Picture story

The making of: "Rapids"

The Youghiogheny River makes its way like a snake, twisting and turning for 134 miles through northern Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

In Maryland, it passes through Swallow Falls State Park, a few miles from the town of McHenry, where it, and the creeks that flow into the river, create four amazing waterfalls and a series of rapids.

I was fortunate to spend two days shooting this magnificent landscape during a recent family vacation. And while I loved seeing relatives and friends, I must confess that hiking the rocky trails and gravel paths along “The Youg” as its sometimes called, with a heavy back pack while hunting for amazing images was a special, albeit grueling, exhausting, and strangely satisfying experience.

From that shoot, I am very excited to offer “Rapids,” the newest addition to my website (www.ernestjschweitphotography.com). The image might not have been made had it not been for some careful planning, the same type of planning that goes into most every landscape shot I take, and a dose of long-exposure photography.

Key to the planning effort was the internet and a couple of apps; here's how it worked:

Our family and friends gathered near Deep Creek Lake, Maryland; in the process of planning our stay, I used Google Maps (www.google.com/maps)—one of my go to programs for planning my landscape work, to scout the area.

I noticed that Swallow Falls State Park was roughly 15 minutes southwest of us. One of the best ways to research any state park—and I mean any state park, anywhere—is the ap Alltrails (also available at www.alltrails.com).

I plugged in Swallow Falls into the search bar, and was promptly shown more than enough information to plan our time there, including a description of the trail, length, elevation, directions, reviews and—most importantly-- a topographical map showing the terrain and parking lot locations.

You can see why I live by Alltrails; its proven invaluable at shoots in Point Lobos, near Carmel, California, the Saguaro National Forest near Tucson and the forests near my home in Lake County, Ill.

Alltrails also includes photos, but a better source might be Flickr. Plug in the name of the park and Flickr will show you photos, along with---and this is extremely helpful — technical info on the backside of the picture, including camera type and settings.

The evening before Deep Creek shoot, I checked the local weather; any of the major weather apps will show you a radar representation of your area and the weather headed you way, along with the expected temperatures, wind direction and speed and precipitation. My favorite is WGN9 Weather.

I also checked Helios, which told me the time for Golden Hour, Sunrise, Sunset, Blue Hour for this location, and SunSurveyor, which showed the angle of the sun based on location and time of day.

These apps are all available through the Apple App store (https://www.apple.com/app-store/) or Google Play (https://play.google.com/store). They  did an amazing job guiding me to the area of the river with rapids so loud, I had to strain to have a conversation with my companion. But talk wasn't necessary because as soon as I saw the swirling waters of the “Youg,” I could visualize milky white trails of water churning through the green-ish waters.

To create this scene I dialed a long exposure (5 seconds) into my Sony Alpha A7ii and added a filter that darkened the scene. That, in turn, lengthened the exposure, creating the milky streaks in the water.

I really love the painterly effect of the milky white waters swirling in patterns among the rocks and trees.

It was well worth the arduous hike and the planning. I hope you enjoy “Rapids” as much as I enjoyed making it.

For ordering information on “Rapids,” contact me through the Contact button below

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