As Earth Day has just come and gone, I wanted to reflect back on the past week that I've been so lucky to be in the Land of Waterfalls, namely Transylvania county, NC. This week was predominantly focused on getting out and seeing some old friends like Eastatoe and Looking Glass falls but also getting acquainted with new ones.
If you just want to skip to the pictures, you can see them here. But if you want to experience what I did, keep reading! I admit it's a long one, but there's a lot to see.
Before I get to the report, I first have to mention a few supplies you will need. I said need, not nice to have.
Without his years of hard work and research and others in the community, there are some incredible places you would just drive right past or never know about. Plus he's just an all around nice guy.
If you're getting serious about photographing waterfalls at all, these are required to get off the bank and in the water (where you can safely of course) to get more dramatic photographs. Ansel Adams famously said "A good photograph is knowing where to stand", and tools like these help you accomplish that, to go where the shot is.
The Trip Report
We visited 16 waterfalls this week (whew) and I'll give an update on them below. I was so blessed to have the weather cooperate and give us 5 days of almost solid overcast or light rainy days, perfect for waterfall adventures!
It was also amazing except for 3 falls, we had every single falls to ourselves!
You can either take a very short hike or drive right to Key falls, even though it's on private property. The flow was quite low compared to Kevin's shot , so I explored around for different compositions. The banks had lots of Sweet White Trillium.
|Sweet White TrilliumCanon 5D MKIII, 35mm, 0.8sec, f/11 @ ISO 100||Key FallsCanon 5D MKIII, 20mm, 0.8sec, f/11 @ ISO 100|
Simply one of the best, and a constant thanks should be given to the landowner to let the public park in his yard and see this magnificent falls. The flow was good, and I played with some long lens shots. I arrived one day in late afternoon to find the sun streaming beautiful light across the falls and lighting the mist. This is one of my favorite shots of the trip, reminding me that overcast days don't always make the best waterfall weather. You try to make your own luck, but you work with what you are given and make the most of it.
I returned on an overcast day:
You can also find some spring wildflowers including Wake Robin Trillium around if you look.
Mill shoals / French broad falls
The flow on this convergence of 2 rivers was impressive, especially on Mill Shoals. It's cool to go wide from near the house and get both:
MIll Shoals and French Broad FallsCanon 5D MKIII, 21mm, 1.3sec, f/16 @ ISO 100 As many times as I've been I don't think I've seen Mill Shoals (the left falls) with such good flow, so I wandered in the river to investigate.
Triple Rock Falls
This is just a small rock ledge cascade that's officially unnamed, but's it's so iconic and beautiful I uncreatively call it Triple Rock Falls. It's prettier in the fall but this had some nice flow. Be VERY careful here, the rocks are very slick.
Bird Rock falls
Bird Rock Falls sits in this valley of towering stone, it really is a unique site.
|Bird Rock FallsCanon 5D MKIII, 16mm, 1/8sec, f/13 @ ISO 100||Bird Rock ReflectionsCanon 5D MKIII, 16mm, 2sec, f/16 @ ISO 100|
This falls is hidden down a short scramble on the roadside. It also had lower flow but was still nice.
This was a nice falls that required getting wet as our dog couldn't cross one of log bridges. The hike was pleasant with all the Dogwoods and spring wildflowers. I used my Lee 6-stop Little Stopper ND filter to get my shutter speed long in the sun.
Looking Glass falls
No, I was not alone here, but if you wait long enough people will clear for a short time. I did got some looks from families eating lunch on the bank as I just strolled calmly in the river.
An interesting falls that's pretty much off the road. The water flow was a little low but was still nice. This would be awesome when the rhododendron are blooming.
Cathey's creek falls
A short but moderately steep scramble is all that's required to see this beauty. I again turned to my Lee 6-stop ND to draw out the exposure.
DuPont State Forest - Hooker falls
I've seen Hooker falls prettier in the fall so I didn't stay long. What struck me this trip was the memorial to the 18 year old whose lost his life here in July 2016. The top of the falls was all roped off. Reading news stories, he was just swimming below the falls and became distressed. A very unfortunate reminder of the care that needs to be taken with and around waterfalls, no matter how safe they appear.
DuPont State Forest - Triple falls
The main trail view again to me looks better in the fall, so we explored the base of the middle and lower sections of the falls. All 3 cascades are referred to as Triple Falls. Fall and winter are more impressive for the main overlook.
Triple Falls The lower section is by far the most impressive. The sheer volume of water made it difficult to not blow out and retain detail in the dark surrounding rocks. You climb down some stairs just past the main overlook to the middle section. Again, be very careful, the moss covered rocks are slick.
I found some rocks that made an interesting visual:
Middle section - Triple FallsCanon 5D MKIII, 20mm, 1/15sec, f/11 @ ISO 100 Go back up the stairs and down the hill past the overlook where it flattens out then walk back up the river along the bank to the base of the lower section. WOW! This was the first time I saw this up close. Let your mind go wild with all the photo possibilities. After much scouting around, I thought this was one of the better compositions.
Log hollow falls
I have to say, this was one of my favorite Falls of the trip. Based on Kevin's picture, there's a lot of debris now than there used to be. This required hopping in the creek and getting close. This falls is just awesome. It's easy to get to, it's got a shallow creek to walk in, and it has tons of character. This gives you the ability to work the waterfall from different angles using a wide angle lens and find something you like. I'll try to write up a blog highlighting this.
This one wasn't bad unless you have an elderly 100 lb dog with you. Nonetheless, it is an impressive wall of water with lots of interesting rock formations.
There was a ton of debris here so I had to get closer to get past the huge fallen logs. On the left there is just colorful rock that gave some visual foreground interest for the falls.
Like Log Hollow falls, this is one is super easy and quite impressive. You will feel like you've driven in the woods for hours but it's worth it. This will be stunning and offer perspectives when the rhododendron bloom that line the banks.
Cowee Mountain Overlook - Blue Ridge Parkway
While overcast cloudy rainy days are great for waterfalls, they don't give you beautiful sunsets. But one night after hitting Dill and Courthouse falls, we hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway and made a b-line for Cowee. It didn't disappoint (does it ever?). It gave a chance to put my 100-400 version 2 through its' paces.