How I Got the Shot: Glen Creek Whirlpools

by Mark Bowie | Photography

Glen Creek Whirlpools

Exposure Data:
Exposure: 13 seconds, f/22, ISO 100
Nikon D610, Nikkor 24-70mm lens set at 36mm.

As the Adirondacks come out of winter I like to wander wild forests. They may look rough from the ravages of harsh weather (note the broken birch on the rock) but changes are happening. Ground cover springs to life. The noises of birds returning from their seasonal migrations resound through the woods. Runoff from melting snows and rain fills the creek beds. Flowing water produces many interesting phenomena, including whirlpools, which in images resemble hurricanes as seen from above. Search for foam, leaves, pine needles and other debris that swirl below waterfalls and cascades or around rocks. It may be difficult to envision their circular motion, but search for anything that spins, however slowly; a sufficiently long exposure will capture them as whirlpools. These are common features on moving water and I use them to add visual interest to my compositions, especially as foregrounds.

For this slowly swirling foam in a quiet pool below riffles on Glen Creek, I initially tried a six-second exposure at f/16 and a low ISO of 100, but the whirlpools were not well defined. By stopping down the aperture to f/22, I was able to extend my exposure time to 13 seconds. The resulting image revealed whirlpools I couldn’t perceive, a pleasant surprise. There’s a subsidiary pool in the largest one, another lobe beyond it and a separate pool along the far side. The golden tones of sunrise highlight trees, their reflections piercing the pools. The camera helped me explore the waterway in a way I couldn’t on my own, and as it often does, helped deepen my appreciation for our natural world.

Mark Bowie is a frequent contributor to Adirondack Life magazine and a much sought-after public speaker, offering presentations at conferences, camera clubs, and other events. He is a staff instructor for the Adirondack Photography Institute (API). API’s 2017 schedule includes the annual workshop with Adirondack Life magazine. For details on all their workshops, see For more on Mark’s workvisit

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