One more photo set to share from our recent mountain mini-vacation comes in the form of a quick opportunity I had on an evening hike our first night away. After checking into the hotel we had a quick dinner then drove to a nearby trailhead where (after a cute and safe encounter with a black bear) we hiked three klicks into the woods along a largely flat path (with a small climb at the end.)

Troll Falls is named for the bottom-most of a series of step-like waterfalls down a gradual mountain slope. The creek decends from somewhere above, starting at the Olympic ski hill (1988 Olympics) Nakiska into a wooded area below the parking lot. If that doesn’t sound pleasant or romantic, understand that I had to look on a map a few days later to realize that we were a few hundred meters from a ski-hill parking lot … so it didn’t exactly stick out while we were there.

Above the main falls, the falls most people hike up to see, photograph, and then wander back to their vehicles from lays a stretch of roughly one kilometer of winding, steplike waterfalls. An ascending footpath follows this to yet another grand water feature. So at each twist and turn of the trail, there is yet another opportunity to step a meter or so off the beaten path and crouch beside a gurgling stream to capture a photo of a lush bit of cascading water.

Photographing a nice waterfall is rare locally.

By contrast, the rivers and creeks within walking distance of my house are slow prairie water courses blessed with a rich chocolate brown hue. Sparkling blue and green waterfalls, dripping down the sides of mountains are hours of driving away, usually followed by hours of hiking and require a special balance of light to capture just right (without a backpack worth of filters and tripods at least.)

A few years ago we were in Iceland and I had an hour or so to muck around with the camera settings as I aimed at various waterfalls, camera steady on a tripod. The trick (which I’ve read too many places to reference here) is a small aperture and a long exposure. When these basics are combined, the image of the flowing water blurs to give a soft, lacy appearance to the water while the background is crisp. Iceland provided me a dozen opportunities to test this, and I nabbed a few great shots because of the tip.

I leaned against a tree, steadied myself with a few deep breaths, and held the shutter button for a half dozen shots hoping that I could avoid too much visible blur from my tripod-free 1/8sec shutter speed.

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