Big Creek with Mini Me

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sierra on her first waterfall shoot
With my recent trek to Hanging Rock a few days ago, I was ready to go out and play with some long exposures with water once again.  Looking at the weather, there was promise of clouds on Saturday in the area of Big Creek, which is just inside of the NC Border.  There was going to be clouds and little bit of rain throughout the day, and that was going to be perfect for some white water photography.  It just so happened that Sierra has been wanting to learn a little bit more about photography lately, and she was wanting to go with me.  What a great time to introduce the manual mode and some work with filters on her camera.

The morning started very early since there is a 3-4 hour road trip to get there, and we needed to get back to the house around dinner time for another engagement.  It was rough, but we got up at 4am and were on the road by 5.  As the sun came up I could see that the sky was full of clouds which was just what I was wanting.  As we arrived at the park, the clouds were perfect for long exposure work.  We got our cameras out of the 4Runner and started the roughly two mile hike towards Mouse Creek Falls with the hope of going a little beyond that point.  There were trees down all along the trail that showed just how much water has been falling recently.  The roots were pulled right up from the ground in most cases.  I was catching glimpses of the water and I could tell we were going to be in for a treat.

The thing that I love most about this location is that the water has this wonderful aqua hue to it when viewed in the right conditions.  Today was looking like that kind of condition, and that made me very happy.  Sierra was the first one to spot a location that she wanted to shoot.  We scrambled down the embankment to get to the water.  I could see a lot of potential with the different elements, but the clouds managed to clear right as we got to the water.  I mean it was like a switch was flipped!!  All of a sudden the water was nothing but highlights, and the trees were nothing but shadows.

We took a good bit of time to explain the manual settings on the camera, and to figure out what filters were needed.  Sierra found a spot that allowed her to capture the composition that she was wanting, and fired off a test shot.  After I added an ND filter, she was really happy with the way the water looked.  At this point, she was on her own to figure out what compositions she wanted to shoot.  I went over and pulled out my camera by another area as to not get in her way.  Looking at the scene, I decided that I would have to pick out isolations to keep from getting an overly contrasty scene.  I took several exposures, but I really wasn't overly happy with any of them.  The sun was just too bright.

Rock Slide
After waiting around for about 30-45 minutes, we both decided that the sun wasn't going to help us out any.  We packed up and found the trail again. Knowing that there were some areas that were shaded from the sun a little further up, we continued on in hopes of finding something better to photograph.  The next area we found had a bunch of really great elements to work with, and about half of them were in the shadows.  The problem is, half were not in the shadows and happened to fall in the full sun.  But this area was just too good to pass up.

Sierra and I set up in two different locations where we though that we would get the best compositions.  For this location, I decided to go a bit wider, and fit my 24-70mm lens for a little flexibility.  We both fired off a few shots, but were less than satisfied with the outcome.  I looked up at the sky and could see some faint clouds possibly moving towards the sun.  I told Sierra to be patient and once the light started to change to be ready to work.  It took about 10 minutes, but just like I was hoping, the clouds covered the sun.  Both cameras started to fire off shots left and right.  Sierra was working a small feature of this drop over to the right, and I was focusing my attention on the larger area.  I found it very funny  that we were always finding different things that sparked our interest in the same location.

Broken Away
The light was changing fast, and I didn't know how long it would last.  I shifted around and got several different compositions put together in the 10 minutes or so that the clouds were covering the sun.  There wasn't the luxury of fine tuning the compositions, I just had to work on instinct, and place things in the frame the best I could.  I was actually very happy to come away with two keepers from this location, especially since it started out being too sunny to even work with.  Patience does pay with it comes to photography.

We were both charged after this location since we both got pictures that we were happy with.  We continued to hike on down the trail, and my goal was to get to Midnight Hole which is the first of the named waterfalls on this trail.  I have yet to get a picture of this waterfall that I really like.  I was starting to feel good about today's chances.  The clouds were sporadic, but they were at least in the sky now.

A Wooden Reach
Well, sometimes things fall in place when you really need them to.  When we got to Midnight Hole, the water level was top notch (so much better than when I came here in the Fall), and the lighting was damn near perfect.  Knowing that the clouds could move at any second, Sierra and I set up quickly.  With this location, we both wanted to photograph the same thing, so I started off well to the rear and shot to the side of her location with the long end of my 24-70mm.  She was actually set up just to the left of the tree in the picture above.  I had to come back after she was finished for that particular shot.

Spring at Midnight Hole
One of the things that I loved about this waterfall with today's conditions was the trees.  They were essentially backlit from the diffused sun.  They had a certain glowing quality about them which made the leaves really stand out.  With the new Spring growth on the limbs, the greens were already quite vibrant as well.  Those trees made for the perfect balance to the rocks and the small waterfall.  It was this series of shots that made me feel like the trip out here was worth it.  I was pretty excited about how these were going to turn out.  But there was no time to get complacent.  The rain was actually starting at this point which meant that the clouds were probably going to stick around for a bit.  We still had a little more time, and we decided to go for one last location before turning around.

The Aqua Rapids
We found our last stop just up the trail, a little shy of Mouse Creek Falls.  This area had a lot of rapids and a bunch of rocks all along the creek.  Even better...the aqua color was really shining through in this section.  Despite the fact that the rain was starting to come down pretty quickly, Sierra and I decided to set up one last time.  She stayed close to the shore, and I ventured out onto a large rock in the creek.  I opted to keep my 24-70mm lens on the camera even though I would have rather had my 16-35.  The reason was...I needed the longer lens hood to shield the front element from the rain.  It only barely worked!

The Water Returns
It was so nice to see Big Creek's Landscape full of water again.  It was quite sad seeing it in the peak of the drought.  It was now in full song once again, and I was quite happy to capture it with my camera...even if I was doing it in the rain.  At least the light quality was beautiful, and the exposures were quite simple.  My biggest problem was having to continuously wipe the lens down as the rain kept hitting it.  Take the shot, wipe the lens, recompose, take the shot, wipe the lens...and so on, and so forth, and what have you.

Full Force
We stuck around for a about 10 minutes and then I was starting to get just too wet out there in the open.  I was starting to get concerned for the camera, and finding that my footing was getting very slippery with the rain, it was time to call it a day.  Even though the lighting was nearly perfect, the rain was getting harder, and we had a schedule to keep.  It was time to be the responsible adult and head back to the truck.  We made it with a little time to spare, but the minute we closed the doors, the bottom fell out of the sky.  Yeah, it was a good choice to throw in the towel.

It was a great day regardless of the funky weather.  I got to spend some great time with Sierra sharing my love of photography with her, as well as just enjoying the outdoors.  I got a good many new images to add to my collection.  All in all, it was a success.  I'll be happier tomorrow when the camera bag is dry and I can put everything back in it again though.

Update: May 13, 2017

I've done a B&W conversion on a couple of the images from this trip that I really like.

A Wooden Reach

Full Force

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