Monday, November 12, 2018
With my upcoming Waterfall Workshop looming in the very near future, I thought it might be a good idea to visit Hanging Rock just to make sure that nothing major has changed there since the last time I visited. Having the day off work, and the weather being cloudy kind of lent itself to some waterfall photography. It all seemed to be coming together quite nicely with the exception of one thing. I really wasn’t feeling like shooting waterfalls. Actually, I really didn’t know what I felt like shooting. Not wanting to waste the cloudy morning, I knew I was going to need to go and do something. Based on the forecasts, I was only going to have until about 11am to do it before the rain started falling. That limited how far I was willing to go, but I had some ideas.
Of course, there was Hanging Rock, I also thought about doing Styers Mill Falls in Yadkin County, but that kind of fell in the category of “I didn’t’ want to shoot waterfalls.” My other plan was also in Yadkinville at a couple of automotive repair/sales places I had spotted while out with Toni several months ago. I liked the idea of working some rusty cars, but I knew that the compositions were going to be tough and the cars were all crowded together. I didn’t really feel like just shooting isolations as I was wanting the full car in the frame. I figured that I would figure it out when I woke up in the morning. Well, the alarm clock brought no clarity to my mind, none at all. I still had no idea, but I did see that the rain was coming and I was only going to have a short amount of time, no matter what I chose.
The phone call went a little something like this when I called Toni to let her know that I was headed out. “Hey, I’m headed to Hanging Rock, I think. I’m not sure, but that is where I’m directed. We will see if something else sparks my imagination on the way.” I just had no idea at all what I was wanting to do, but I knew I needed to get out with the camera and shoot something while the weather was good. I headed up the road looking for inspiration. I was getting nothing at all, and that was a real shame. I was starting to realize that waterfalls it would be today. That was fine in all actuality since I really did need to see how things were looking up there. Also, since I know Hanging Rock so well I figured that this would be an opportunity to shoot a video which I have been very lax in lately. That gave me a little more pep in my step and when I got to the park I was ready to roll.
I decided that the waterfall I most wanted to visit was the Upper Cascades. This was odd based on my first experience with it many years ago when I decided that I really didn’t care much for this waterfall. It took one shoot with really good conditions to change my mind. Since then, I have really enjoyed shooting this waterfall. It was going to be my first stop of several that I planned on getting done before the rain hit. The hike was pretty quick and when I got down to the base of the waterfall I was all alone which was a nice situation to be in for doing any video work. I grabbed the phone and started to explain the lay of the land and then set the camera up. I started with my 16-35mm lens, but quickly realized that I didn’t need quite that wide of an angle and swapped it out for the 24-70mm lens. I added my Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and got a shot set up. I started to video the different steps to this shoot so that they could be edited together and give a pretty good idea of what a waterfall shoot entails for me.
I shot both vertical and horizontal compositions from several vantage points to really make sure I had a good idea of what I would be working with for the Waterfall Workshop. I tried a few different things, but in the end I really liked the compositions afforded by my standing in the middle of the water with the camera down low. The lighting was really good and the exposures were really easy to make. The water flow was great as well which made the main focus of these compositions pop. I explained what I was doing in several videos, and eventually moved in closer to shoot some isolations. I swapped out my lens for the longer 70-200mm which I moved the Polarizer over to.
I picked out several places where I found the flow particularly interesting and started finding compositions. I tried several horizontal ones, but this waterfall really likes the vertical orientation much better when it comes to isolations. After I shot a half dozen or so from slightly different angles, I decided that it was time to pack up the gear and go to my next stop. With the water flow so good here, I decided that it would be worth scrambling down the path that leads to an unnamed waterfall that is just downstream from the cascades I had just shot. You can barely see the falls from the observation deck, and there is a scramble path you have to take to get to it. It is well worth your time to see, and this makes the third time I’ve been if memory serves. It didn’t take long to get to the bottom of the path and I found that the water was pretty deep which was a good sign for the flow of the waterfall. I rounded the edge of a large boulder which concealed the waterfall from sight and found that it was looking particularly good today. The lighting was great and the flow of water was as good as I had seen in the past.
I went ahead and pulled the camera back out and set it up with the 24-70mm lens along with the same Singh-Ray Polarizer. I looked for the best vantage point and was very happy to find that the best composition involved me standing on a sand bar keeping my feet dry and warm. I went ahead and shot another segment of the video here and then got to work shooting this small cascade. I have typically done this as a horizontal composition in the past which I started out doing this time. It showcased the fallen leaves, and the angles of the rocks really looked good this way. However, I was really wanting to see what else I could come up with for this one, so I flipped the camera on its end and lined up a vertical shot. Surprisingly, it worked very well for me!
I still had the diagonal line from the foreground rock, but the actual waterfall took on a much more commanding presence this way. I’m not sure which I like the best out of the two, but I do think that they say two completely different things. I remembered my excitement in finding this waterfall for the first time about this time last year. I’m excited about the possibility of showing this little treasure to the workshop group. It will be tight to fit all seven of us on the sand bar, but I think that it can be done easy enough. It is so much worth the effort to get to, and unless it is sloppy wet, the scramble is not too bad to make. Having shot a few frames here it was time to pack up the camera and head back to the parking lot to evaluate my next step.
It took about 10 minutes to hike back to the truck and I started to look at the weather again. It looked like the edge of the rain was here, but it wasn’t actually making it all the way to the ground just yet. I was having such a good time that I decided it was going to be worth trying another couple of falls. I started off on the opposite side of the lot headed to Hidden Falls. When I got there, the conditions were really no different from what I had shot there before many times. It wasn’t going to be worth the time to set up and grab shots here this time, so I moved on to Window Falls. I wasn’t really excited to shoot that waterfall as I have done it plenty of times before. The water flow wasn’t all that impressive on this visit either so I opted to bypass that for something that was a bit better. I know of another unnamed waterfall that is up above this one which is a lot of fun to shoot during good water flow. This takes a little effort to work up to though. The rock wall that you have to scale is a bit slick and getting slicker with each year. I did make it up and found that the little cave was just as I was expecting it.
I found a good position and pulled out the camera. I started with my 70-200mm lens but found that the perspective of this setup was not all that great. I quickly swapped out to my 24-70mm lens with the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer. This was the trick for the compositions that I wanted, but I was going to have to get in closer. That was easy enough and before long I had the angle that I wanted on the waterfall. The lighting was fantastic which was quite important here. You see this waterfall is underneath a large overhang from the rocks above it. Light can enter only from one side, but everything on the inside is shaded. The deep clouds above gave me a great situation to photograph this little waterfall without the need for any filter tricks to balance the exposure. The recently fallen leaves were looking really nice as well.
As with my other compositions, I tried this one as a horizontal as well as a vertical. As was the theme for the day I actually liked both and liked what each had to say. When the conditions are right, this is one of my absolute favorite waterfalls in the park because of the challenge it represents to capture so well. This is only the second time I have been able to shoot it without some really bad shadows causing problems for me. However, as I was finishing up with this composition, I noticed that it was raining a bit. That was my signal that it was time to head back to the truck. I loaded the bag back up and I scampered back down the rocky wall I had climbed up. I checked one last time to make sure that I didn’t want to shoot Window Falls and was satisfied that I wouldn’t be able to do anything different with it than I had previously. With that, I was on my way to the truck.
At the end of the morning, I had spent about 3.5 hours at the park and seen 5 waterfalls, and shot 3 of them. This bodes pretty well for the workshop. I foresee having ample subject matter to occupy the day without a problem. In fact, I am betting that we won’t get to all of the falls if the conditions are good. Regardless, I am happy that I chose this location for my workshop because there is so much that can be taught about waterfall photography at these waterfalls. I’ll be back on December 1st, and I’ll be bringing a half dozen or so photographers with me. Stay tuned!