That Moment When the Rain Stops

· Reading Time: 13 minutes

Monday, June, 7, 2021

You might remember the last time I had a successful trek that I was wanting to get out to Roaring Fork Falls again after I was finished with Linville Falls.  What you don’t know is that a few days after that failed attempt at getting to Roaring Fork Falls I did a 1-on-1 session at Linville Falls with the intention trying to get out to Roaring Fork Falls when that was done.  Well, the session went a little longer than expected and by the time we were done I was tired and I was a little tired of waterfalls.  I decided to head home when it was done figuring that with the crowds coming into Linville Falls there was a pretty good chance that the same large crowds were going to be at Roaring Fork anyway.  I was still wanting to get out there, but that just wasn’t going to be the time to do it at all.  I was going to need a cloudy morning on a weekday to stack the odds in my favor of finding the waterfall empty of people.

My first attempt at going there was going to be the day after the individual instruction session when there was going to be a little bit of clouds in the morning followed by storms in the afternoon.  I wouldn’t have much time, but I wasn’t going to need but maybe an hour to get what I wanted.  I woke up at 4:30 to see if the day was going to work out the way that the weather had forecasted.  Well, looking at the weather, there were no clouds in the sky currently, and the cloud cover was looking lighter than expected.  In fact, the rain wasn’t even in the forecast for the afternoon.  I put the phone down and rolled back over and went to sleep.  It wasn’t worth driving two hours out there on a slim chance for thin clouds.  I was still tired from hiking all over Linville Falls anyway.

Friday was too sunny to do anything and I had a local print delivery scheduled for the middle of the day which was then followed with a back road drive in the Miata which was great.  The weekend was spent doing a full Spring detail on the Miata in preparations for another photo shoot of it in the near future.  Sunday was a chance to recover from 10 hours of rubbing on the smallest car I’ve ever owned.  Looking at the weather for Monday and Tuesday it was looking like a wash on both days with rain in the mornings and storms in the afternoons.  Wednesday was looking like the best day to try for Roaring Fork Falls which was what I penciled into my mental calendar.

Toni and I went to sleep around 11pm Sunday night and I had no intention of waking up and doing much of anything major with the rain in the forecast.  However, when her alarm rang at around 6:30 or so, I started to wonder what the weather was looking like.  A quick check showed that there was no major chance of rain for the morning and the chance of storms were slight for the afternoon.  The clouds were looking good around Roaring Fork Falls.  I was running about two hours late for getting out there early in the morning to beat the crowds, but with it being a weekday I was hoping that folks weren’t going to be visiting there today.  The decision was made to get up and get rolling so I could make the two hour drive out to the falls for a chance to get just one composition that I had in mind.

The Path“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

The weather was perfect as I was leaving Wilkes County, but as I hit the continental divide the weather changed pretty quickly.  The closer I drove into the clouds the more mist I was seeing on the windshield and eventually it was a pretty steady rain as I made my way to the other side of the mountain.  I was hoping that this would be short lived as the chances for rain around the Falls were all very low until mid day.  The rain wasn’t letting up though.  With an hour invested into the journey I kept my goal in mind and continued on.  When I finally turned onto Hwy 80 the rain was starting to ease up which was a good sign.  It wasn’t long before I pulled down the access road where I had met so much traffic last time.  There were no cars to be seen, and when I got to the parking area I was the only vehicle there.  Even with a light drizzle this was looking better than I was hoping.

I grabbed my gear and started on the half mile hike down the service road to get to the falls.  Strangely enough, I met a pair of hikers at about the halfway point.  I know I hadn’t overlooked a car in the parking area so I wasn’t sure where they had come from, but they were soaked.  They asked if I had been caught in the downpour as well.  Nope, I was lucky and just missed it, but that clued me into the fact that the weather was going to be changing quickly this morning.  In a few more minutes I was at the foot path that would take me to the falls.  I could hear the water rushing which told me that the flow was going to be decent which was a concern after an extended dry period over the last few months.

When I arrived at the base of the falls I was very pleased to find the water flow just about perfect to show detail over the rocks and good definition at the top of the falls deep in the woods.  The only issue that I had here today was the fallen tree to the left of the falls.  At least it wasn’t across the waterfall, but it did slightly change my intentions for the composition.  I’m no stranger to this after years of doin waterfall photography.  It seems that as the years march on, more and more trees have found their way into the compositions.  Eventually they are removed, or washed away but while they are there I have to work around them the best that I can.

South Toe Drop“, Canon 5DS R, 70-200mm f/2.8L Mk2, 2x Teleconverter Mk3, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I just had to change my concept for the composition slightly and go with a bit longer of a focal length from a bit more to the side than I was anticipating.  I opted for my standard 24-70mm lens which would keep me from making the distant part of the falls too small in comparison.  I was going for a more uniform scale between the top and the bottom of the waterfall with the base stretching across the lower third of the frame.  The light was dim and I wasn’t needing a very long exposure at all here.  I just used the one polarizer to remove the glare from the water and set the composition up before working out the exposure.  Without messing with the ISO, I found that I had a 2.5 second exposure at f/11 which was in the ballpark of what I was wanting.  I played around with the shutter speeds from there for a few exposures and worked speeds of 2 seconds to 3.2 seconds.  It turned out that the 2.5 seconds was just right for the whole scene.  It required me to pick the time that I released the shutter in order to freeze the foliage in the light breeze as there would be natural lulls in the wind.

When I was pretty sure that I had what I was needing from the entire waterfall, I started to look for isolations that were of interest.  I had wanted to work some of the lower sections, but I really didn’t see anything that jumped out at me on that end. It was the upper section that caught my eye..  It was not exactly close to me though.  I knew that I could get some images with my 70-200mm lens, but I was wanting to reach even deeper than that for this shot.  All I had to do was to add my teleconverter for that added reach out to 400mm.

I wasn’t sure if it was raining, or if the leaves were just shedding water, but I had been covering the front of the lens with my hat since I had started shooting the waterfall.  Switching the lens and filters was a rather interesting task trying to dodge the drops but I managed to make it work without the filter or lens getting spotted.  I now had a very long barrel attached to the end of my camera which made it a bit more difficult to cover the polarizer, but I was able to keep it covered while adjusting the composition and exposure for that small section at the top of the falls.  The exposure was a bit different because of the darkness that the water was in.  I ended up with f/8 and 3.2 seconds which gave the right effect that I was after.

I wanted to concentrate the focus on the water and not so much the rocks or the foliage with this one so my intention was to capture a high contrast scene with this image.  Of course I had lots of shadow detail to work with from my 5DS R, but I chose to deepen the shadows and really crunch the blacks while keeping most of the image’s detail in the water and the subtle shades of green through the scene.  It was a bolder statement with this scene than I have opted for before but I felt that it fit the scene better this time.

Happier Days“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

When I got done with that series I pulled off the converter and started to look for other isolations along the waterfall.  I wasn’t seeing anything that excited me, but I was seeing blue sky overhead.  That meant that the sun would be shining through the trees in short order.  I guess so much for the constant cloud cover.  At least the rain had stopped and the clouds remained for just about 45 minutes which allowed me to work the waterfall as I had wanted to.  Knowing that this waterfall doesn’t tolerate the sunlight too well I packed up my gear and started the half mile hike back to the truck.  Not even half way back the sun broke loose and the look of the forest changed to a high contrast mess.  I had timed this just about as perfect as I could have hoped.  I was just hoping that I had a couple of usable images from the day since it was rather rushed and I was having to deal with covering the lens all through the process.

When I got back to the truck I loaded the gear in the back under a bright sun.  I set the GPS to home and figured I would hunt targets of opportunity along the way.  I didn’t have a lot of hope in finding anything though because of the bright sun.  There was a lot of great subjects out here, but not a lot of workable compositions to be had.  As I made my way home I remembered a scene that I had seen last year on 19E which I had tried to photograph.  It was a ’55 Chevy and an old Jeep CJ.  I had decided that there wasn’t a good composition at the time and had abandoned the location.  It was also in a kind of questionable location as far as trespassing which kept me from really working the scene anyway.

As I came through the area I kept my eyes out for the lot that they were located in which I found as I was passing it by.  I got turned around and pulled into the lot which was kind of attached to a driveway.  There were no signs or other indication that I shouldn’t be here and the lot looked kind of commercial.  The light was decent on the vehicles and I could see some compositions developing.  I decided to throw caution to the wind and get a couple of quick shots.

Yearning For Better Days“, Canon 5DS R, 24-70mm f/2.8L Mk2, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer, Galen Rowell 2-stop soft ND Grad

I grabbed my 24-70mm lens and the polarizer and framed up the two vehicles side by side.  It was the easiest composition to work with and I thought it told a funny story with the Jeep obviously being used at one point as an advertisement for a movie rental place.  The 99 cent Monday deal was still displayed on the windshield and the side of the Jeep.  That was not really the focus of the photograph though.  I was really wanting to concentrate on the ’55 but figured that the Jeep would set the timeframe for the image and add a bit of comedy to the scene.  The composition wasn’t really dramatic, but I loved how the age of the video rental add brought back memories from the late ’80’s and early ’90’s when that Jeep was still in good shape.  It has since been discarded to sit on the sidelines along with this ’55 which was probably here long before that Jeep.

Not sure if I was going to like the Jeep in the picture I started to work on alternatives that avoided that element.  I started by shooting the ’55 from the driver’s side but found that the light wasn’t good enough over there and I had to deal with a bright yellow box truck which was now in the background. The light dictated that I shoot the car from the passenger side as I had been.  The problem was the Jeep was wanting to jump into the frame too readily.  I pondered my options keeping in mind that I needed to get the shot and get out pretty quick.  If I got wide enough and close enough I might be able to mask the Jeep with the front of the ’55.  It was a tactic that I have used quite a bit in this type of photography and I thought that it might just work so I dropped the tripod and got the camera as low as I dared before making the perspective odd.  I now had the sky to deal with and that brought bright clouds into the frame which caused some exposure issues.

To address that bright corner, I went back to the truck and grabbed a 2-stop soft ND Grad which was slid in at an angle to control that corner of the frame.  The exposure started to look better in no time.  I fine tuned the position of the camera to get the right angle for the scene.  I had a little bit of the Jeep poking forward of the Chevy, but fortunately I had some tall grass that covered it up and masked it well enough.  The emphasis of the image was all about the front of the ’55, the patina, and that aging whitewall tire on the chrome trimmed wheel.  It wasn’t the best composition, but considering what I was trying to work with, I was quite happy with it.  In fact, I was happy with both of the compositions for the different stories that they told.

That pretty much finished out my day and the sun got to be too harsh after this location.  I continued on home after stopping to pick up one of those graphing calculators for Toni who needed it for her Math class which she was working through with a great deal of success.  Of course, I think you need a degree to operate this calculator compared to my simple one.  It was a good end to the morning and I was home just after lunch time with plenty of time to get the 44 images weeded out and the keepers processed.

I do hope that you enjoyed this trek.  If there are any photographs here that you especially like, please consider ordering a print for your collection.  If you are wanting something larger than the sizes listed, or on a special media you can just contact me directly to work out those details.  There really is not better way to enjoy a photograph than through its intended presentation.

Until next time….

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