Jura

Gour Blue waterfall, cascades du hérisson, Jura, France

Gour Blue, Cascades du hérisson

I just got back from a fabulous trip to the French Jura mountains. I went there mainly to shoot waterfalls, although I knew it was not the best time of the year for these kind of shots. In summer there’s simply not a lot of water in the small mountain rivers, so most waterfalls look kind of smallish and not very compelling. However, I managed to find some interesting falls, despite the lack of water.

The best time of the year to shoot waterfalls in the Jura mountains is early spring (March / April) or, even better, during fall (October / November). The fall colors add a spectacular touch to the landscape.

 

Where to go.

Some nice spots I found:

Saut Girard waterfall, cacades du hérisson, Jura, France

Saut Girard

“Cascades du Hérisson” (GPS: 46.613611, 5.854722): The most popular waterfalls. There are seven in total, some very spectacular (“Eventail”, “Gour Blue”, “Saut Girard”). But: lot’s of visitors and not easy to find a clear spot to take a picture.

“La cascade des tufs aux Planches” (GPS: 46.871667, 5.805278): Very spectacular and lush. Not a lot of visitors.

“Cascade de la Billaude” (GPS: 46.681389, 5.938333): Beautiful site, very spectacular. Not many visitors.

“Baume-les-messieurs” (GPS: N46°41’24”,  E5°38’19”): Nice, but a lot of visitors. Difficult to find a nice spot to take a photograph. Beautiful site though.

There are zillions of other sites, some well hidden in the woods. I didn’t have time to find or visit them all…

 

Gear and technique.

All the pictures of waterfalls I took during this trip were long exposures, i.e. exposures longer than ten seconds. For the “silky-effect-waterfalls” exposure times of a few seconds are usually enough, but I like to take it to the extreme and some of my exposures were over two minutes long. I mainly used a DSLR with a Sigma 10-20mm ultra wide angle lens together with a Hoya ND400 neutral density filter. I also took a few shots with my Tamron 70-200mm, again with the Hoya ND filter.

Contrast.

One of the difficulties is contrast. Most, if not all, of the shots were taken during day time, some at high noon. The light is very harsh at those times of the day and the contrast might be a little too much for the camera sensor. In order to prevent pictures with blown-out skies or pitch black caves you basically have three solutions:

  1. Come back later, when the light is better and less contrasty
  2. Use lighting equipment: light those dark caves and reduce the overall contrast
  3. Take multiple exposures of different lengths and blend them together in post-processing

For practical reasons I used the “multiple exposure” technique, but the other two solutions would have worked as well.

Multiple exposures example

Multiple exposures example: under-exposed, “correctly” exposed and over-exposed

Final result: Old castle waterfall

Final result: Old castle waterfall

That being said, whenever I could get away with a single exposure I would just use that. There’s no use in blending multiple frames in Photoshop when it’s really not needed. The process takes time, and doesn’t work well for some photographs. For example, the picture “Gour Blue” / “Cascades du Hérisson” at the top of this page is a single exposure.

 

There’s more.

The Jura is not only about waterfalls, there’s much more to see and photograph! Of course there are the many lakes and woods, but if you’re into spelunking, there are many caves as well. You might even bump into a lynx or a group of chamois…. Take a look at a selection of photographs here: GALLERY.

Baume-Les-Messieurs, Jura, France

Baume-Les-Messieurs

 

 


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