TRUCKEE AREA - Karen Hutton Photography
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It's a Rush

Yuba River, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California

It was a flood winter. Instead of the usual several feet of snow, we got inches and inches of rain. Added that to the rains melting of what snow we DID already have- and you have mountain rivers raging. They're dramatic... and dangerous.

It's more challenging than you might think to show the power and beauty of these conditions. You need the right background, lighting, section of the river to really capture it. Even then, there's something about flooding that just isn't generally translated by anything less than an entire town shown from the air, submerged. This wasn't that.

I wasn't happy with my initial ideas about how to photograph the swollen river; showing how high it came didn't matter unless you knew how high it was normally. A stone house surrounded by water means nothing unless you already know that under the water is a full yard and patio, now swept away.

Then a new thought struck. Aside from the height of the water, what was the other feature of this day? Speed. The Yuba River was running so fast that if you fell in, you'd never get out until it spit you out.

So I set up close to the water's edge (vowing NOT to take a plunge that day!) and slowed my shutter down. Not too much though... I wanted the ribbony effect in the water. That shows motion - and speed. I wanted the splashes to remain, because they tell the story of water impacting granite. And I wanted the motion to start off-frame, rush like mad through it, then disappear around the corner like a crazy mad hatter on some wild chase.

The complementary sunset colors were a bonus... and gave the feeling that the river was powering on to quench the flames of a distant inferno. I loved how the juxtaposition of all the elements spoke of nature's fury without having to be entirely literal about it.

That's how I roll.
So did the river that day.