|A Thoughtful Spot|
A week went by with me still wanting to get to South Mountain. You see, the draw for this park is not really the main waterfall (High Shoals Falls), but the smaller cascades downstream from the main drop. While the trails at South Mountain are awesome, the observation deck is just too close to the main falls for me to really like photographing it. Conversely, the secondary cascades aren't encroached on nearly as much by the walkways. I have tried to photograph them several times, but without success, and I was wanting to try my hand at them once again.
By the time the weekend rolled around, the weather was looking great for waterfall photography. The cloud cover was looking like near 90% for most of the morning and then gradual clearing. I went to sleep looking forward to heading out to South Mountain first thing in the morning. When Toni woke me up at 4am, I looked at my phone to check the weather. From 8am on, it was looking like intermittent cloud cover, with a coverage of 70%. I know what that means...blue skies. BUT...I remembered last weekend all too well. With Sierra at my Mom's and Toni going to work, I really had no good reason to stay at home, so I got up and got ready to head out.
When I left, it was raining slightly and that made me very happy because that meant that there would likely be clouds in the sky. The further I traveled West the more rain I came in contact with. When the sun started to come up, I could see low clouds, and an overcast sky. Well, what do you know? I won this bet with the forecasters. I was really looking forward to doing some great waterfall photography in the next 30-45 minutes. I couldn't ask for better conditions!
Wait a minute...
Is that blue sky above the low clouds? Yep, the clouds were breaking up quickly. The rain had stopped, and the overcast was being replaced with a clear blue sky. Only a few low clouds remained above me. I had already driven over an hour and a half, so turning around wasn't an option. I decided to go into "Plan B" mode and start to look for barns and old cars along the route. None were found, and I kept plowing on to the park. At this point, I was hoping that the part of the park where the waterfalls were would still be in the shade. It was my only chance at this point. My sunglasses were even on!
I passed by a few decent spots to get some pictures. This was a gamble because the lighting was good at several sections along the river. I said years ago that I would never feel guilty stopping along this hike to grab some pictures because the main falls wasn't that great. But...this time, I had very little time, and I really wanted to try some different compositions with the lower falls. I rolled the dice and continued on down the trail.
When I finally got to the lower falls, I was pleasantly surprised that they were deep in the shadows, and almost too dark. I was also let down by the water flow. With the rain that had passed by overnight, I was expecting a little bit more than I saw. But so is my luck, so I embraced the lighting and looked for a composition. That wasn't an easy task at all. From the wooden boardwalk, I could see a decent view of the first section, but it was slightly covered by a branch. Also, the position was a little too high to get the perspective I was after. I looked and I looked, but the only way to photograph this was to get below the walkway. I had never done that before here, and usually try not to leave boardwalks so as not to destroy any of the natural areas.
I could see where there was a little trail right beside of the boardwalk where others had been before me. I decided to get down to that area and set up at the base of the waterfall. It was slippery, but not too bad getting down there. Once I arrived, I quickly sized up the situation, and grabbed my camera with the 24-70mm lens attached. I added a polarizer, and mounted it to the tripod. I started to work out compositions, and oddly enough, it was my first composition (out of six) that I liked the best. A Thoughtful Spot is a fairly simple composition that has some visual tension from the landscape format. The actual falls are much more suited to a portrait shot, but including the trees, and more of the rocks on the sides gives it a little more of an open feeling. The lighting was a little tough here because the sun was starting to light the trees in the background. That was taken care of with a slight ND Grad filter. The main focus of the scene was still well in the dark, and I had a hard time getting a shutter speed less than 10 seconds which is very unusual. I finally got an exposure that I could live with, and shot several compositions before deciding I had better move on while the lighting was still favorable.
I found a rock to open the camera bag up on, and put the 24-70mm lens back on with the same polarizer. I mounted it to the tripod which was part in the water and part on a web of roots. I was standing calf deep in the water to be in the right position. When I looked through the viewfinder I found a lot of satisfaction in my location. My first shot, Harmony, included the root system that the camera was set up on, along with the tree they were connected to. The depth of field was not quite what I wanted, but it was passable. What I loved about this shot was the framing from the roots and the swirling water in the pond. I only took one shot here because I honestly didn't think that it would turn out all that great after processing. I should have worked that one a little more than I did. After doing the processing, I could see that I was actually onto something with the composition.
Not sure how the shadow areas would work out, I flipped the camera into portrait orientation and cropped in close to the waterfall. Rocky Passage really filled the frame with what I found so interesting about this particular waterfall. The composition came together quite nicely and showcased not only the waterfall, but the large rocks that created the falls, and the textures of the forest behind it. This is an example of "filling the frame with what you like" being used to the best of my ability. The composition is very succinct and simple. The visual impact is evident, and everything that I wanted to convey is right there with no added elements. This one shot has become my favorite from the morning, and had I gotten no more images, the trip would have been worth while.
With the sun getting closer to the top of the mountain behind me, I decided it was time to pack up and get to moving again. I did my best Spiderman impersonation to get back on the boardwalk, but I'm sure it looked more like a toddler trying to escape a crib. I decided to continue down the trail to the main falls to see if maybe I could work a composition using the boardwalk as a foreground interest. I got about 150 fee from it (still a good deal of climbing) and saw that the sun was already lighting the area directly above the falls. By the time I got there, and got set up, it would be on the top of the falls. There was no need in going any further (and I hate climbing stairs).
I worked my way back down the trail, passing the area where I had just spent an hour working. I was quite satisfied at how the morning was going, and I felt pretty confident that I had a handful of images for the 30 or so frames I had shot. It was looking like that was all I was going to have because the sun was really starting to hit areas around the trail, and that meant that I was going to be out of luck in a very short amount of time. I happened to see a spur off of the trail that went to an observation deck over the stream. Well, there must be a reason for them to have built this, so I went to give it a look.
It wasn't the easiest thing to make a composition that made sense with this set of rapids. I tried a couple of different ideas, but they didn't really make sense. I then decided to concentrate on the repeating (similar) rapids near the tree on the right side. I flipped the camera on its side and framed it up. The two rapids were similar in shape and direction. The smaller one was further away which added to the sense of depth which was important due to the angle I was shooting at. I also found a very small cascade in the upper left of the frame that provided a nice visual balance. The trees over the rapids helped to direct the eyes through the frame by completing a gentle curve started by the first rapids. It wasn't a usual composition for me, but I felt that it made sense, and worked well.
|Lost Within the Textures|
By the time I was done with this scene, the sun was starting to blaze through the trees. There were also a good many hikers starting to appear. My time with the camera had come to an end. I had shot about 40 frames in two hours. Since I was really expecting the sun to ruin my morning, that two hours was a gift, and the 41 images I had shot were all bonuses. I felt really good about what I had shot, and knew that the trip was worth my while. When I sat down to edit them, I was pleasantly surprised at how many good shots I had gotten. My one regret was I didn't spend more time on the composition with the tree and roots. There are a few aspects of that shot I could have improved on, but overall, I am really satisfied with what I have from this trip.
On a side note, it was supposed to be sunny this afternoon. I'm sitting here at the desk at 3:17 looking out at a totally cloudy sky with thunder in the background. Yeah, I could flip a coin and get the weather right more often. Maybe I'll be able to head out here in a few hours and get another couple of shots for the day. It could happen.
Something that you might notice on these images is a new watermark on the images. I have decided to replace my tried and true "© 2017 G. Kiser" with the current stamp on the images. With all of the online sharing going on, I decided I would be better served by putting my web address on the images rather than my name. This will make image sharing much more beneficial to me in the long run, and make it easier to track me down when looking at the pictures. One of my goals after all, is selling prints to help offset the cost of my hobby.
Thanks for dropping by and sharing in my adventures!