GGW, Motion Blur at Niagara Falls

We will resume the Niagara Falls Garden magazine with a Wordless Wednesday post called, The Buzzers and the Flappers. But today, we have the GWGT entry for Gardening Gone Wild, Picture This contest. Thank you Fran and judge Joshua McCullough. I tried not being too cliché by avoiding photographing the popular places from Niagara Falls, but the last two show the American Falls, well, the brink anyway.

My entry is the image above. Just a note on this entry and a few of the following. When shooting at the Falls, some images must be framed pretty much as shown to get certain angles and perspectives. Otherwise if you stretch any further, you fall in! There are limited (legal) places to get close to the rapids and brush is often heavy and difficult to shoot around. But it does make it authentic. As an artist, I would prefer to have pretty foregrounds, but you almost take what you get at the Falls. The Parks department makes a great effort to clear the vegetation for visitors to have the best views. But nature comes along and fills it all back in.

I was at Luna Island at the Falls, and the day was very calm. This is an area having mini falls and is much less viewed by tourists. I used a tripod for all my shots. The camera was set to Shutter Priority Mode to gauge the manual settings for aperture and shutter speed which I deviated by setting the camera in Manual Mode for more control. It is a good starting point I think.

I set aperture to between 22 and 25. I changed ISO between shots from a starting point of 100. And you can see I shot in bright morning sun at between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. so I could have done better slightly earlier but compensated with the ISO setting and polarizing filter. The colors would have been stronger and glare would have been reduced off the water in some of the many shots. Well, those I did not have the polarizing filter on the lens, anyway.

I think the one above has the best movement of water, I like the droplets splashing as tiny sparkles. I think this one could have benefited with a curve adjustment. There is nice lights and darks with which to work.

This shot had pretty color in the water. I could up the saturation to make it even prettier, maybe a little contrast too with a curve adjustment.

This one has a cool splash, so I did not make this quite as blurred, but substantially more than the Auto settings below. I cropped it too. I was shooting with a lot of sun. This one I believe has more movement than the auto shot below. Better tones too, I think.

The next one, I can not remember exactly how I got this one. I liked the bright moss quite a bit. I could have selectively sharpened it somewhat to bring out the brush like swirls, but I just left it as is. It really does not look like a photo, but it is one.

The image came from this set of exposures and camera settings. Plus I zoomed in. The Auto setting image is below. See, lots of greens and rusts off the rocks.

Soft and silky, anything but what the Mighty Niagara is in the image below.

Camera on Auto below, same shot as above. I did have a polarizing filter on the lens, so this helped with the bright morning light a bit, by cutting down the amount of light entering the camera. See what happens to the foreground? It loses definition. If I edited this shot in Photoshop, I could have gotten a much better foreground.

Teeny, tiny people in rain gear to the right. Even tinier seagulls as little white dots.

I am at a bit of a loss as to how this really shows movement. Not a good thing to admit, but the Falls are so powerful and so commanding that nothing can make the movement in their capture seem faster; or at least that I can do. I think my first image with the mini falls shows the rapids a bit tamer. BTW… they move along at 30 mph! Not all that speedy, but impossible to escape at that speed. And there was a rescue yesterday too. Check the news, the rescuers needed to be rescued. Very scary.

Brink of the Falls.

And if you like the Falls, see the night shots on Green Apples. They are lit in colors of the spectrum. It is so pretty in person.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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34 Responses to GGW, Motion Blur at Niagara Falls

  1. Donna says:

    Are you kidding…they show movement in such a powerful way…the water is stopped in time by the pic but you can see the force of the water…I love so many of the pics I don’t know where to start…the last one is stunning knowing what I know is below and the speed of the water above…the first 3 pics and the mossy one are great too…it is about time that you win one of these Donna…you have so much talent…wonderful!!!

    • You think so? I guess because I am at the Falls a lot and hear the thunder and feel the spray, my photos seem so calm in comparison. I was trying to figure out another way to show the movement, playing off the foam, but could not relay that as well. They just looked like normal exposures.

  2. These photos are amazing! But you might as well be speaking Greek — all of this photography lingo is all foreign to me. Probably how my clients feel when I start rattling off plant terms. Anyway, just gorgeous. Makes me feel 20 degrees cooler just looking at the pics 🙂

    • Thank you. It was kinda cool today at the Falls. That was good too. We are having rain for the next five days, so today was the only day to get photos. Rain is expected for the garden walk too, I am sad about that.

  3. Andrea says:

    Shooting falls is always a challenge for me, and i always welcome a chance to see and try one! Even with a tripod i wonder why i cant get those i see from others! I always love the ‘milky-milky’ freeze through slow shutters. However, I always get also that with movement with normal settings. I need a falls nearby, which is impossible.

  4. One says:

    Donna, I love all your photos today! They are just gorgeous! I don’t understand Greek either but when I’ve learnt the language, I will hop by here and appreciate it better.

    Btw, I’ve been taking photos on manual mode. I’m getting there…hopefully.

    So which photo have you chosen?

    • I entered the first image and my comment posted at GGW, I checked the links, and now the comment is gone.It must be being moderated and will show up later. I left a second comment in case.

  5. GirlSprout says:


    Wow, how beautiful. I scrolled through the photos multiple times. Great juxtaposition of the serenity and forces of nature. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you GS. The only time the Falls is serene is in winter when I am the only ‘tourist’ there. Next week, I will post the shots of the hoards of people. I take pictures of them too.The people rival the thunder of the falls. They are everywhere and they come in herds from the buses.

  6. Ditto Donna’s comments above! They are all so good I don’t know which is my favorite! I have scrolled through multiple times captivated by them.

    • I was tossed which one to enter. I really liked others better, but the closeups seemed less what they were asking for in the contest description, I guess because movement is enhanced over distance. My first image is my submission. Thank you for your nice words.

  7. tina says:

    They are all so pretty and show the water beautifully. I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite but I think I like the ones with the greens in them best. The third one especially. Good luck with the contest.

    • Thank you, I may have sent in the wrong one, but I hope to get some feed back and constructive criticism. I have been making an effort to improve. One of their photographers at GGW is so helpful, and I think I am improving because of his posts.

  8. Karen says:

    Donna, all of these photos are just perfect…and so nice to see the ‘little’ falls, too, which is something I bet few if any tourists have seen.

    I’ve been taking my time, going back through your posts I have missed. I don’t know how you find the time to garden extensively and run your professional landscaping business, take fantastic photos and put up blog posts of such a high caliber. You are amazing!

    • You are just too kind Karen. I bet after all the water you had to deal with, looking at more was not such a great thing. The mini falls are one of my favorite spots because there are less tourists. Plus you can walk right up to the water. It is a little dangerous if one was to fall in, but here at many points the water is only inches deep, yet still moves pretty fast. No white water rafting here. Because it is so shallow, I knew I would get good color from the growth on the rocks. Many professional photographer were at the big falls yesterday. I should have stopped to ask tips, but they had lens on their cameras that make mine look less than adequate. Not to mention, they had multiple cameras and huge camera bags. I was way out of my league.

  9. Great shots, I love how you are experimenting with everything. And it’s interesting to see the falls from another angle. Almost like we had gotten to visit there ourselves.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  10. Barbie says:

    Oh Donna, Great photos! I am so wanting to get myself a polarizing filter and do these movement shots! I love water movement images and thanks for the tips. Just great to see this massive river and falls – something new for our eyes in South Africa!

    • Barbie,
      The best filter to use is the neutral density filters. This is because they reduce or modify all colors of the light equally, unaffecting the color results. Unlike the polarizing filter which will reduce glare but play with actual color rendition in the finished shot. I broke my clear neutral density and lost my gray one, so I used the polarizing filter. I probably should have stated that so as not to be misleading.

  11. EvoOrganic says:

    Beautiful pictures! I love the first one with the rainbow. The rush of the water is beautiful and so powerful. Now I’m going to have to look through my pictures and find something for this contest.

  12. Holley says:

    Wow – you may be used to these fall, but as someone who’s never seen them – they are amazing! I love the shot with the blurred water and the rainbow. (3rd up) Gorgeous. I’m always amazed how beautifully some people can capture images with their cameras. I only use the auto (thank goodness for that!) because I don’t see very well. You are very talented.

  13. These are breathtaking! They give me such a feeling of serenity. I want to sit by the edge and stare… and feel the mist…and wallow in the beauty of it all. Evoking those feelings is due to your artistic talent…your ability to create an image that will touch and inspire.

    • Ya, wear your raincoat. Any time you get close to any of the three big falls, you pretty much get sort of wet. It really depends on the wind direction and speed as to how wet. The mist is pretty nice in 90° weather. Even in winter, I was getting rained on with freezing water.

  14. Teresa says:

    beautiful photographs, I enjoyed all of them. hmmm I may need a trip to Niagra Falls this summer. Live about 4 hours away, you may have convinced me.

  15. b-a-g says:

    I like the second from last photo because it shows the play of the falling water in the foreground and the water lapping the shore in the distance. The rainbow is a bonus.

    • I almost entered this image, but it really did not speak the fury of the falls. I could get rainbows every sunny day at the falls, even multiple ones too. I think I am getting immune to their beauty.

  16. Bridget says:

    Beautiful pictures. Thanks for your kind words on my blog. The battle is just beginning. Happy Summer Solstice to you!

  17. These are wonderful! Thanks for posting the comparison shots too, so we can see what the image looks like with an auto setting. It really helps me understand how your interventions on the camera made a difference to the shot. And I like that you didn’t simply take pictures of the American Falls, but looked for other, less well-known angles and places.
    Good luck in the competition!

    • Thank you. I do get to places that many tourists do not. Some are sketchy too in how dangerous the area is for falling rock and slippery terrain. I never get bored with walking around the parks. Three are right within walking distance of me too.

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