Late Fall River Scenes at Wilkes Dam

There are some times of the year in Southern Ontario that tend to make it difficult to find some motivation to do landscape photography. Early December is one of those times. The leaves are down and everything can seem seem drab and lifeless. Yesterday morning it was bright and calm. I took the opportunity to capture some late fall river scenes at Wilkes Dam in Brantford.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 9.4mm, efov 25.4mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-160

As you can see it was dead calm upon arrival at Wilkes Dam. I used a concrete viewing platform along with some floating buoys to form a leading line in the composition. This draws the viewer’s eye to the stand of trees on the right hand side and their reflection in the water.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 25.7mm, efov 69.4mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-160

Building on the reflection theme, I switched lenses to create the image above. I liked the wisps of clouds reflecting in the water as well as the trees along the shoreline. I made sure to capture all of the trees on the left hand side in the reflection.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 25.7mm, efov 69.4mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-160

I captured a few additional images from the observation deck, using the slight waterfall at Wilkes Dam as a leading line in the above image. There was a portion of a tree lodged on the waterfall. I positioned it at about 1/3 in from the left side to help give the image balance. Placing the lodged tree in centre frame would have cut the image flow in half. This also would not have allowed for the three angles of the waterfall to be used in the photograph making the leading line less effective.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-160

Sometimes a very strong leading line, such as the railing in the image above, can be intersected with another strong line in a composition. In the photograph above this was the waterfall. To my eye this set up a nice juxtaposition of the elements. Additionally the placement of the two elements create a modified ‘magic 7’ and a ‘bottom bar’ in the photograph.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 11.5mm, efov 31mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-160

The dramatic differences between the three tiers of water caught my eye. I changed my physical position to better capture some reflections on the opposite bank and used the first waterfall drop as a leading line in the composition.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10.9mm, efov 29.4mm, f/16, 1/15, ISO-160

Before leaving the dam area I went down to the lower level to get closer to the cascading water and composed the image above. I had not planned to create this type of image so I did not bring a tripod or neutral density filters with me. While not the best choice from an overall image quality standpoint, I decided to stop my lens down to f/16 to slow down my shutter speed to create some smooth water effect. I then composed the image to create a strong zig-zag visual emphasis. This adds interest and draws a viewer’s eye into various levels of the composition, creating additional image depth.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7mm, efov 18mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-160

After leaving the observation area at the dam, I walked down the path along the river. I was intrigued by the angles of the trees in the above image, reaching out over the river. I used a wide angle to accentuate the feeling of depth and used the trunk of the tree on the left-hand side as a strong leading line.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7mm, efov 18mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-160

I often look for very simple elements to combine in compositions. In the photograph above it was the feature tree on the right-hand side and the larger tree on the opposite bank of the river, positioned on the left-hand side of the frame. I felt these two elements worked well together and helped direct a viewer’s gaze from right to left in the image.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 8.7mm, efov 23.5mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-160

I found an old, cement boat ramp along the shoreline and included it in the composition above. I felt it helped create a right to left visual movement in the image. Also, the horizontal lines in the concrete worked well with the direction of the river. I purposely cropped off the tops of the trees when composing this image to force the viewer’s eye to the left, thus adding to the image flow.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-160

I liked the simplicity in the scene above. I saw this image as a triangle in the bottom left corner, with a strong V-shape formed by the river above it. I also liked the gentle, downward sweep of the treeline from the top-right flowing down into mid frame. I cropped the tops off on the right hand side when composing the image to direct the viewer’s eye towards the left.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100mm f/4-5.6 @ 10mm, efov 27mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-160

To help accentuate a feeling of depth in the photograph above I left the entire shape of the feature tree in the image. This helps allow the viewer’s eye to move into the distance with the flow of the river.  I used the shoreline as a subtle leading line.

Composing images in the late fall can be a challenge. Using the blue skies of a sunny day, and the corresponding surface of water, can add some much needed colour. Then, using various elements to direct a viewer’s eye can help create some reasonable landscape images.

Technical Note:
All photographs were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro 11, CS6, and the Nik Collection.

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