Pot Branch Falls

· Reading Time: 12 minutes

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Swooping In

A couple of weeks have passed since I have been out making any photographs, and my goal for this weekend was to change that.  The weather was looking good with clouds both Saturday and Sunday at home as well as in the mountains.  My initial thought was to spend the day around Graveyard Fields on Saturday to catch some of the early fall color.  That would leave Sunday available to get two framed pictures to the Dixie Classic Fair for competition.  It would all work out quite well.  Well, you know how planning goes for me…

Saturday turned out to be completely sunny across the state and there was nothing that I could do with a camera, or at least nothing that I wanted to do.  I decided to take my pictures to the Fair early in the day in the attempt to miss the football traffic from the Wake Forest game at noon.  There was no such luck, I wasn’t even able to get to the parking lot.  I abandoned that hope and went home.  I started to work on a Plan D or something like that.  The weather was looking great for Sunday with clouds, showers, and even the potential for fog.  That forecast was pretty much from home to the mountains.  The trick here was, I needed to be able to get the pictures dropped off between noon and 4pm as that was the only time I could get them there.  To avoid last minute problems I needed to aim for something around 2pm for a drop of time.  That was going to cut my available outing time down to a minimum.

With the weather looking gloomy I decided that waterfalls would be the best bet for the day.  I didn’t want to revisit one that I had shot before though, so I started to research other options.  As I thumbed through the waterfalls in NC, I came across one that I had not seen before called Pot Branch Falls, which was located in Golden Valley, NC.  It was about two hours away from me, and the hike seemed rather simple and quick based on the description.  I was pretty sure that I could get there and have time to shoot it, and even have a little excess for another subject along the way.

With the Curve

In order to give myself the most time, I decided to get up when Toni left for work at 5am.  This would get me to the waterfall by first light and leave me with the majority of the morning to work it.  I could tell when I left that it was cloudy, but not quite the full overcast I was expecting.  As I went further West, I found myself under heavier clouds and even fog.  This was going to be perfect!  I was glad that I had opted to shoot waterfalls over Graveyard Fields since I would not have gotten the colors that I wanted in the dense fog.  The excitement kept building as I came into Morganton, but started to fade when I saw the sky as the sun came up.  There was some obvious blue up there, and the clouds were thinning out substantially.  This was actually great conditions for doing the Autumn landscapes, but I was woefully out of position for doing that at this point.  I opted to carry on and continue to my destination hoping that I would find something else along the way that was promising.

With my hopes dashed a little bit, I did continue on and found a good bit of fog developing as I made my way through Morganton.  I saw an old Ford N Series tractor on the side of the road that looked really nice in the fog, but I was wanting to capture this waterfall if the conditions held.  I decided to wait on the tractor till the return trip.  I was proceeding with a new found dedication to seeing Pot Branch Falls.  It was short lived though.  As I approached Jonestown Rd, the last paved road before the falls, the fog cleared as did the sky.  Oh well, I was minutes away from my destination.
Eroded Steps
The old service road was actually a great deal of fun to drive down for the 3 miles it took.  There was even a small creek crossing to get to the falls.  What I did notice was that the sun was hidden on the other side of the mountain, so that gave me a great deal of hope to have the waterfall in the shadows.  When I finally arrived at the parking area the sky was pretty much bright blue with a few clouds here and there.  I needed to hurry and take advantage of any shade that I could find.  Fortunately the hike was quick and easy to navigate.
Scooped Rocks
When I arrived at the waterfall, it was indeed in the shadows which made me very happy.  There were several sections to the waterfall and each had a different feel.  What I was after was the long drop through the rocks that could be viewed from the bottom of the waterfall.  It was a simple scramble to get down to the bottom, but there was a problem that I had not anticipated.  There was a large tree that had fallen and was laying across the base of the waterfall blocking the view of the best part of this location.  I tried to figure out a way around it, and even had a fleeting thought of trying to pull the tree out of the way.  Don’t worry, I didn’t try as I know how heavy those things are, and knew I had no chance at relocating a tree.  This was very unfortunate, and I had to regain my composure to figure out how I would shoot this waterfall.
What I decided to do was to shoot isolations of the upper sections which were rather interesting on their own.  For this, I decided to use my 24-70mm lens with a Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer attached.  This gave me a lot of flexibility about how I captured the elements of the waterfall.  I even used it to get a panoramic view of the top of the main drop (pictured above).  I stitched together what amounted to five images in portrait orientation.  I was standing almost on top of the water, and I was shooting at 24mm.  I wasn’t sure if it would work or not, but by carefully moving through the composition, I was pretty sure that I had the raw material needed to stitch it together the way I was envisioning it.
After I played around with the 24-70mm lens for a while, I decided to bring out the 70-200mm for some real isolations.  Of course, I kept the polarizer attached to the front element.  I started to work isolations of the section just upstream of where I started.  There was a few interesting little creek cascades with the eroded rocks I found so interesting.  I even set up another panorama of this section (Eroded Steps) in order to capture a little different perspective.
It took me about an hour’s time to work this waterfall to the point that I was satisfied with my images.  I was really surprised that the lighting remained really good for the duration of my time.  I just wished I could have gotten the shot I was there to get.  I will have to wait until the tree is no longer there to get that shot though.  I did have a lot of isolation images of the different elements of the waterfall which was my secondary goal for coming to this waterfall.  At least I was able to achieve that goal, and I shot a brand new (to me) waterfall.  It would seem I am back to enjoying the thrill of exploring new waterfalls, and will likely continue that through the fall and winter when there are less people around on the trails.
I made the hike back to the truck and made my way back out to the road headed to the house.  I was looking for the old Ford tractor while enroute though.  The only problem was the sky was pretty blue and the lighting was getting rather harsh.  Oh well, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I missed out on the tractor.
As it turned out, when I got to the tractor and really started to look at the setting, I decided that it was not quite the find that I had thought it was.  It might have worked better in the fog, but currently, there was too much clutter around it to make it work as a photograph.  I shrugged it off and continued down the road.  As I was coming up on a gas station, I could see a rusty car off on the side of a neighboring field.  I saw it in just enough time to hit the brakes and pull off on the side road which ran alongside the field.
Mercedes Scorn
My eyes had not deceived me at all.  That glimpse of rust turned out to be an old Mercedes sitting next to tree line.  The lighting was pretty good on it as I was coming back into the cloud cover.  I looked around and didn’t see any indications that there were trespass issues, and I saw no structures at the field where I might try to ask permission.  Since I was totally in the open, I decided to take my chances and I pulled into the field and grabbed my camera with the 24-70mm lens attached.  Of course, I added the Color Combo Polarizer to the front and got set up for my first exposures.  There wasn’t a lot to work with around the car, so my overall shots were dependent on things like the branches overhead to really make a cohesive composition.
What I did like about this car was the bent hood and broken windows.  The chrome bits were still there which was pretty awesome to me.  The front end of this car really caught my attention as a matter of fact.  After I did some overall shots of the car, I started to get in closer and work my way through the weeds to get some intimate shots of this old Benz.
Where Did the Time Go?
As I was setting up a shot off to the side, I decided to get low and have the headlight looking off to the side.  With the composition I was able to get, I swear the car looked like it was pondering something pretty serious.  That is what I love about headlights on these old cars, the personality and soul of the vehicle shines through.  The patina of this car was amazing and the textures just jumped out at you at every angle.
Handle It
I started to look for ways to capitalize on the patina and found that the passenger side door had a great deal of character in the surface.  I used the door handle to anchor the shot and got in really close to fully show off the old paint, scale, and rust.  It has been much too long since I have shot a real rusty car and I have to say, I’ve missed it.  There is just so much that can be done with these old cars.  After every shot I made of it, I was looking over my shoulder expecting my time to be cut short.  Fortunately though, nobody seemed to car that I was here.  I wasted no time, and kept working different compositions of the car, and even started to look inside for ideas.
Take the Wheel
What I loved about the view from the passenger’s door was the strands of headliner that were hanging loose from the ceiling.  The window was mossed over, and there was obvious mold in the seats.  It just screamed age, but there was still a lot of recognizable features inside the cabin which told the story of the car.  The rusty frame of the door kept your eyes centered on the interior which I liked as well.  I tried a few different compositions here, and was really wanting to open the door, but I have a hard and fast rule that I shoot them as I find them unless I have an owner with me who allows opening doors and such.
Benz Attitude
One thing that I couldn’t get away from was the front end of this car.  The fact that the chrome was mostly in place was amazing, and I loved the bumper and the grill.  I thought about shooting a perfectly symmetrical composition here, and thought about a straight on, off centered view as well.  In the end though, I decided to go off to the side and make a head light and the grill the main points of the photograph with the opposite headlight as a balance element, all linked together by the bumper.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but after seeing it on the computer monitor I was happy I went this route.  It is a little different than my normal shot, and suites this car all too well.
Locked Eyes
Even though I had seen some success with an angled composition, I was still wanting to try something a little more intense from the front of this car.  I got positioned right at “eye” level to the headlight and squared up with the front of the car to get this very dramatic view from the front of the car.  What I really liked about this view was the patina that turned into the background to the headlight and marker light.  The slats under the hood were less than pristine, and the chrome surround made for a great framing element on the right side of this composition.  The fronts of these old cars really make for great abstract pieces.
Patina Luxury
When all was said and done with this car, I had a total of 80 frames shot divided up very equally with 40 at the waterfall and another 40 at the Mercedes.  It was a simple day with only two subjects in front of the camera, but considering the weather playing tricks on me and a fallen tree that blocked my view of the waterfall, I really can’t complain.  The day went pretty much as planned and I was able to drop my two pictures off at the Fair with plenty of time left to spare.  I’ll have more on those pictures in the next installment of my Behind the Camera feature around the first of the month.