In October, I had the privilege of doing family photos with the Heaton family. They love going on hikes as a family, and one of their favorites is a short (but not so easy) hike through Bells Canyon near Sandy, Utah.

The trail head starts in a very nice residential area and very quickly goes up in elevation from there. The first part of the trail is actually pretty ugly with just giant stairs made out of railroad ties and boulders with only the occasional backyard fence adding variety to the scene.

After just a few minutes of climbing, I was sweating profusely (it was hot for an October day), but the Heatons didn’t seemed fazed at all despite being dressed up. I didn’t feel like I was THAT out of shape, but the sweat stains on my shirt begged to differ.

Before long (blessedly), the stairs lead to the top of the bench with a beautiful view overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. We took several photos there at the overlook including this one, which is definitely one of my favorites from the shoot:

I also got this candid shot of their adorable little girl with her dad standing behind her (also a favorite):

After taking several photos there on the bench, we followed the trail further up until we reached a little bridge going over a creek. Just upstream from the bridge, there was a nice little waterfall which gave me an idea.

The Heatons were brave enough to go sit next to the creek on the other side (taking photos of kids near any kind of water source is generally a bad idea), and I set up my tripod in the creek to get a good angle. Once everything was set, stable, and focused, I took the photo of them.

However, I don’t like the look of waterfalls at normal “people” shutter speeds (e.g., 1/60, 1/100, 1/250). I just think the water looks choppy and distracting. So, I decided to combine their family photo and my love of landscape photography.

After I took their photo, I dismissed them to a safe distance from the water and used an N10 neutral density filter to take a 30-second exposure of the exact same scene which gave the water that beautiful soft white flowy look you see in all those nice waterfall photos on Instagram.

I don’t want to turn this into a Photoshop tutorial, but basically what I did was export the two photos from Lightroom in Photoshop as layers and used the “auto align layers” function to make sure they were perfectly lined up. I then put the long exposure photo layer on top and used a hide all layer mask to “paint” the family into the scene.

This was the final result after some additional processing:

If you’re interested in the process, let me know and I can share some more details of my equipment, setup, and post-processing.

Despite feeling like a complete wimp hiking with little kids, I had a wonderful time with the Heatons, and I’m so glad they introduced me to Bells Canyon. I will definitely be going back in the future.

Click through the gallery to see the rest of the photos!

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