Fall at Widows Creek Falls

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Have I had a week!!!!  I had three different activations to work between Friday and Saturday.  This counted for 22 hours worked starting Friday at 7:30pm and ending Sunday morning at 4:30am.  My weekend consisted of a Sunday where I had to get ready to go back to work on Monday, and sleep to recover from a 14 hour night shift.  Needless to say, the plan was not to go out for any pictures at all.

Well, when I woke up around lunch time on Sunday, I started thinking about what I could do to recover from working so much.  I figured a little bit of time in the mountains would be beneficial.  The only problem was I didn't really have the time to commit to a mountain trek, and I knew that there would be gobs of people along the Parkway since this was peak weekend for most of the Blue Ridge.  Instead, I decided that I would rather go somewhere a little closer to home where I could take advantage of the clouds and rainy weather.  Hanging Rock was my go to, but I have been there a bunch recently.  The next option was Stone Mountain where I hadn't been recently, and haven't seen Widow's Creek Falls since January.  I was on the fence about going, so I asked Sierra if she wanted to go for a little hike in the mountains.  She agreed, saying it beat sitting at home.  She was right.

Golden Falls
When we arrived, we made the short hike to the waterfall and she started to set up her camera after finding a place kind of close to the falls.  It had been some time since she had worked with the camera and took a little getting used to before things became natural for her again.  While she was getting used to her camera once again, I started looking for a composition.  The waterflow was very low so I wasn't all that interested in capturing the entire waterfall.  There wasn't much color in the trees, so that made it natural to just skip that composition altogether.  Instead, I started working on isolating what excited me about the waterfall.  That was the section at the bottom left which had some very interesting voids in the rock that made for great cascades.

I fitted my 70-200mm lens and added a Singh Ray Polarizer to reduce the glare.  That combination, along with the light was giving me between eight and ten seconds worth of exposure.  That worked out great for the speed of the water.  I started to work my composition and found that I was able to get in pretty close to the waterfall and frame a tight shot of the area.  I've done a composition similar to this before, but it was void of color due to the lighting and lack of freshly fallen leaves.  My intention was to really accentuate the Autumn hues in this, so I got the camera at a height that would give me the best reflection in the water.  I set the white balance to give everything a warm glow, and fired the shutter.  I was pretty happy with how it turned out in the LCD, but I wasn't sure how the colors would look since I was looking at a desaturated, low contrast RAW capture in the LCD.  It wasn't until I got home and processed it in Lightroom that I was able to see that I captured just what I was after.

Alleghany Woodland
While Sierra was still working on some different compositions, I started to pick out other areas that I wanted to photograph.  One of these areas was the woodland on the other side of the pool.  I still had my long lens attached, and I needed it for the composition that I was after.  I went with a full 200mm focal length and composed an image around two trees that stood out from the rest.  The idea with this image was to capture a scene that was pretty representative of the woods in North Carolina.  For the most part they are not all that orderly, and there is a lot of different types of plants just growing randomly.  Having the stark trees as an anchor helps to provide a little bit of order to the chaotic scene that I captured.  I would have loved for there to be some Fall colors here, but I'm pretty happy with the different shades of green as they are not long for this world.  There was a tad of orange to the right that helped to set the time of year for this image.

It wasn't long before Sierra was done and packing up her gear.  She was not quite finished, however, and wanted to do some more hiking.  Well, I knew of a nice little trail nearby that lead to an old chimney in the woods that I thought she would have fun with.  The hike was not quite a mile by my estimate, but it was pretty steep so she wasn't too happy with me.  We did find the old chimney, but it wasn't all that great in my eyes this time.  Sierra had fun working it though.

While she was doing her thing, I started looking at the trees, and found a pretty cool design in one of them back toward the trail.  I got the camera back out and left the 70-200mm lens on as well as the polarizer.  I started to frame the scene up and found that the branches of the tree fit the 4x6 ratio almost perfectly.  I worked out the exposure and shot the scene.

Early Autumn Tree
What I really liked about this scene was that you could see some of the early Fall colors starting to appear as yellows and golds.  There was also another tree in the distance that stood out and happened to be framed by the tree that I was shooting.  From a compositional aspect, this was going very well.  There was a slight backlight to the leaves, but it was faint due to the clouds.  In fact, there was a little bit of drizzle falling at the time I shot this image.  

I tried to work the old chimney, but I just couldn't get anything that I really liked.  The one tree was what I got excited about, and what I decided would be the representation of that location.  Sierra got several different pictures of the chimney, and started to learn a little about isolating elements using a long focal length.  She didn't fully grasp the idea until she saw my interpretation of the scene and the light bulb clicked on.  I'm sure that she will incorporate this into her next trek.

When I got home and started to process the pictures from the day, I was exceedingly happy with the intimate portrait of Widow's Creek Falls, and loved the textures, and the contrast as much as I liked the colors in the composition.  I was pretty sure that the scene would stand on its own without the colors after processing it.  To be honest, I had also envisioned it as a black and white when I had originally shot it.  The color was just too good to overlook, but now that I was home, I could do the conversion and see what I had.

Rain on Me
I started the conversion and immediately saw the potential.  I tweaked the tonal values to add a bunch more contrast to the scene and found that the monochrome version was pretty cool!  The total feel of the image changed, and the original title no longer fit this image.  Because this image was so far and away different, I decided (as I rarely will) to give this conversion a different title.  I think that it deserves it due to the differences between the moods.  I'm not sure which I like better, but both of them represent the strongest images from the day.

I shot 38 frames while I was at Stone Mountain (Sierra shot 37), and ended up coming home with these four keepers.  I'm very happy about that since I wasn't even going to go out today.  I got my rest and recovery from the weekend while recharging in the mountains, and spending time with my daughter.  Can't go wrong with that plan no matter how you look at it.

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