Sunday, May 30, 2021
When last we spoke, I was wrapping up my morning at Rough Ridge where I spent a non-colorful sunrise which resulted in a good many colorful images. As the clouds were starting to come in I figured it was time to move on to my second part of the morning. I had been planning on going down to Linville Falls to get my feet wet once again with waterfalls since it had been so long since I had shot any of them. The need was there since I had a 1-on-1 scheduled at Linville Falls later in the week and it just seemed like the right time to go with the clouds coming in. Figuring that I had about three or four workable pictures from Rough Ridge, I was heading out to Linville with a positive attitude. It wasn’t but about 20 minutes down the road so there wasn’t much travel time at all to get there. I was expecting to see a parking lot full of folks since this was a holiday weekend and I braced as I came around the bend. To my surprise, there weren’t but a handful of other cars in the parking lot. Granted, this was still kind of early in the morning for most with it being just around 8am, but I’ve seen plenty of visitors here at this time before.
Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I got parked and grabbed my gear. The place that I was most interested to shoot was Duggar’s Creek Falls which is tucked away on a short nature trail on the side of the parking lot that most don’t even know about. It is not a big waterfall by any stretch, but it is nestled into a crevasse which makes it quite unique in the waterfalls that I have photographed. I’ve shot this location many times over the years and I’ve done so with so many different conditions and if I’m not mistaken with each of the cameras that I have owned starting with my Sony F828. The draw for this waterfall right now was to get a high resolution image of it with the new 5DS R. There is just so much texture here that I have always felt like I couldn’t really capture it all with my previous cameras. Sure, the images have been satisfactory, but I thought that this waterfall beyond all others really deserved the extra resolution capabilities of the new Canon.
The hike was quick at less than five minutes. When I arrived at the foot bridge, I looked over to the right to check out the flow of the waterfall. It was kind of light in the water department and I couldn’t help but feel quite disappointed with the luck. I had figured that after a few days of strong showers rolling through the area that there would be a bit more water flowing over the rocks. No need in wishing for different conditions, I was there and there was water flowing which was all that I needed. I worked my way down the short trail to get under the bridge and started to evaluate my compositions. I had an idea what I was going to want and thought that I was going to need my 70-200mm lens. That was the one that I fitted to start with and waded out into the stream. I had worn my Gortex lined boots for this specific shot as I knew I was going to be standing in water above my ankles. Sure enough, I found myself standing in about mid-shin level water for the composition that I was looking for. I shot some vertical and horizontal images and found that none of them really jumped out at me. While I was waiting for the composition to come into my mind, I tried playing with the shutter settings.
With the dim light I was facing, the shutter speeds were hovering around six seconds which was way too much for this small waterfall. I was hoping to get a second or less here and I was a long way off from that. I played around with the ISO to get my shutter speed down to 2 seconds at ISO 400. That was a tolerable speed, but I was worried about the noise from the higher ISO. I started to fiddle with the exposure times a bit and managed to get the ISO down to 250 with an aperture of f/9 which just barely gave me the depth of field that I needed. The resulting shutter speed was 2.5 seconds which was workable in the grand scheme of things. I had my exposure figured out, but the composition wasn’t falling into place at all.
I was starting to feel the water coming into my boots at this point because of how long I had been standing in the water, and some was spilling in over the top of my right boot which made it worse. I was committed to this shot though and that meant I just stood there and let my feet get wet. I had to figure out the composition though, and it wasn’t working at all with the long lens. I slogged back to the shore and opened up my bag once again. I swapped out to the wider 24-70mm lens with the hopes of changing the depth of the scene. I kept the polarizer attached and went back into the water once again. This time, I wasn’t nearly as concerned with the water getting into my boots though. I started working through compositions and finally figured out the right placement and focal length to create the image that I had in my head. The exposure was still the same and I was able to capture as well exposed image of this waterfall tucked in the chasm of rocks.
There wasn’t much need in trying more images here as the compositions are not all that dissimilar no matter where you shoot from. I had accomplished my goal of getting my feet wet with waterfall photography and that was my main reason for being here this morning. I packed my camera up and started back up the trail. I could hear the water sloshing in my boots reminding me that I had indeed gotten my feet wet again. I was seeing nobody else on the trails and that was a lot of fun for me. I hate being around lots of other people when I am doing my photography. It wasn’t until I got back to the parking lot that I saw a dozen or more new cars parked. There were people milling about in the parking lot as well. What a big change for no more than 45 minutes since I had gotten there. This was more what I was expecting, so I wasn’t too worried. My next destination was going to be the Upper Falls which I have photographed several times in different seasons. They are nice, but my main reason for going to this location was for the water abstracts that I wanted to refresh my mind on.
As I was making my way through the parking lot I saw a pair of hikers that I had run into at Rough Ridge looking at the map. They had told me that they were going to head down to Linville Falls after they were done at Rough Ridge so I wasn’t surprised to see them. I remembered that we had discussed them going to see Duggar’s Creek Falls so I figured that was what they were looking for. I greeted them and confirmed what they were looking for. It was easy to point them in the direction from where I had just come. We parted ways once again and I wondered if they would like this itty bitty waterfall as much as I did.
I made the quick hike out to the Upper Cascades and went out on the overlook deck for them and saw about four people at different areas around the platform. This is one of those areas that can get really crowded very quickly so I wasn’t complaining about the handful that were out there. The part that I didn’t like was the fact that they had restricted the locations that you could go after a recent flood. The area closest to the falls was closed off, but they hadn’t removed the railings which made compositions quite difficult. I guess I could have hopped over the fence, or worked my way around it all through the woods, but there were signs up that warned of prison time and fines of $5000.00 for violators of the request. Not wanting make Toni visit me in federal prison for the sake of some pictures I opted to stay on the free side of the fence.
With the distances that I would be shooting and the lack of a foreground I decided to go for my 70-200mm lens once again. It hit me that I had been using this long lens for much of the morning and it has proven to be a very useful piece of kit for the situations that I found myself in. Since I was going to be dealing with water I added a polarizer to remove the glare and started to find compositions. Having shot these waterfalls many times, I knew that there wasn’t much in the way of different compositions to be had unless there was some added interest in the trees. At least this time the trees were full of leaves which made the images much more colorful as compared to the Winter images that I normally get.
While working on the left side waterfall, I was really being overly precise with the camera placement so that I could avoid the fencing in the midground while still including enough water to provide a sense of place for the waterfall. As I was making these micro adjustments a hiker came up behind me and bid me a good morning. When I replied to him, he stated that it amazed him how folks get so excited about these things and go to extraordinary lengths to enjoy it. With my attention on the growing crowd behind him I realized that many of them were in awe of what they were seeing. I replied that it was kind of interesting to see the reactions of folks to these things. He then followed up with “I just can’t understand the lengths that some people go for their hobbies” as he motioned towards my camera elevated about six and a half feet above me and the backpack full of lenses and such.
Oh wait….you are talking about me? I changed gears in the conversation and realized that he was amazed at how excited I was about seeing this and the extent I was going to with my “hobby” to capture it. That just didn’t set right with me at all. He had gone out of his way to come over to me for the purpose of minimizing what I was doing. Before I knew it, I was channeling my former police officer self and responding in a way that left him smiling until he had time to think about the words that I was using. It worked like a charm, and he quickly corrected his line of observations and turned around to go and enjoy things in his own way. He never once had considered that I was actually working and he had no way of back peddling from his former position. I chuckled a bit to myself as I went back to work with the water that I had come here to capture.
Feeling pretty good about the two waterfalls that I had photographed from the edge of the legal observation areas, I moved over the funnel that feeds the big falls and started to look for abstract views to capture. I remembered a shot that I had made probably 13 years ago with the layered wall over the rapids which hadn’t turned out good at all, but the concept was dead on right. As was the case with many of my images from back then I had included too much in the frame. I was wanting to correct that issue this morning and I had the right lens attached to do just that. I found the section that I wanted to work and started to frame up different compositions looking for that right amount of flow to the composition.
I finally found the right section and started to dial in the right exposure values and then fine tuned the placement of each element in the scene for the proper balance. I couldn’t help but think how far I was going for my hobby. Whether it was a hobby or a business, I was having fun. Possibly more fun than I had had in a long time with the camera. Yes, I was capturing images for me, but I was also getting prepared for a teaching session at the same time. I guess it was the culmination of all of that which really gave me a purpose for being behind the camera. I was feelin creative and I was seeing things differently than I had in the past month or more. I was feeling normal and confident once again with the camera.
Having found that right section and having worked out the right exposure I saw the image coming together in the image review on the back of the camera just like I had wanted to see it from that image from years ago. I had tried it several times with no luck since that point but I was feeling quite confident now that I had the image right. In the past, I had too much emphasis on the rocks and split the interest of the image between those rocks and the moving water. This time, I just had enough of the rocks to anchor the image while the majority of the focus was on the moving water. It was looking like a finished image on the back of the camera in fact so I knew that there would be very little post processing needed for this one which really excited me.
Feeling very good from that abstract view, I started to move my way down the line to another section which I had looked at previously and even photographed a time or two before. It was the bend right before the final straight section. As I was looking at it, I could see some swirling happening with the water and that grabbed my attention. With a long enough shutter speed I was going to be able to capture that swirling effect in the water. The trick was not to go so long as to lose the detail from the surrounding rapids. I was also going to need to figure out a compelling composition here that gave the right context to the swirls. That was going to be the hard part because there really was very little order to the elements that I was faced with. I found myself going back over the lessons that I had taught during my mini workshop earlier in the month dealing with compositions in the landscape. I started to build a scene with what I liked and excluded what I didn’t like about it. One of the things that I decided that I didn’t like was the lack of color contrast in the scene. The beige rocks didn’t really pop against the white of the rapids and the better part of the contrast from the scene came from the dark water and the shadows. That prompted me to think of this as a black and white image focusing on the textures in the scene. That was the key to the composition and once I figured that part out, the rest fell into place rather easy.
I made about a dozen or so exposures here as the water would change in appearance each time. I was looking for that right mix of swirl and texture throughout the water. The shutter speed was hovering around a half second for most exposures which seemed to satisfy my needs for this scene. It was hard to tell just how good or bad the images were on the LCD as the detail was so fine it got lost at that size. After that dozen exposures I was hoping that I had the right combination on at least one of them. As it turned out, I had just one where the swirl was intact and there was still detail in the froth that was around it. There was also a complimenting shape in the upper left of the pool which worked with the overall composition the best. It was only one frame, but at least I made enough attempts to ensure that I had that one.
I moved on to the next section which was the final drop to the main falls. This was another section I had photographed many times before but I wanted to give it another try today. I had a hard time framing up a composition that I liked here and ultimately gave up trying to do something different. Before packing up my gear, I looked around for more scenes of interest. Just before that funnel that I had been having so much fun photographing there were a series of cascades which had beautifully rich colors in this light. I wanted to capture the scene but really had no idea just how I wanted to do it. There was nothing in the background to make this section interesting as there was in the Fall so that limited my choices. What I ended up with was an isolation of the section that I really liked with the rocks forming a frame in a way with the white water making up the flow of the composition. The arch of the elements seemed to fit perfectly in the frame and I only needed to snap two frames before I was confident that I had what I wanted. The question was going to be whether or not either of them would look good on the computer when I got home.
As I was getting ready to pack it all in, I took one more look around to see if there was anything else that I wanted to capture. I was drawn to the edge of the viewing area which had this one flower growing up from the soil. It wasn’t much, but it looked pretty and I thought that it looked nice with the right side upper falls as a background. I couldn’t get too close to the flower so I couldn’t make it a large foreground element, but that was fine with me. The rock that was to the right of the flower had lots of layers and that made it quite interesting on its own. I figured that the combination of elements here would make for a successful foreground for the image. There were also two rocks in the water which would provide a boundary for the right side of the frame as well as a bit of balance for the right side of the composition. I was able to keep my 70-200mm lens attached and I framed up the image that I had in mind. I paid attention to the elevation of the camera so keep the scene nice and open for the viewer. I tried not to place anything too close to the frame edge to allow room for the eyes to explore.
I wasn’t sure if this one would turn out well, but it was a different way of shooting this waterfall from how I normally do it. For me, that was the name of the game for this shot. There are just so many ways that you can shoot these two waterfalls and I had done about everything that I could think of. This was something new and I wanted to try it. When I got it home, I really liked how it turned out. It was different and had a completely different feel to it than what I had shot from here before. It was better than the earlier attempt that I had shot at the beginning of this session so it replaced that one in my keeper stack if for no other reason than it was a unique photograph in my collection.
That was the last image that I shot from Linville. As I was packing my gear up I realized that there were more people than I could count on the platform and that was an indicator that it was time to get ghost from here. I considered hiking up to the Chimney views and maybe Erwin’s View, but the flat sky kind of turned me off from that idea and the constant influx of people meant that wherever I went at this point I was going to be in a crowd. I just hot footed it back to the truck passing large groups one after another on the trail. I hate going to these places on weekends! The parking lot wasn’t packed, but there were quite a number of cars parked now and more coming in one after another. I slid my gear in the back of the 4Runner and started off to my next destination which was looking like Roaring Fork Falls to round out my day.
Join me back here in a little while for the rest of the story….