Waterfalls and Yard Art

· Reading Time: 14 minutes

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Falls of Hanging Rock

Canon 5D Mk3, 16-35mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  With a little extra time this weekend away from work, I would have been remiss had I not ventured out for at least a little bit with the camera.  While I did have a bit more time than normal, the problem that I was facing was the weather.  It was seeming to be a little too sunny for the most part this weekend, with the one cloudy day being full of rain.  Thursday, Thanksgiving, was spent with my Grandfather and it was a wonderful day with lots of sun and perfect temperatures.  Lousy for photography, but great for being outside.  Friday was cloudier than forecasted, but with other plans going, there was really no time to sneak out with the camera.  Sunday was looking good except for a lot of rain, but with heavy rains overnight, I was thinking that waterfalls might be in order.  Looking at the hourly forecast it was looking like there would be about three hours between the rain and when the clouds broke up.  That would be enough to get a little bit of work done, so I started to think about options.  The easiest location was going to be Hanging Rock which was close by.  I also needed to scope out one more waterfall before my Winter Workshop next weekend.  I had not been to the Lower Cascades in almost a year now and I needed to see what condition it was in before bringing the group there.  It would be a simple trek, but one that I was pretty sure would pay off with the increased water flow.

Unlike normal, I was able to hang out around the house for most of the morning as it was raining pretty hard outside.  The hourly forecast was showing the rain stopping around 11 or so, and the clouds breaking up around 2pm.  I set out around 11 with it still raining a little bit.  I took the long way to the park because I was also interested in some of the old barns in the area.  I figured if the lighting was good and things looked promising I would be able to stop on the way and shoot a couple of new compositions.  As luck would have it though, the rain would not stop and I wasn’t really liking much of the lighting for barns.  I did seen an old El Camino that I had seen many times over the years and thought about shooting.  It wasn’t quite right though, so I passed it by as well.  In the end, I took the long way for nothing as I ended up pulling into the Lower Cascades parking lot with nothing saved to my memory card.  That was fine since my main goal for the trek was to shoot the cascades and scope out this one last waterfall.

Desperate Clutch

Canon 5D MK3, 70-200mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

After getting parked I grabbed my gear and started hiking into the woods.  There was a light mist falling from the sky so I wasn’t getting too wet hiking under the trees.  The hike took less than 10 minutes before I reached the base of the waterfall.  It had been a while since I’ve been here, but I was really surprised to see the flow of water that I was greeted with.  I have only seen this waterfall swollen like this one other time and wouldn’t you know it….I blew the pictures!  They were overexposed, and I was dealing with lousy light to begin with.  The pictures never saw the light of day.  This time, the lighting was quite different with very thick clouds overhead.  The rain was still falling but it wasn’t too bad at all.  I went ahead and got under a tree and built the camera.  I pulled out the 5D Mk3 and added the 16-35mm wide angle lens as I wanted to get the extra cascades that were showing up thanks to the high water levels.  I added my Singh Ray Color Combo Polarizer as well to add a little contrast and boost the colors in the image.  I was set and ready to go with everything on my Manfrotto tripod and Acratech GP Ballhead.

I stayed set up under the tree which kept the rain off of me and started to work different compositions to include the secondary cascades which had developed.  I ended up moving from the shelter of the tree and the rain was increasing.  It was to the point that I thought about just packing it in and heading home, but I decided that it was very much worth sticking it out to get this view of the waterfall that I have not been able to capture before.  It was time to pull out my Ruggard rain cover for the camera which covered everything but the lens hood.  This is one of the reasons that I like to keep my hoods with me, as  not only do they function to keep the sun off the front element, they are good shields from the rain.  With everything behind the hood covered, and my all weather cover now deployed on my Lowepro Whistler BP350AW I was good to go in the rain without any concerns.  I worked several different compositions while keeping my kit built as it was.  During this time another photographer came by and started to shoot the waterfall as well.  We were both getting wet, but I was confident that my gear was staying dry.

Zigs and Zags

Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

It wasn’t long before the rain stopped and I had the opportunity to shed the rain cover and swap lenses.  I decided to go for my 70-200mm so that I could get some isolations of the lower section since it was looking really nice to my eyes.  It was nice not to have to worry about moving the rain cover around, but I was really thankful to have it with me to allow me to continue shooting in the rather hard rain.  The long lens along with the Color Combo Polarizer was a perfect combination though and it allowed me to be able to really pick out the areas that I was looking for.  The trick with these shots was to find some kind of visual anchor for the scene and then let the water go completely blurry around the fixed objects.  It makes for some really great abstract images.  While I love shooting wide-angle landscapes there will always be a soft place in my heart for the intimate compositions.  With the lack of rain, and being able to pick out these details I was really having a great time.  It was elevated with the simple fact that this series of cascades really doesn’t appear that often so this made it quite special for me to be able to capture.

Atop the Lower Cascades
Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

With the long lens being my go to for woodland images I also felt that I should include some different elements into my isolations.  I moved up to the “beach” of the waterfall and got in close to the main cascade.  From here I was able to pick out portions of the main drop and even found some vegetation to add to the compositions.  Again, I was getting compositions that I had never gotten here before.  Since this was the first waterfall I had ever photographed way back in 2006, I really thought that I had explored it pretty completely.  Today showed me the value of waterfall photography.  They are ever-changing, and the personalities are always different.  I found a new love for the Lower Cascades on this trek.  I am really looking forward to sharing that excitement with the group next weekend, and hope that the conditions are similar to what they were today.

Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I continued shooting my isolations and took advantage of whatever I could with the water flow.  While I was doing this, there were several other people who joined in with enjoying the waterfall.  They didn’t stay long which was the benefit to the heavy water flow.  Normally, the “beach” gets full with spectators and they are able to get close views of the waterfall.  Today, there was not much in the way of dry places to stand which kept them mainly at the base of the stairs.  This worked out fine for me, and we didn’t seem to get in each other’s ways since I was fully in the water at this point.  I just kept on with what I was doing and enjoying myself.  I happened to look at the shutter count and realized that I had shot about 60 or so images at this point.  That was a lot for a single subject, but I was pretty sure I would have a handful of keepers from this shoot.

Before I decided to pack it in, I wanted to get an overall shot of the waterfall.  I worked my way up to the “beach” and looked at what I had to work with.  I know this to be a pretty decent composition with a wider lens than what I had on, but I was looking at the pool.  There were a lot of dead leaves bunched up in it, and the cliff was dropping large water drops which were causing splashes.  The decision was made to keep the long lens on and work some tight compositions on the waterfall.  This was something that I don’t do all that often, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out.

Energetic Grasp
Canon 5D Mk3, 70-200mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I framed the waterfall at the wide end of the lens and found that there was a really nice composition with the waterfall providing plenty of interest in the right half of the frame with a green bush giving a splash of color on the left to balance out the image.  The chunks of rock on the left side of the frame gave some nice textures to complete the image.  The water flow was nearly perfect and with the speed that it was falling, I only needed a fraction of a second to blur the image to my liking and still leave plenty of detail within the cascades.  It was one of the more straightforward images of the Lower Cascades, but it is actually one that I really like for the simplicity.  It just goes to show you how much variation can go into compositions of this waterfall.  This is not a one trick pony as many waterfalls can be.

With the sun coming out at this point, I figured it was time to pack things up and start back to the car.  I still wanted to try to get something on the back roads before going home.  The hike was quick, but the stairs leading from the base of the waterfall got me.  I had forgotten how hard they are to climb quickly, and I was out of breath by the time I got to the top.  Oh well, a little elevated heart rate is a good thing every now and again.  I realized something as I was hiking back to the car.  I was the first one out there, and the last to leave.  There were no traces of any of the other hikers/photographers that I had seen earlier.  It was just a nice walk back to the car.  It was time to go explore a bit.

Slowing Down
Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I made my way down the road with the thoughts of shooting a red barn near the new Vade Mecom section of Hanging Rock.  When I got there, the lighting was decent, but not stellar.  More importantly, the parking section to the park was closed, and there were “No Parking” signs all over the roadsides through here.  Without being really excited about the barn, I decided to save it for another day and continue on down the road.  I passed by several other barns that I had a similar response to.  Nothing really stood out to me on the roadside.  I was starting to think that my day was done, but as I reached the main road, I remembered about that El Camino I had seen coming in.

A little history on this car before we get into the shoot.  I have seen this car for quite a number of years now sitting in a lot with some derelict barns.  I had even stopped shoot it a time or two.  For a while there was a Nova parked next to it.  It just never really worked out to where I felt good enough about the image to stop and shoot it.  For one thing, there was little to no rust on the car and the blue was just about too nice to photograph.  For another thing, the background was always a little too cluttered for my tastes, especially when the Nova had been sitting right beside it.  This time, however, it struck me a little different.  This time, there was a particularly interesting sky above it with a matching blue sky mixed in with the clouds.  The grass had grown up around the car giving it the appropriate implied age.  The barn behind it was starting to fall in which I found as a great element to the shot.  The overall warm look to the landscape balanced the cool colors of the car and the sky quite nicely.  This was going to work out!

Blue Elco
Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

I pulled the car into the driveway of the property which I was hoping was vacant.  Since there were no guns pointing at me as I exited the car I felt a little better.  I quickly got the camera out and built it with my 24-70mm lens and the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer.  This is my workhorse combination for automotive photography.  I started out right on the edge of the road shooting some compositions just in case I was run off from the property.  As I shot without interruption, I became more and more confident about being there.  I got in closer and closer.  The main problem that I was facing with this car was some of the clutter that was between it and the barn.  I found that by getting low to the ground I was able to block the view of that clutter with the car itself.  It made for a narrow area in the frame for visual interest, but I was able to balance that out with shadows on the ground and the clouds themselves.  While the car was mainly in the shadows, there was a good bit of sun that was reaching it, and some that actually highlighted the Chevrolet badge on the grill.  I was getting more and more excited about this subject the more I shot.  When I was done, I had a total of 107 images stored on my memory card.  Not bad at all for essentially two subjects in very different weather conditions.

The Way of Time
Canon 5D Mk3, 24-70mm f/2.8LII, Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer

Of course, with the compositional issues to camouflage the clutter, I found myself shooting very similar compositions over and over with different focal lengths.  There were two that I really liked when I was going through culling the images but they were very close to each other.  I decided to take one of them and do a conversion to black and white to see how that looked.  I had high hopes for it since the sky was so blue and I knew that applying a red filter in post would deepen the tones just right.  I started the conversion and almost immediately saw potential here.  I worked with the tones and balanced the image.  The clouds were just perfect giving that dark upper frame to the image and using a 16:9 crop on it added to the drama of the entire image.  There was a good deal of grit here and the subject really seemed to pop off of the screen.

While I really liked the color images and the blues worked well with the other tones this black and white image just seemed to take it to another level.  I’m getting back into my monochrome moods these days.  They seem to come and go, as normally I really like the saturated colors in my images.  This car seemed to call for a different treatment than I normally give my old car subjects.  I dialed back the colors in the two color images that I shot and gave them a bit of an older feel.  I really thought that was a needed treatment since the car itself was in really good condition considering how long it had been sitting there.

What I liked most about this trek was it proved to me that staying close to home can still yield some great images, even with subjects that I have shot many times over.  The Lower Cascades has been in front of my camera more times than I care to remember.  I have shot nearly every composition that I can think of…or so I thought.  I found a lot of new ways to shoot this waterfall today and I rediscovered my love for this waterfall which was where I learned to shoot moving water over ten years ago.  I also finally got the conditions right to photography this El Camino for the first time, and if I do say so myself, the images turned out better than I would have thought in all the times I have seen the car.  For just a few hours, I managed to have a very successful trek, and didn’t even have to travel all over the world to get to it.