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Whitewater Weekend. July 3, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death.
Tags: , , , , ,

This weekend, in addition to marking the celebration of the Fourth of July, sees a release of water through the Deerfield river’s Dryway  section, instigating a gathering of whitewater paddlers in search of a different kind of independence.  The river is high right now, owing to recent rains, and the dam releases are sufficient for some exciting river runs.

Now I’m not an “action photographer;” my mind wants to work slower than that.  But hey, this is what happens where I live, and photographing the event seemed like a growth opportunity, so I packed a bag full of too many lenses and drove/hiked to the river to play with some ideas about capturing motion.  I wanted a range of images from abstract to hyper-real to capture the kinetics of the river.

These images have been culled from the 262 I took, many as bursts while tracking the subject.  There are probably a couple dozen worth looking at, which is a pleasant surprise; I did a Dryway shoot last year which produced  many fewer “keepers.”  Either I’m figuring this out, or I got lucky.  😉

Here are some of the first picks.

Relentless water meets immovable rock:

A pair of rafters focuses on a clean run:

That was a panning/tracking shot, a long-ish exposure while following these guys to keep them in the camera’s central autofocus point.  It’s faster and more accurate, though cropping is necessary to get that feeling of potential energy on top of the obvious kinetic energy.

Panning has the potential to produce some surprising abstract images, and I was lucky enough to get a couple on this, my first try at it.

A pair of paddlers glides up a tilted reality:

A guided raft hits a hole in the Dragon’s Tooth rapid:

A group of kids share a ride to remember (panning at a really high ISO):

A kayaker works the waves:

This is a much different experience than rafting; you’re up to your waist in water and often times fully immersed in it.  You’d be cold if you weren’t working so hard to choose and execute a worthy line down the river.  The honorable approach consists of running the most challenging run you can without causing yourself or anyone else problems.  It’s a very focusing exercise, with real consequences and rewards.

A tracking abstract with a slow shutter speed:

…and a series of a paddler who ran a challenging chute right at my feet:

(and no, those are not  my toes)

…popping through and surfing the wave below the drop:

…and finally disappearing into the foam like a watery phantasm:

It’s been years since I paddled, and if my shoulders weren’t trashed I might be tempted to get back in a boat.  But as it is, I’m having fun with photography, and the pain is minimal.

I’ll see if I can get a few more worthy shots from this group before I mothball it.



1. susan - July 3, 2011

your skills have skyrocketed, my good and intelligent man

2. littlebangtheory - July 3, 2011

Thanks Susan, I’m trying. Still, you should see the mountain in my trash bin! 🙂

3. susan - July 3, 2011

These are remarkable. I’m glad to know you didn’t fall in.

4. jomegat - July 3, 2011

I really need to go paddling again. Once upon a time I ran a couple of class IV rapids in a kayak, but I wouldn’t dare now (too rusty!) I’d attempt a III though.

5. Gina - July 4, 2011

Excellent shots! Even if rushing water does terrify me!

6. littlebangtheory - July 4, 2011

susan, I approach these situations from the perspective of someone who’s been in the boat, so my pants are by definition pre-loaded. This makes me especially cautious, as going to the morgue with a pantload would indeed be an odious end! 😉

jomegat, I’m only dreaming when I consider a return to serious paddling, though I’ll probably get a little light flat-bottomed-something-or-other next year to get into pond waters with my camera.

Gina, it’s a good thing to be terrified of rushing waters, they’re not at all “people friendly,” and those who don’t fear them may well provide breakfast for the beast.

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