Based out of Illinois, Michael Davern has been a photographer since the late 70s. The waterfall photo you see above is one of the creations he made while exploring his state.

1.) What can you tell us about your photo, Lower Dells Falls, Matthiessen State Park

This is a wonderful small and rarely visited state park in northern Illinois. Matthiessen is located only 2 miles from the much more popular Starved Rock State Park, near the town of Utica, Illinois, about 1.5 hours southwest of Chicago. Within 5 minutes of parking your car, you are deep into peaceful and green, green, green woods and dells and wonderful rock formations. Just about 5 miles of hikes overall nets you two wonderful waterfalls, although you should go after a good rain and be prepared to walk through the river a bit.
I took this shot while experimenting with a ten stop neutral density filter. Fun tool to use around water. To get that silky look with tremendous depth of field, I used my old D700 (since sold), settling on a 30 second exposure at f25 with the Nikon 24-120mm at 42mm at ISO 100.

The top of the falls was in direct sunlight so I cropped it out in camera to avoid a burnt out highlight. The original shot, which I also included if you are interested, also captured the whirlpool that happens below most falls. (Leaves and water bubbles almost always form a whirlpool below a waterfall that your eye doesn’t notice, but the camera catches with a long exposure.) By the way, the trees that make the cross in front of the falls in my picture are no longer there, having finally fallen into the river in the past year or so. Still, Matthiessan State Park is a wonderful place to shoot.

2.) What gear/software did you use to create this image?

I used Lightroom to do some dodging and burning and to crop and straighten. I took this shot with my old Nikon D700 back in 2010 although now I shoot with the wonderful D850.

3.) What do you like to photograph?

I travel the US for a living and to break up the monotony of the road, I bring my camera along to capture what I see. This shot happens to be closer to home but anything from downtown cityscapes to national parks are game.

4.) What made you decide to become a member?

I photographed weddings back in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s during college and grad school, shooting a couple of hundred weddings over 5 or 6 years. I was also the photo editor of the college newspaper, shooting and printing black and whites in the college darkroom. Those were the days.

After that, I took pictures of the kids growing up (a ton of the first born and increasingly fewer of kids, 2, 3 and 4) until eventually, I stopped taking pictures and forgot about photography. It wasn’t until the first grandkid came around that I picked up the Nikon D200 as my first digital camera. Since then, it has been a full-on passion as my travel takes me to every part of the US. The grandkids, now 3 of them, remain a frequent subject, but I have photographed in all 50 states over the past 10 years and I try to post a shot every day on my blog from somewhere I have traveled. I have been a Kelby member since 2007 or so and that has helped tremendously with my Lightroom and Photoshop skills. I have been to Kelby conferences in Boston, Orlando and Las Vegas.


Now that you know a little about Mike, you should swing by his website and his blog and see more of his work.