With the work week coming to a close, I was itching to get out and do some photography, but I wasn't really sure what kind of weather I should be expecting. For the most part it had been sunny throughout the week which doesn't make the greatest of conditions for a photographer. When I looked at the forecast on Friday, there was going to be a lot of clouds in the foothills and mountains with some occasional rain. This was my kind of shooting conditions!
I started to look at places that I could go. The Blue Ridge Parkway has been done to death by myself and other photographers for the last six weeks or so, and quite frankly, I was a little tired of making that trip. Stone Mountain was next on my list, but the clouds were going to be a wild card. If they were thick and lacking definition, I wouldn't be able to shoot dramatic landscapes from the clearings I like to hike to. There aren't that many waterfalls there that I enjoy photographing, and I had just done Widow's Creek Falls a couple of weeks ago. That meant that Stone Mountain was out. That left Hanging Rock, which worked out pretty good. I could concentrate on waterfalls and woodland images if the sky was boring, and if it got interesting, I could hike up to a couple of different points of interest. Hanging Rock it would be!
I did get there before first light and that meant that I would be hiking with a flashlight. My first destination was going to be the Upper Cascades because that was going to be the first program destination and I wanted to be done with it before that started up. When I arrived at the falls, it was still pretty dark and I got to thinking that I might want to try doing a little light painting at this one. I went ahead and set the camera up with the 16-35mm lens and got in close to it. I composed the image with the aid of the flashlight and set it to bulb so that I could just have the shutter stay open until I was done.
I tried several different times, and finally got one that I liked. The one above was 60 seconds of exposure during which time I painted the waterfall with my flashlight. I hovered over the pool at the bottom as well to give it an ethereal feel. Of course the white balance was all over the place with the ambient light, and adding an LED flashlight. I had to do a little work to balance the colors out when I got home. For my first attempt as light painting a waterfall, I'm actually pretty happy with this.
The exposure wasn't too difficult as the sun was barely up at this point. Everything was quite even in tone, and it was just a matter of getting the composition right with the camera. That took a lot of moving around in order to get the right angle on things. The one that I decided I liked the best was one of the tighter compositions and really had an intimate feel to the whole image.
From here, I started to move around the scene a little bit. I wasn't all that impressed with the water flow, but I decided to get an overall shot of the Cascades. I moved back into the water and framed the shot to show the full waterfall in the morning light. This is the opening image to the entry. It is one of my favorite exposures of the waterfall, but unfortunately the flow let me down. Without more water, the photograph kind of feels flat in comparison to others I shot. But...it was still worth a press of the button for sure!
I tried to shoot some isolations on the waterfall but was unable to get anything that I really liked. I tell you...when the waterflow is low, this is just not an impressive waterfall. I decided to call it quits here and move downstream to the unnamed cascade a few minutes off of the trail. It isn't too bad of a scramble to get down to it, but having the camera still mounted to the tripod made it a little more difficult to do.
|A Subtle Melody|
I hiked back past the rock garden but didn't find anything that I particularly wanted to photograph there. I got to the main parking area and looked for interesting trees, but there was just too much visual clutter to be able to get the trees that I wanted. The colors were really nice though and I wanted to shoot some woodland scenes. As I worked my way down the next trail to the Hidden Falls, I passed by the picnic shelters and started to look at using them in some compositions. Nothing really worked out for me though, so I was starting to get a little discouraged. The last shelter that I passed by changed my mind though.
|Getting in Step|
That was short lived though. The further I got down the trail, the less vivid the colors were. Oh well, I was about to be at the Hidden Falls which I always enjoy photographing. I had to wait to turn down the trail because there was a family hiking out and continuing down to the Window Falls. That left me all alone at the Hidden Falls. I was rather excited! But when I got to the falls, that excitement left me really quick. The waterflow was dismal and there was no color in proximity to the waterfall. I could have shot isolations on this one, but quite frankly, there wasn't enough water to make it worth the time. I went back out to the main trail and started to look for woodland compositions once again.
One of the nice things about this waterfall is that it is just a drop and there are interesting points at the top and the bottom that work well in photographs. The lighting was excellent so I was in a happy place with this waterfall despite the lack of water.
|A Cavern's Whisper|
After a few minutes of working on this waterfall, the family arrived and gave me my space which I greatly appreciate. Not wanting to prevent them from enjoying the waterfall, I went ahead and packed the camera up, and decided to go up to the unnamed waterfall that is above the Window Falls. It is not difficult to get to, but requires a little bit of rock crawling to get up to the upper section. Once there, you are treated to almost a cave cut into the rocks. It is a very cool place to be, especially the first time you see it.
|The Forest's Cry|
About the time that I was getting into the groove and was about to switch out to my 70-200mm for some different compositions, I realized that there was a scout troop that was working their way up the rocky wall to join me. Well, this was the end of the road for me. There were just too many people milling around at this point so I packed up my camera and worked my way back down to the trail.
I kept my eyes out for any woodland images, but there were just too many people and distractions at this point so I started to lose my eye. The fact that I was hiking uphill and getting tired didn't help matters either. I didn't see a single thing that I wanted to photograph on the way back up the trail. I did decide that I was going to get back on the road when I got to the truck since the park was getting rather full of people enjoying the leaves.
|Cozy in the Forest|
I was lucky to find an area where there was a little bit of a clearing so that I didn't have to shoot through too many trees to get the composition I wanted. I did choose to use my 70-200mm lens with an intensifying polarizer to compress the scene and focus on the repeating shapes of the trees and the contrasting lines of the (we're going to call it a) cabin in the woods. I decided that the most effective composition was going to be picking only a portion of the cabin to give a sense of story to the image. The main element was going to be the color in the woods. It took about four frames to get settled in on the composition that I wanted. The end result looks really warm and cozy as you can see the...ahem...cabin overlooking the colorful surroundings. It's a cabin, and I'm going to stick with that story. It works in the picture, and makes the whole scene make sense....until you realize that there is a roll of toilet paper by the door. Made you look!!
Well, the parking lot was in sight, and so were droves of people and dogs at this point. It was time to cut bait and leave. I was hoping to find a barn or two on the way home since I was still wanting to shoot more. I even took the long way home and wend down Hwy 8 which I don't usually do. The rain was starting in earnest at this point and I was glad that I was not still out hiking. At least I could look for something else to shoot in the dry.
Before I even got the tripod out and leveled, I heard an ATV coming down the road. Yep, I know what was about to happen. He stopped across the road from me and we both said hi. I went ahead and beat him to the punch and asked if this was his property. He replied that it wasn't, but he knew the owner. I went across the road to engage him in a little conversation. He said that he didn't think that the owner would have a problem with me photographing from the road, and he pointed to where the house was where he lived.
Now, I'm not lazy, but the house was a little further than I wanted to walk leaving my 4Runner on the side of the road. It was way too close to justify cranking it up and driving it over there. Since I was planning on shooting from the road, I decided to save the aggravation and the potential for missing a rain free opportunity. We concluded out chat and I went back to setting the camera up.
I was actually surprised at how good these came out. Normally white vehicles don't photograph all that great, but the white really made it stand out from the background and made a rather impressive composition. I'm sitting here looking at the picture now remembering the days gone by when these Jeeps were all over the roads delivering the mail. They had character, unlike the mail trucks of today. In fact, this old Jeep still has a lot of character, and it is instantly recognizable to anyone above the age of 30.
Well, the rain was returning so it was time to get on home to finish processing the images. During the course of my day I had shot 113 frames between Hanging Rock and the Postal Jeep. I was feeling pretty good about things, and when I got finished editing the pictures I was really happy to find that 15 of them managed to make the cut. It was a really great day, and the weather was perfect for what I was shooting.