Shore Styers Mill Park

Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Shacktown Falls

I'll go ahead and say that this morning didn't really go as planned.  The subject that I was most excited to photograph didn't pan out at all.  Since I was going in to work late, I decided to take the time and try to shoot a sunrise.  When it comes to the edge of light photography near home, I have to be a little cautious since there are very few places that offer nice visual anchors, have no street lights, and don't have the horizon blocked too much.  With a potentially good sunrise being forecasted, I thought that I would try my luck with an idea that I've had for a while.  There is a nice little barn just off of Union Cross Rd which I've shot several times in the daylight.  It is situated where the background is to the East.  The sun has just recently moved to the position of the sky that would be directly in the background.  The timing was perfect for this shot.

I got up a little earlier than normal so that I could be at the barn in plenty of time to get set up for the sunrise.  As I pulled onto the road where I was going to park, the sky behind the barn was starting to light up and it looked like I was going to have a decent sunrise.  My happiness was quickly dashed as I realized that there was a 53' semi trailer backed up to the main opening of the barn.  That successfully screwed up my entire shot.  I paused for a moment to take the scene it.  It was workable...without the trailer that is.  I decided to abandon this location for the day and try again later.

I spent the next 30 minutes driving around aimlessly looking for something to put under the sky.  I wasn't able to find anything before it was too late.  The sunrise was colorful, but not overly dramatic.  That helped to ease the disappointment in the morning's failure.  The sun was now right at the horizon and I had to decide what to do next.

My original plan to go go to Shore Styers Mill Park and try to work the waterfall there.  This had been kind of the "B" plan as my hopes were all tied up with the barn that I was going to shoot.  I have been to this waterfall a handful of times and have found it pretty, but difficult to shoot.  There is a lot of graffiti around the shore lines and it is kind of difficult to get into position to shoot it.  I was almost going to give up on that location before I even got there.  However, when I started trying to decide where to go next, I didn't have any real options, and the clouds were looking great for waterfall photography.

Yadkin's Jewel
The trip out to the falls didn't take long at all since it was right off of the highway.  I was pleased to see that there were no other cars in the parking area.  As I pulled in things didn't quite seem right though.  I could see the waterfall much better from the parking area than I had been able to see before.  It also appeared that there had been some trails actually cut into the landscape to get to the falls where before it had been more of a scramble to get down to the base of the falls.  The observation deck was long since gone, but there was no remnants left behind like I had remembered from my last trip here.  In short, it looked like Yadkin County Parks and Rec had really done a lot of improvements here.  When I looked at the nearly perfect water flow over the rocks, I was immediately at peace with my decision to come here and was quickly forgetting the early morning barn fail.

I have to admit, the trail down to the falls was nice with steps and everything.  Once I got down to the creek, I noticed that a lot of the brush had been cleared away along the shore.  There was a lot less graffiti in the area, but I could still see "AMANDA" sprayed on the opposing shore.  This has been here since my first time ten years ago or so.  Regardless, I was seeing so many opportunities, and I had a clear path to get up to the falls without having to fight my way there.  I got my camera out and left the 70-200mm lens attached since I knew I would be shooting isolations as well as possibly a panorama.  I added the Singh-Ray Color Combo Polarizer and I was off!

A Step Ahead
I started to shoot some basic compositions and realized that they all lacked inspiration.  There was one section of the waterfall that really caught my eye, so I started to shoot some isolations with that small section.  As I was framing up the shot, I started to think about doing a sweep of the main portion of the waterfall as a panorama.  I leveled the tripod and did a mock sweep to check the composition and exposure before shooting an eight shot series.  As I reviewed the images, I realized that the rising sun had started to change the lighting causing parts of the waterfall to burn out.  I reset the camera and lowered the exposure a bit by stopping down the lens.  This gave me more depth of field so I was fine with that.

The second panorama series turned out to be nine shots total, and it appeared to have turned out wonderful.  When I got it home and stitched the images together, my suspicions were right.  This was a great image, and by far my favorite from this waterfall.  It was partially due to the clearing that had been done in the park, so I'm very appreciative for their efforts with that.

With the success of my panorama (or my hope at success at the time), I was really motivated to create some great images at this waterfall.  I grabbed the camera and started to move closer to the waterfall.  There is a very shallow section on the left edge that allows you to climb onto the rocks to get some unique views.  Even though I was up close and personal on this waterfall, I opted to keep my long lens attached.  That allowed me to really get some great isolations, and my bag was back on the sandy shore some 50 feet away.  I didn't regret not having the bag as everything that I wanted to capture I was able to do with the 70-200mm.

What a Rush
One of my favorite compositions came from this vantage point within the waterfall.  I shot across the entire thing to get the far edge which had some great rocky features to it.  The direction of the water combined with the alternating diagonal element from the rocks made for a very dynamic image.  As a nice little surprise, I got a bit colorful water at the base which framed the bottom of the image so well.  This waterfall has always been about isolations for me, and this one here is one of my all time favorites for capturing the pure power of the water here.

By this time I had shot pretty much each section several different ways from each location.  I was feeling like I had everything that I needed from this waterfall and was feeling very good about how the morning had unfolded.  I had been here about an hour at this point, and for a single subject under perfect lighting, that was plenty of time to work out what I was wanting to get.  It was time to call it a day and head on to the next location.

South Deep Creek
Well, you know me....there is always time for one more image.  As I was starting to put the camera up, I noticed the small cascades downstream from the waterfall.  I started looking for compositions that I could do to isolate those little cascades.  I made my way down stream a little bit but couldn't really find anything that I thought would make for a dramatic image.  However, I was starting to see a bit of connection between the cascades and the main waterfall.  Thanks to the recent clearing, I was able to get in a good position to capture the cascades as a foreground element.  I chose to capture the more voluminous section of the waterfall as the background.  The reflections in the creek made for a great midground as well.

I shot a few different compositions, but in the end it was this simplistic one that held the most visual impact.  It was one of the last few of the 56 images that I shot for the day.  I was done at this point, and ready for the next adventure.  I went ahead and packed up the camera.

Once I got back to the truck, my intention was to go and hunt for rural scenery since I was in Yadkin County.  I started to drive around and noted that the light was still very good, and there was even some good detail in the sky.  However, I was having to start looking at the time so that I didn't get caught too far away from work when it was time to go in.  Now that I was seeing a time crunch, my creativity was starting to wane, and after such a successful session with the waterfall, I was actually a little creatively exhausted.  With all of those factors working against me, I decided to go on home to be with Toni for a bit before work and to maybe get the images processed.  

I actually had about 2.5 hours to work with when I got home, and I made use of every bit of that to get these images ready for print.  I am so glad that I went out this morning after seeing how the images turned out.  After my last trek in the rain, I was feeling a little down about my photography, so this was the perfect time to have a successful session.  These images are much more what I expect from myself, and they speak much clearer than the woodland intimates from a couple of days ago.

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