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Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River in winter, Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River, Rosseau, Ontario

The 2nd Annual Muskoka Winter Waterfall Spectacular Photographic Workshop wrapped up on Sunday February 10th around 12:00 noon. We began the workshop on Friday February 8th at 1:00 pm after driving through a wicked snow squall in Bracebridge, Ontario with near zero visibility. The snow squall left about 6-8 inches of fresh snow on the ground and coated the surrounding forests with a lovely dusting of snow – a perfect winter wonderland was created for photographing throughout the course of the weekend event.

We had four fabulous and talented participants of which three were repeat clients.

We began with a glorious morning at Hatchery Falls near Rosseau, Ontario. As the sun began to rise it cast beautiful soft light on the distant forest behind the Skeleton River, as can be seen in the opening image. It would appear that this waterfall has been visited very seldom this year as we had to blaze a trail through significant snow depth on the ground, but it was worth the extra effort.

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Potts Creek, Bracebridge, Ontario

We made two trips into Little High Falls on Potts Creek. The first trip in was on Friday afternoon, followed by a second trip on the Sunday morning. Both days were equally good, but totally different. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly waterfalls and rivers can change during the winter months when ice formations take on new shapes overnight. A light dusting of snow on Sunday morning help to accentuate openings in the thin sheets of ice that had formed on Potts Creek overnight. This can be seen in the above image and two images below.

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Potts Creek, Bracebridge, Ontario

 

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Winter River Details, Bracebridge, Ontario

 

Potts Creek in winter, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada

Potts Creek, Bracebridge, Ontario

During brief breaks in Friday afternoon’s intense snow squalls the fresh fallen snow created beautiful clean winter scenics.

My choice of gear for this trip was kept rather simple. As usual my Laowa 12mm Zero D lens was given a workout. The Nikkor 28-300mm lens was a close second as it is such a versatile lens and great for capturing icy details along the river. When I needed focal lengths in between the 12mm and the 28-300mm lenses I worked with the Nikkor 18-35mm lens. Every image was photographed using a polarizing filter to help reduce or eliminate glare from the scene. Do note that I said “reduce or eliminate” as not every scene will warrant full polarization. There are times when a bit of glare can be used for creative effect within the composition.

Little High Falls in winter, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada

Little High Falls, Bracebridge, Ontario

On Saturday afternoon we trekked into Skeleton Falls through 3 feet of snow until we reached the forest where the snow on the ground was much easier to walk through as we made our way down the forested slope to the river.

Winter Details_9918

Winter Details on the Skeleton River, Rosseau, Ontario

 

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Brooks Falls, Almaguin Highlands, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 200
f16 @ 0.5 sec

On Friday October the 13th I awoke at 5:00 a.m. to commence driving into Ontario’s Almaguin Highlands situated just north of the town of Huntsville. I was hoping for stunning autumn colour along the Magnetawan River at Brooks Falls, however, that was not to be as there was already some significant leaf fall in the area. Fall colour in Ontario has been a bit odd this year with some areas having stunning colour while other parts of seen dull colours, and some locales have even seen leaf fall without much colour change at all. Perhaps this has to do with our overly wet, cool summer. Nonetheless, I arrived at Brooks Falls and was pleased to see that the river was full and ragging.

My intention for this day’s outing was to explore several waterfalls with the Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero Distortion Lens. When using such an extreme wide angle lens getting the camera into the right position is very critical to success of the image. Strong foreground subjects are a must to grab the viewer’s attention. Often my chosen perspective for each image was not much more than about 12 inches from the rushing water, which added complications in having to deal with water spray and droplets of water hitting the front element of the lens. Before each frame that was captured I would give the lens a wipe with a micro fiber cleaning cloth. Patience and perseverance did result in several frames without water droplets being present.

When I had finished photographing Brooks Falls I ventured south to the Skeleton River in Rosseau, Ontario to a couple of waterfalls that I was certain would still have some nice colour due to the sugar maple trees that line the river banks. Below are the images created at both Skeleton Falls, and Hatchery Falls. Skeleton Falls is a little known waterfall that is accessed by hiking down a very step grade within the forest, while the more popular Hatchery Falls is accessed by a well worn foot path through easy terrain.

Skeleton Falls, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 0.6 sec

What is my most important piece of gear for photographing waterfall imagery? Hip waders. More often than not the best perspective to photograph many waterfalls is from within the river itself. River banks tend be messy environments with distracting elements such as twigs/branches intruding into the scene. By photographing from within the river you can often eliminate or at the very least reduce these distracting elements impact on the scene.

 

Hatchery Falls, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 0.3 sec

 

Hatchery Falls, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1/4 sec

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Hatchery Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Hatchery Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

This morning I awoke at 5:00 a.m. to begin my journey north to Ontario’s Muskoka region to meet up with fellow photographer / friend Kyle McDougall. Do take a moment to check out Kyle’s work as he is a very talented photographer.The plan was to visit several of the areas secluded, woodland waterfalls. The weather forecast was for cloudy conditions with temperatures hovering around 2-3 degrees Celsius. Perfect weather for a comfortable day photographing winter waterfalls.

Ontario’s Muskoka region has been hit hard this winter with tons of snowfall. There is roughly four feet of snow on the ground and significant ice formation at some of the waterfalls, due to the brutal cold temperatures encountered this winter. At each of  the destinations it was somewhat tricky getting into position for some of the images as I would often sink to my waist in deep snow along the riverbanks. My lower back problems did not appreciate this very much and are now getting even with me for heading off without my snowshoes.

Potts Creek, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Potts Creek, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada (10-stop Neutral Density Filter Used)

On today’s waterfall excursion I experimented with some new techniques, gear, and camera features. In the image that opens this blog post I used the focus stacking technique, whereby I created three separate images with each focused at a different point from foreground to horizon and then assembled them in photoshop to create one image file. In the above image at Potts Creek I was very disappointed to see lots of foam floating in the creek below the falls, but I noted that it was floating around in a circular motion. By attaching a B&W 10-stop Neutral Density Filter to the lens I was able to create an image with a 30 second exposure that would record the circular motion making it a pleasing element within the composition.

Skeleton Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada

Skeleton Falls, Muskoka, Ontario, Canada (in-camera HDR)

The final experiment I tried was setting my Nikon D800 to it’s in-camera HDR function. By doing so the camera would create a natural-looking TIFF file of 100 MB. I was quite pleased with the in-camera HDR results and will use this mode often. For winter imagery I found it opened up the shadowed areas nicely and brought out the greens in the cedar trees well too. While optimizing these images I chose to add a touch of Nik / Google’s Detail Extractor filter from Color Efex 4 to bring out the fine details in the snow.

Please click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper version.

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The newly discovered Skeleton Falls, from last year, in Ontario’s Muskoka Region is one of my favorites. It is a very secluded waterfall, located a stones throw from Highway #141 and a little bit tricky to find and descend to. About 1.3 kms west of Fish Hatchery Road the highway makes a long left-handed bend, the waterfall is near the outside of the curve in the road and down a very steep forested embankment. I parked on a nearby dirt road and walked back to area near the falls. There is no safe place to park a car alongside of the highway. I would advise strongly to visit with a friend for safety reasons. After a descent rainfall is a small, but picturesque woodland waterfall.

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