Practicing Long-Exposure Shots at Toccoa Falls
Ever see professional shots of waterfalls (such as the one below this paragraph), where the water is nice and smooth, and wonder, “How do they do that?” Well, a technique called long-exposure is how they do it. The way I understand it, a high end camera will let light in for a longer-than-normal period of time in order to capture and smooth out movement – such as falling water. Smartphone cameras don’t quite have this capability, but there are a number of apps out there that simulate the technique, with varying degrees of effectiveness.On a recent road trip, I used Roadtrippers to find interesting waypoints and stops along the route, one of which was Toccoa Falls, where I decided I would try long-exposure smartphone photography for the first time.
Quick side note, and I promise I’m not being paid to say this: have you ever used the Roadtrippers app? It’s pretty cool. You enter the start and end points of your trip (similar to Google Maps) and select the type of waypoints that interest you. There’s dozens of categories, but some of the ones I can think of now are museums, nature, parks, historical sites, stadiums, etc. Lots of stuff. Once you’ve chosen the ones that you want, the app shows you the location of relevant waypoints on or near your route. And you can see photos and reviews from in the app. I really only tell you this because it’s how I found out about Toccoa Falls, which was a great find, and because the more people that are using it, the higher quality the information (I’m assuming it’s crowd sourced).
But back to the waterfall. This nearly 200-foot sheer drop waterfall is among the tallest in the eastern US, and is located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College. Could you imagine going to a school where you can just go hang out at a kick-ass waterfall whenever you felt like it? When we arrived, at 3pm on a week day I might add, there were a bunch of students playing volleyball just a one minute walk from the waterfall. I miss college.
If I remember correctly, a “donation” of a dollar or two was required to get on campus to see the falls, and it was worth it. I don’t think I realized how infrequently I get to see awesome waterfalls in person until I was standing in front of this one. It wasn’t a waterfall to blow you away with its sheer force, but it was impressive nonetheless, so I quickly took out my phone and began taking pictures.
Once I was satisfied with my standard photos, I finally gave long exposure a try, and at first, it did not go well. The key to long-exposure is keeping the camera completely still, and I didn’t have a tripod. This meant that most of my attempts came out blurry.
Finally, I was able to find a rock I could lean the phone on, making it possible to keep it still for a short time. Today was definitely not a day to try 15- or 30-second exposures. Instead, I stuck to the 2- and 4-second settings on my app, SlowShutter. After fiddling around with the timing and the limited angles available to a tripod-lacking photographer, I was pretty pleased with the results. Not bad for a first timer, don’t you think?
Since taking these photos, I have actually received a smartphone tripod as a gift – I can’t wait to find another waterfall, so I can try more long exposure shots!
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