Everyone loves grand sweeping landscapes, those jaw-dropping scenes of awe and light that inspire and amaze viewers. Every now and then, however, consider giving your viewers a break from being beaten over the head with majesty, and give them instead something that is soothing and pleasant. Intimate portraits of nature are perfect for this, and every nature photographer should round out their portfolio with a few of these peaceful scenes.
I made the image above after hiking into Double Arch Alcove along the Middle Fork Taylor Creek Trail in Zion National Park. On the way back to the trail head, I crossed Taylor Creek several times. Along this particular stretch, the creek narrowed considerably and cascaded over a series of small drops. Above the creek, a high canyon wall was glowing in late afternoon light. By choosing my camera angle carefully, I was able to capture the warm light reflected in the water of the creek. The red sandstone surrounding the creek provided the perfect complement to the glowing reflections, and just a hint of blue light reflected from the sky above added some color contrast which helped to balance the scene. As always when working with reflections, I used a polarizer filter turned only slightly to intensify the colors (if you turn the filter to full polarization, you will remove the reflections). I choose my camera’s lowest ISO setting (50) to ensure a sufficiently long shutter speed to create the desired amount of motion blur in the water. I kept the composition simple and free of distracting elements, concentrating on the subtle S-curve shape created by the meandering creek.
Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 24-105mm lens (@55mm), polarizer filter turned slightly to intensify reflections, ISO 50, f/22, 5 seconds.