How Krystle Wright Shoots Nighttime Waterfall Descents | Rapid Magazine | Rapid Media
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Rush Sturges descends a waterfall in the middle of the night at Spirit Falls, captured by Krystle Wright Krystle Wright

How photographer Krystle Wright pulled off shooting pro kayakers descend a waterfall—in the dark

Unless they're living in the wilderness, most people are exposed to almost 300 images a day. As a professional photographer, my challenge is to find a way to make my images stand out from the rest. I've always believed that becoming a great photographer requires going out on a limb to create something new. I was recently challenged to create a unique shoot that would test Canon’s newly released 1DX MII camera in difficult conditions. I reached out to Erik Boomer to start brainstorming ideas with whitewater kayaking in the blue hour.

We came up with the idea to rig a flash over a waterfall and shoot down as the paddler descended. Previously this angle has either been incredibly difficult or near impossible. Fortunately, drone technology has come a long way. With the help of drone operator Larkin Carey we were able to rig two 600EX flashes to a drone to light up Spirit Falls at dusk.

Originally the shoot was just with Boomer but by chance David Spiegel, Rafa Ortiz and Rush Sturges were in the area for an upcoming race down the White Salmon.

READ MORE: Little White Salmon from the sky with Ben Marr, Rush Sturges and Evan Garcia 

For the perfect bird’s eye view, I positioned myself in the tree above Spirit Falls and hung by a rope a few meters above the falls. I asked Carey to position the drone directly in front of the falls by about 10 meters and slightly lower so that the light wasn't too focused on the lip.

The group of four paddled the falls twice, but in Sturges’ first run the image came together seamlessly. Each drop, I could only take one shot as I chose to have the flash at full power with a low ISO to keep the highest possible quality. It was nerve-racking to not rely on a high-speed shutter, but it was also an awesome challenge to have only one chance each round. After the second run, the sun had truly disappeared and we hiked out in the darkness. 

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