I figured that this would be another opportunity to get some waterfalls done, and what better time to try and find some new ones. I know there are some other cascades at South Mountains which I have not found yet. I also wanted to try and photograph the main waterfall, High Shoals Falls. It has been probably 10 years or more since the last time I have ventured up the stairs to shoot it. Arguably though, it is not all that photogenic of a waterfall. To make matters worse, the boardwalk really gets in the way despite giving you a very close view of the waterfall.
|Soothe the Soul|
This was really starting to be an annoying pattern for this park. It seems that every time I come out here expecting clouds, I get bright blue skies and difficult lighting. I was starting to think that I was going to spend four hours on the road for less than ideal lighting once again. I didn't have a plan B in mind, and knew that much of the park was in the shadows early in the morning. At least I had that working in my favor. I was looking around as I approached the park to see if there was something that I could get with the existing lighting.
I did see an old tractor by a shed that I had seen the last couple of times out, and had always wanted to photograph. The lighting wasn't quite right, and I wasn't sure I could get it from the road. I filed it away in my memory for later as I had done many times before.
|Blue Sky Reflections|
Looking at things, I figured that doing isolations would be the best bet. For that, I decided to use my 70-200mm lens with a Color Combo Polarizer attached. I started working on compositions and found that my exposure time due to the lighting was between 13-30 seconds. That was plenty for a nice abstract flow of the water. The trick was picking areas of the cascades that made sense and had a cohesive flow to them.
One of the neat ones that came from this section is the picture directly above. Since the sky was blue, the water was reflecting a nice blue hue just before dropping over the rocks. The rocks had some warm tones on them which balanced out the overall cool shade of the water. It made for a very interesting composition with the color pallet.
Not wanting to spend all my time with this section of the creek, I decided to move on down the trail. My ultimate goal was to get to High Shoals Falls and go beyond it to complete the loop trail. I told myself that I wasn't going to bother with scenes that I had photographed before unless they were noticeably better than previous times I had visited. That concept was put to the test at the fork in the creek.
When I got there, I could see that the water was moving rather nicely, and was possibly a little more voluminous than previous attempts. However, there wasn't anything in the way of compositions that held a candle to my recent Autumn shots from this area. I quickly decided to move on down the trail.
|Taking a Bow|
I was missing the Autumn colors this time, but I was thinking that the overall image was a good bit stronger than what I had several months ago. The anchor of the image was the waterfall, and the tree that I love so much worked the midground. From this angle it really looked like the tree was taking an overly dramatic bow...so of course, that became the title of the piece.
From here, it wasn't too long before I got to my favorite section of secondary cascades. The first one had a lot more flow to it than normal, but I wasn't sure I wanted to try shooting it just yet. I moved to the other side where I have always had good luck. Ironically, there was too much water on this side. I just wasn't feeling very good about making good pictures with the current flow. I opted instead, to go back to the other side, and climb over the railing. Once on the ground, I was seeing some pretty good compositions from this section. One of which is the opening image to this entry. It is also the first time I have used the boardwalk in a composition. Considering I always try to eliminate the man made aspects in my waterfall pictures, I actually really like this shot.
|A Sacred Splash|
|Moment in Time|
Eventually, I determined that I had everything that I wanted to get, and I packed the camera back up. I gave the next section a second look, but I was positive that there was just too much water for the images I was wanting to make. It was time to start climbing the stairs at this point. Normally, I would just turn around since I am just not a fan of High Shoals Falls. Today, I had promised myself another shot at it though. I bit my lip and climbed the hundred and some steps to the overlook.
|High Shoals Falls|
First, there was a nice overlook that got you right up to the waterfall. This same overlook appears in so many pictures of the waterfall because you just about can't avoid it. My solution was to set the tripod up on two legs, and swing the third over the railing for stability. This was where having independent legs is a must for a landscape photographer. With the ballhead positioned just inside of the railing, I was able to compose an image that didn't include the railing.
Second, since I was so close to the waterfall, I was getting a lot of spray which was going right on my front element. There was no way to block it and still have a field of view. My solution was to work very quickly and minimize the time in the spray.
Third, the wooden surface that I was set up on was less than solid. When I moved, the camera would move. That meant that when I was ready to release the shutter, I had to remain rock steady and even hold my breath as the timer went though the 2 second countdown and released the shutter for a fraction of a second.
After about four times here, I finally decided to continue down (or rather, up) the trail. There were more steps leading to the top of the waterfall. I'm thinking about 200 more steps give or take. I wasn't sure what was beyond High Shoals Falls, but I was sure I was going to find out today. It actually didn't take too long to get to the top. When I did, I found a couple of small cascades along the rocky surface. They weren't much, but I was here, I might as well get the camera out.
I would have loved to have gotten down to the water level, but I saw plenty of signs saying not to cross the fence. These signs were a little different than the others I've seen at waterfalls. These actually had the General Statute number on them. That make it a little more serious, and I opted to follow the direction of the signs and stay on my side of the fence. Because of that, I was going to need the reach of my 70-200mm lens.
When I was satisfied that I had all I needed from this location, I continued down the trail. I didn't know what else I was going to run into, but was hoping that there were more pictures to be had. Well, there really weren't. The clouds which had barely stayed in the sky were now pretty much gone. The lighting was not great at this point, and I found myself concentrating on where I was stepping since I was hiking steadily down a steep hill at this point. There would have been a few interesting things in the fog, but for the present conditions, it was just a nice hike with no reason to take the camera out.
I thought about going down another trail, but the sky wasn't really looking all that great, so I decided that I would go and see about maybe photographing that tractor I had seen on the way in. I loaded everything up in the truck and started back out of the park. The tractor wasn't far from the entrance, so I started looking once I got out of the park. When I saw it, there was a guy working on a truck right beside of it. Could it be that easy? I pulled into the driveway and introduced myself to him. I explained why I was there, and found that he was very willing to let me photograph the tractor. Jackpot!
I was very lucky that for the time that I was working the tractor, the clouds had covered the sun just enough to give me that all important even lighting. I can't express how lucky I was for this scene to work out when it did. Had I passed it by once again, I would have never seen it again. The conditions couldn't have been any better which made it an even sweeter victory. And the icing on the cake...an old house being held up by a tree.
After this, I packed the camera up and thanked the property owner before heading back down the road. I spent the next hour looking for other subjects. I saw a few potential compositions, but the light was just too harsh at this point. I will just have to come back on another day to try to get some more rural scenes in Connelly Springs, NC.
The day was actually rather successful with 100 frames saved in the camera. Of those, I found 15 that were worth keeping. I really have no complaints at all from the day. The weather was good when I needed it to be, and I had great conditions with the waterfalls. It was a great day, and it was sure nice to get out and go for a nice long hike. I needed the recharge!