a 55-200 mm zoom lens as well as the standard kit lens. This means that, for the first time, I can take halfway-decent photos of birds. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with it (Monday’s mystery goose was one example). Here are some more of my efforts so far, all of which I’m pretty sure I already posted on Twitter. Click on any thumbnail below to bring up a slide show of the full-size images.

My favorite is the mockingbird. Hopefully this means I’ll be adding more posts about birds to my usual repertoire of plants, insects, tracks etc. in the future!

The Rule of Thirds

The other night I showed a coworker a photo I took a couple months ago that I really liked, and she said, “Oh, good use of the rule of thirds!”  To which I replied, “Good use of the what?”

I know absolutely nothing about photography.

The rule of thirds, it turns out, says that photos are more interesting if you fill two thirds of the space with one thing and the remaining one third with something else.  You are supposed to divide the frame into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, using imaginary lines.  Bonus points if you can put some point of interest at an intersection of those lines.

While reading about this I found an old, no-longer-updated blog that took the form of a photography course, broken down into lessons of different aspects of composition.  The rule of thirds was assignment one, and the “instructor” recommended shooting in black and white while practicing.  I decided to give it a try.  Here are some of my results.

Don’t worry, this is still definitely a nature blog, not an artsy-photography blog.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in improving the quality of the photos I post here, and I think I may continue working through the series of lessons.

Help Me Make Up My Mind!

I need your help!  Every year, the nature preserve where I work puts out a calendar to raise money.  And every year, they have a photo contest to choose images for that calendar.  A person can submit a maximum of four of his/her photos.  I’m having a really hard time picking my favorite four of mine, so if you could peruse the numbered photos before and leave a comment telling me your four favorites, it would be much appreciated.  Just click on the thumbnails to see larger versions.  Thanks!

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