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Behind The Shot: New River Flow

New River Gorge National River, West Virginia
Behind The Shot: New River Flow

Photo By Bryan Haakenson

Photographing water is a passion of mine, and it can take on different compositional choices and ideas. Waterfalls, along with the challenge of capturing unique qualities and perspectives, are an obvious choice. Recently, I’ve tried to focus more on reflections in the water, whether it’s the mirror image of trees or mountains to accent the image, or finding a subject with colorful accents of color.

On a trip I took this fall to the New River Gorge National River in West Virginia, I had researched a number of waterfalls that I had put on my itinerary of places to see and photograph. When I arrived in the area, I spent the better part of a day getting acclimated to the surroundings. The other challenge I had was the bright sunny skies, which can make for difficult or nearly impossible attempts to capture a waterfall with even lighting.

It was mid afternoon and I had traveled down the Fayette Station Road over the bridge of the New River to a parking area with access to the river and section of rapids. I noticed the west side of the gorge was primarily in shade, so I decided to wander around to see if I could find any reflections to photograph. The sunlight was hitting the bank of trees along the river, which had golden yellow leaves and produced a nice glow in some of the standing water around the banks. What caught my attention was when I studied the water as it approached the section of rapids in the river. There was a section that was in the shade that had a golden color cast to it.

I went back to my car, brought out my gear and set up my tripod along the riverbank. I used a 70-200mm zoom and closed in on an area where the water looked like gold and had a nice wavy movement. I applied my VU polarizer to the lens and started to reduce the glare and enhance the color I took several shots, keeping the frame in the area protected from the sun. I enjoyed the abstract quality of the images, as no two images were the same. The wonderful light didn’t last long as some clouds moved in and turned the golden hues to a flat washed-out brown.

This image is my favorite one from my trip and certainly not one I had expected to capture. There’s a certain calming effect I get when I look at it; there’s nothing to distract me other than to appreciate the tones and texture of the water. Sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time and can capture images that you weren’t looking for.

Equipment & Settings: Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM II, Manfrotto tripod and ballhead, VU Polarizer, cable release, 140mm, 1/5 sec., ƒ/16, ISO 100.

See more of Bryan Haakenson’s photography at and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.