Colorado River

I went out to the Colorado River at Colorado Bend State park. I know that this is a rocky part of the river and there are a lot of places where the water rushes over the rocks and I thought this might make for some good long exposure photography. I also wanted to experiment with a polarizer as this can be used to knock down reflections in water and darken the blue sky.

The river was a bit low and not running as strongly as it has been in the past, so I was a little bit disappointed. But this did make it easy for me to go out to the rocky areas (carrying camera bag and tripod) and only get wet up to my ankles. I wandered around trying to find a composition with a lot of rushing water and maybe a line that would lead through the picture. The below image is a 10 second exposure looking across the river from about the middle. I don’t think that the water was moving fast enough to get all of the water blur I was after; I may have to come back after some heavy rains.

Long exposure of water rushing over rocks in the Colorado river Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm f/4; 35mm, f/14, 10s, ISO100 (10-stop ND)

To set this up I had to first get the composition that I wanted without the filter on the lens. I was doing this with a low tripod in live-view mode and it was very difficult to see the screen in the bright conditions. Once I got what I wanted at about 1/100s, I screwed on the ND filter and changed the shutter speed to 1000/100s or 10s. It was also very windy and I tried to keep the tripod low and on steady ground, but I think you can see a little bit of motion blur in the photo from the wind shaking the camera if you look closely enough.

Below is a picture of the ND filter that I used. It is basically a dark piece of glass that does not affect color.

10 Stop ND Filter (screw on)
10 Stop ND Filter (screw on)

I also messed around with my polarizing filter to see how that would affect the image. A polarizing filter can be used to reduce reflected light to bring out color and it can also darken the sky a bit when facing at about a right angle from the sun. I don’t use a polarizing filter very often but I do hear landscape photographers swear by them. There was a clear blue sky and lots of water to reflect it, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn a few things.

The first picture below is without the polarizer and the second is with. I imported these photos into Lightroom, made adjustments to one and copied those adjustments to the other. The obvious thing to point out is the sky – it is noticeably darker in the polarized photo as I was facing just about due South in the late afternoon. You may also notice reduced reflections in the water and brighter rocks and folliage in the polarized photo.

Colorado River in Texas
Without polarizing filter
Colorado River in Texas with polarizer filter
With polarizing filter

Overall, I like the first picture better. The sky is just unnaturally dark in the polarized picture. But I do think that the river looks better with the reflections knocked down a bit.

One problem to look out for when using the polarizer is uneven exposure in the sky. In the below photo, I am facing roughly NorthWest with the sun to the left. You can see that the sky is much darker on the right side of the picture than it is on the left. It was a bright day, and I really couldn’t tell this by looking at the screen on the back of my camera.

Colorado River at Colorado Bend State Park Texas
Nikon D750 + 16-35mm f/4, 24mm, f/14, 1/200s, ISO100

This was a wide angle photo shot from down low as I wanted the rocks in the foreground to lead into the river framed by the trees lining both sides. The picture needs an interesting subject (a duck or a kid playing in the water) about midway into the frame. So, next time I will rent a duck.

That was my first rushing water attempt at Colorado Bend State Park. I may try this again in the future.

It has been almost exactly one year since I started making a serious attempt at writing this blog. I hope my photography has improved a bit from the experience. Thanks for reading and leave a comment below if you like.


2 thoughts on “Colorado River

  1. My experience is that you need a lot of water flowing ( or a waterfall ) to get good blurring of the water.

    One point I found on polarisers is that my lens rotates as it focusses so I have to remember to focus first then fiddle with the polaiser to get the best results. Other ( more expensive? ) lenses may not do this of course.


    1. Yeah, I was disappointed in the low water flow of the river. I didn’t think it would be that slow, but I guess it hasn’t rained much up North this spring. That river eventually fills up 5 reservoirs to the North and West of Austin. Including Inks Lake, which is a constant level lake and where I like to go hiking and shooting. The next time we get some good rain in the Western part of Texas, I will go back to Colorado Bend and try again. Sometimes in late summer we get a tropical system move into the lower coast from the Gulf of Mexico and that can bring us a lot of rain a day or so later.

      That’s a good point about rotating lenses. The lens I was using does not do that. My issue is messing the polarizer with the lens hood on and not getting finger smudges on the glass. I don’t shoot with my polarizer very often and I have been thinking to including that more to get better used to what it does.


      Liked by 1 person

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