I had a chance to run to the C&O Canal National Historical Park the other day for a quick photography trip after work. Unfortunately, I had to work a game after school, so I arrived pretty late. The light was fading fast as I found and set up for a few macro images along the banks of the Fish Ladder (part of the Great Falls of the Potomac).
Field Chickweed (Cerastium arvense) growing along the Potomac River
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Seed Head
As conditions got too dark and breezy for any more macro photography, I headed out to the main overlook above Great Falls for the sunset. But the sunset was pretty unexciting; little color, slight overcast, but no dramatically lit clouds. Undaunted, I took some telephoto isolations of the rock formations in the falls, which were nicely lit.
There were a few photographers there this weekday evening, but as is frequently the case, they began to pack up very soon after the sun set. I continued to photograph longer exposures of the waterfalls, including this image from the rocks on the side of the river where water from a large rapid was periodically sploshing in.
Sometimes the color in the twilight sky can be more intense than the sunset itself, but this was not one of those evenings. The light and what little hint of color there had been just continued to fade. As it got darker, the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) began to show up to fish in and around the falls. I kept my camera settings as they had been for the landscape shots to intentionally blur the water. I knew that the herons would occasionally stand still enough during their stalking that I could get a relatively sharp image with a long exposure and get a dramatic bluring to the waterfalls. I ended up with a lot of frames where the heron moved (especially since I was using the self-timer and mirror lock-up), but I did end up with the two images below, shot at 4 second and 2 second shutter speeds respectively.
Soon the light faded too much for even decent long exposures of the falls, but still I remained, long after the last of the other photographers were arriving back at the parking lot. I breathed in the cool clean night air, enjoyed the rushing symphony of the falling water, and watched the shadowy herons chase each other up and down the falls. In this normally busy park nestled within the DC metropolitan area, I enjoyed the peace of having this lovely natural area all to myself. When I finally headed out for the parking lot, I ran into several early fireflies on my return hike.
Many of my most sucessful images have been taken near or after twilight. This particular evening, I might have gotten a few more successful images than the other photographers who were in a hurry to pack up and leave. But most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed and experienced the world that drew me to photography in the first place. Because I'm often the last to leave, my experience and often my photographs are much richer.
Dear friends and readers, if there is one thing I wish for you, it is that you always have the freedom, and the wisdom, to be the last one to leave.