Silver and Golden Falls

Silver Falls

Taunya and I took the opportunity to escaped for a long weekend vacation up to Florence, OR.  We had some common goals in mind like relaxing and spending time together.  Her other goals were to sleep in and read.  I on the other hand wanted to take as many photographs as possible!  I especially enjoy taking pictures of water and waterfalls so I spent some significant time searching for opportunities.

The Silver and Golden waterfalls are one such opportunity that would only involve a short side trip on our way up to Florence.  They are located 24 miles east of Coos Bay, OR on the Coos River Hwy.  These water falls promised to be spectacular with 100 foot plus drops onto moss-covered rocks.

The hikes to the foot of these waterfalls are short and easy.  They each take about 15-20 minutes though are in opposite directions.

There is also a longer hike you can take up to the top of the Golden Falls.  This hike takes about an hour.  I was tempted to take this longer hike, but because I was anxious to get to Florence for a shot at a good sunset photo and the ocean I decided to save it for another day.

The weather this day was overcast and cool, over all good weather for a hike and waterfall photographs.  The trails to the waterfalls were surreal with the moss-covered trees giving everything a prehistoric look and feel right out of a Jurassic Park movie.

I should clarify about the hike….it is a short distance hike, but if you are like me it takes much longer to walk than it should because I am stopping so often on the way to take pictures.  Fortunately for me Taunya had her kindle with her and could read while I was obsessive with my photography. 🙂

A few other things worked in my favor, one was because it is winter the trees don’t have leaves on them obscuring the waterfall.  Second the wind was very calm, this is important when you are taking long exposure pictures.  If there is too much wind it will cause blurry images due to movement of the trees and other plants.

Golden Falls

While I was taking photos of Golden Falls the sun came out briefly and demonstrated why, I think anyway, this is called Golden Falls.  The sun cast a nice golden glow off of the rocks around the falls.  That may not be why it has this name, but it sounds good to me.

Now if you are like Taunya and don’t have any interest in the photography mumbo jumbo skip to the end of this article to the photo gallery.  Others of you are probably interested in taking waterfall/moving water pictures and would appreciate knowing what settings etc. I used for these pictures.   If that is the case read on.

Now to blur water you need a long exposure.  To do this and not overexposure everything you need a neutral density, ND, filter.  I have a multi-coated variable neutral density filter made by Polaroid, because it is inexpensive compared to the Singh-Ray filter.  I don’t recommend this filter if you need a true 9 stop ND filter because with the filter at its max setting it gives an hourglass shadow pattern and a purple cast to the image.  It is good though up to about 2/3 max setting which I estimate is about 6 stops of ND.  One thing I do enjoy about variable ND filters is you can lighten the filter to obtain focus and then darken the filter to take the photo.  With a constant 9 stop ND filter you have to obtain focus first, then install the filter because once the filter is on it is too dark to obtain focus.  I realized on this trip that most of the time I only need up to 6 stops of filtering, so I am considering purchasing a better quality constant ND filter.

I shoot these types of photographs in manual exposure mode, M, so that I can control both the shutter speed and the aperture.  The aperture and shutter settings you use depend on how dark your ND filter is and the amount of water blur you like artistically.  Personally I like there to be some sense of clear and white water in my water photographs.  Because of this my usual shutter speeds run between 1/5th of a second and 5 seconds with an aperture between f5.6 and f11. You may like the more smooth, blurred out water look.  For this you just need to lengthen the shutter speed and increase the f-stop.  The nice thing about digital photography is you can play around with the settings and get immediate feedback on how it looks.

Because I am using a long exposure I need the sensor to be at its least sensitive to light.  For my D7000 this an ISO of 100.  Another reason to use the lowest ISO setting possible is that you want lots of detail with as little noise as possible.

One of the things I learned this past fall at the landscape workshop I attended is that, if you have the opportunity with the camera on a tripod, using live view mode to focus is more accurate.  This is because in live view the camera uses a contrast detection AF system which is more reliable and accurate than the normal auto focus system which uses phase detection.  You may be asking yourself if the live view contrast auto focus is more accurate why wouldn’t I use this all the time?  Because the contrast AF system is very slow compared with the phase detection AF system.

So the process I use when using live view is to first turn on live view and obtain auto focus.  Second turn off live view and switch the camera to manual focus.  I do this so that I don’t accidentally reacquire focus when I take the photograph.

Now because you are using a long exposure you need to eliminate camera shake during the exposure.  To do this I use two separate camera settings.  The first is I use the delay timer function on the camera set to 2 seconds.  This allows me to push the shutter and the camera will wait 2 seconds before raising the mirror.  The other setting that I use is the exposure delay setting.  Using this setting the camera delays the shutter release for a second or two after the mirror is raised.  These two settings in conjunction effectively eliminate blur from camera shake.  Alternately you also could use a remote control or cable release with the exposure delay setting to get the same effect.

I hope this is helpful to some of you that are trying to get waterfall pictures.  If you have a question leave it in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer it.

It turns out I was very glad we left early from the falls and hurried to Florence for the sunset.   We pulled up to the hotel just as the sun was going down.  Before we even checked in I left Taunya in the car, grabbed my camera and ran to the beach.  Luckily I was just in time to capture a few shots as the sun set on the horizon.  As it turned out this was the only day that weekend where the sun was visible on the horizon all through sunset.  All the other days there was the usual cloud bank on the horizon blocking the actual sunset.

Thanks for reading and enjoying these pictures.  I’ve included these and a few others in the gallery below.  Over the next few days I’ll be posting some other pictures from the weekend trip and also some photographs from a snow camping outing with the boy scouts this past weekend.


Please follow and like us:


  1. Hi Jason, I came across your website today. I really enjoyed your photos as well as the blog entries! I live in Eugene, where are you? I have a D600 currently.

    • Thanks Ethan, I’m down in Northern California by Mt. Shasta, little town called Yreka. I am still trying to decide between the D600 and the D800 for my next upgrade. How are you liking the D600?

Leave a Reply