Christmas in (little) Switzerland

December 25, 2015

Swollen From the Rains
This might be a first for me....a Trek on Christmas Day.  I'm not sure exactly how this happened, but it started with me wanting to go on a bike ride while Toni slept after working a full shift at work the night before.  Then the weather started to look a little too damp for me to go riding, so I figured that I would go out and try to find something to put in front of my camera.  As we were discussing my options, she said that if I went on a Trek she would like to come with me.  Well, that opened up a lot in terms of options for destinations.  Since she would be with me, I wouldn't have to worry about hurrying back home.  She was ok with heading out with very little sleep as well.  Lots of recent rain, clouds in the sky, and unseasonably warm temperatures...that really means one thing around here.....Waterfalls!

I had actually been out the day before to Hanging Rock to shoot a couple of the waterfalls up there, but when I arrived, I was met with heavy rain, that showed no signs of quitting.  I threw in the towel before I even stepped outside of the truck to get it damp.  I would have liked to have gone back to the park to try again today, but alas, with it being Christmas, the park was closed, and I didn't want to risk a trespass charge just to photograph a waterfall or two.  I started to go down the list of waterfalls that were close by, and found that the vast majority of them were in state parks which were closed for the holiday.  One of my favorites though, Roaring Fork Falls, was not part of the park system, and therefore did not have "operating hours."  The only drawback was this waterfall was so far away from home, about 2.5 hours to be exact.  Had it not been for the fact that Toni was willing to go with me, this would not have been an option.  With my Trekking companion signed on, I had a destination.

I checked the weather early in the morning, and it seemed promising for the afternoon, with only moderate chances of rain.  Since the hike to the falls was only about a half mile, I decided it would be worth the attempt, if for nothing else to see how the flooding waters affected this particular waterfall.  Toni got in a quick nap, and we were up and out of the door before lunch.  The ride up was pretty uneventful, although, the clouds started to break, and then we had a little bit of rain.  But, by the time we reached the Pisgah National Forest, the clouds were back in full effect and the conditions were outstanding.  We passed by several things that I wanted to stop and photograph, but I had a mission in mind, and I didn't want to miss out.  I figured that we would have time on the way back to work some of the other secondary choices.

When we arrived at the falls, I was surprised to see that there was already somebody in the parking area.  Toni put my mind at rest though when she saw a group coming back from the trail area to the car.  We were going to be all alone at the Roaring Fork Falls.  That was really good news for me, and I was excited to show Toni this waterfall up close and personal for the first time ever.  It didn't take long to hike the half mile to the waterfall.  I saw a couple of interesting things on the side of the trail that I put in my mind for the return hike, but didn't want to miss out on the waterfall in case the weather changed.

Along the Forest Floor
As we crossed the bridge that brought us right along the rapids, Toni said that she really liked the trail ahead.  I could see a little promise in it, but I wasn't sold on it.  Like the other things I had seen, I decided to wait for a bit and get it after the waterfall.  When we actually made it to the falls, there was a lot of water flowing over the rocks, more than I had seen before.  I was happy that there was not an excess at the base which would keep me from getting a decent viewpoint.  The water was rushing a little fast for me to put my tripod in the water, however.

I set things up and started to expose a few frames to test my shutter speed.  Normally with this waterfall, I am shooting at 5 seconds or slower.  Today, with the rushing water, I was between 1-2 seconds on each shot.  I barely even needed my ND filter for once.  It took me a little while to find the rhythm of the Roaring Fork Falls this time.  I admit, I am very much out of practice for waterfall photography these days, but it did come back to me pretty quickly.

I had originally said that I wasn't going to rock hop to my favorite shooting platform, but as I worked closer and closer to it, I found that the water wasn't going to keep me from getting to it, and the rock was big enough for me and the tripod.  So, I went ahead and hopped over to it.  There wasn't much extra room, but at least the tripod legs were more stable than if I had dipped them in the water as I would have normally done.

A Touch of Cotton
From here, I started to pick out bits and pieces of the waterfall that I found interesting.  There are quite a few sections along the path that make for pretty strong compositions all on their own.  My favorite section is about half way up, and if you are positioned just right, the surrounding greenery enhances the natural curves of the falls.  The textures between the rocks, leaves, and water all come together very nicely as well.

I would have liked to have played with this waterfall a bit more, but as I was starting to get into my groove, a group of about 5 came out to join us.  They were snapping pictures here, there, and everywhere.  My creative energy started to drain out of my body just like the water was draining from the higher ground.  It was time to move along.  I handed Toni the camera rig, which she didn't she has a tendency to do around waterfalls (our little inside joke).  I closed up my camera bag and slung it on my back before climbing out of the recess where I was.  We then started hiking back from where we had come.  I decided to spend a little time on the trail where she had suggested a picture before.  It was a tough composition to make in order to create a flow through the picture.  About the time I got into the groove and was narrowing in on the right composition, the group started to walk back along the path.  I had to stop what I was doing and wait for them to pass.  At least I was set up to the side of the trail and didn't have to move the camera.

Shortly after they passed, I felt a rain drop on my arm, and I heard Toni say that she felt a rain drop as well.  Oh well, I can deal with a drop or two.  Then it started to coming down a bit harder, and within maybe a minute, we were under a full rain.  It was time to get moving, and quickly.  Toni held the camera bag while I threw the camera in and got everything secured.  We then did a speed walk to the truck.  There was no overhead cover to block any of the rain, so we were getting soaked as we slogged down the trail.  Fortunately Toni had a hooded sweatshirt which she was able to use, and I was wearing my famous Trekking hat...but we were still getting wet.

We passed by all the little details I had seen on the way to the waterfall, and I didn't give them a second thought because there was no way I could do anything with the camera in this full on downpour.  We had one goal, and that was to get to the truck, with a quickness.  We arrived, and I tossed my equipment in the rear of the cab, and we got in still dripping.

After only being there for maybe an hour, we were back on the road again, but I decided to try going home by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway with hopes that the rain would subside enough that I could get another picture or two.  The rain never did let up, and we just managed to work our way home listening to the rhythm of the windshield wipers until it was dark, and we were out of the mountains.  At that point, conditions improved, but the scenery wasn't suitable for my needs.  The day was done, and there was a Christmas feast that awaited at the Chinese Buffet back home.

A Touch of Cotton in B&W

Swollen from the Rains in B&W
Once I got home, I emptied the camera bag so that it could dry out, and made sure that my equipment had the proper chance to get dry as well.  I edited  through the 25 pictures that I had captured, fully expecting to get either two or three good ones.  I actually ended up with two good ones of the waterfall, and one additional one that Toni had suggested.  Adding to those three were two monochrome conversions done to the waterfall pictures.  For whatever reason, this particular waterfall lends itself to black and white photography more than the other ones I have visited.  I can't really explain it, but I like the results and Toni has always liked the black and white pictures.

It was a great day that I got to spend with Toni, and I have some nice pictures to show from it as well.  The best part of the story, we can honestly say that I took her to Switzerland for Christmas...we don't have to say it was Little Switzerland do we?

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