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Reality by Simmie Reagor
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The Sleepy Photographer Blog

A photography blog that chronicles the adventures and sometimes misadventures of Simmie Reagor.

A little time at the Big Falls

Colonel Clarence C. Wadsworth upon his death in 1942 donated 267 acres of the Wadsworth Estate to the State of Connecticut. Mr Wadsworth a conservationist himself wanted to ensure the preservation of the area and it's beauty. Wadsworth State Park lies across the town of Middletown and Middlefield.

The river that the falls are part of is the Coginchaug River. This first shot and subsequent images are of the "Big Falls", the main attraction for many visitors.

The Park has a vast trail system that connects to the small falls, beach area as well as to the Wadsworth Estate which lies adjacent to the Park. Because of it's popularity and proximity to the local population, it can be difficult to manage a shot without people in it. Very early mornings or later in the evening is your best bet during the warmer months. When the weather is cold or raining you are likely to be undisturbed.

I decided to leave this pair of folks in the frame as the man's dress was interesting and you get a feel for what people like to do when they are here. It really is one of Connecticut's small but popular tourist spots.

Due to all the rain we have been having, most of the falls in Connecticut are running well and strong. These falls are no exception. Despite the rush of water, the river itself in this section was not that deep, just above knee level on my 6 ft frame but manageable. I was never in danger of getting over my waders. At 1/6 of a second the falls looks like a giant white octopus with its tentacles stretching outwards.

I used Topaz Labs to give this one a more artistic, painterly feel. Another group of visitors getting their waterfall portraits taken next to the falls.

This next image of the falls i wanted to get those streaks even more pronounced so I set the shutter speed to 2.5 seconds but of course the falls would be too blown out to recover so this is a blend of the 2.5 second shot for the trails and a faster shutter speed for the falls, 1/10 of a second. Conversion to Black and White worked well on this one. Now it was time to experiment.

A faster shutter speed will freeze all the action for you, which some people like. Most people will be partial to the typical 1-3 second shot where you get the silky water with some detail retained. Of course, this depends on the speed of the water flow and other factors. Anything between 10 seconds and 1 minute will usually be overexposed and overwhelming in detail in the water flow. The magical part happens when you start doing longer exposures. You will need a ND (Neutral Density) filter of some type, maybe two. Again, depending on the light, water flow and a few other factors 5 to 7 minutes will give you a similar look, feel and exposure as the 1-2 second exposure with a slightly more ethereal feel in your falls area. Where you really notice a difference is in the flow of the water (not the falls). Those areas that might have too many highlights, lines, etc. in the foreground now become more subtle. Areas or patterns that might not be so obvious at the lower speeds may now reveal themselves to you and the water takes on a different quality, almost akin to Jell-O. This first shot was about 6 minutes.

Head on, rocks in the middle with water going on either side of me. Trees blended in from a normal shutter speed for stillness.

The Sun was coming through the clouds a little more, so it's only exposed for about 4 minutes. Luckily it stayed constant during the entire time. A closer intimate shot of the falls with this interesting pyramid shaped rock. The bubbles that are creating this vortex effect above the rock were barely moving in real-time. Even at a shutter speed of 30 seconds these would have just been slightly blurred bubbles. At the longer shutter speed they finally take form.

It was getting close to sunset so most of the visitors were leaving but there were still people coming and going. This next shot is a Panoramic image of 5 vertical shots stitched together in Lightroom. Each one 6 minutes in length, so any visitors that did come did not show up in the shot. The exception was a couple that sat there the entire time this was being created. I could have cloned them out but I left them in for their persistence, which means they sat there relatively still for 30 minutes. At six minutes the spray from the waterfall becomes noticeable as a sort of glow in the top frame, which is cool. I was only concerned with sharpness in the foreground, so this also helped to enhance the ethereal softness of the falls and the surrounding area, no need to worry about freezing the trees.

Definitely a great place to go for a hike and explore.  If you are not up for the hike, there is a separate parking area right near the falls that you can take advantage of.  As always take out what you bring in and help keep these natural places clean and well maintained.

All images © 2007-2019 Simmie Reagor.