Posted by: kerryl29 | October 21, 2014

The Canadian Rockies, Day Two: Lake O’Hara

Ah, Lake O’Hara…perhaps the most frustrating photographic experience of my life…

Some background information is necessary.  Back in May, when I was finalizing the timing for this trip to the Canadian Rockies, I scheduled the first eight days at Lake Louise and Jasper; the final 5-6 days were to be spent on a photo tour centered in David Thompson Country, led by Royce Howland (much more on the tour later in this series).  While I was in the process of trying to prioritize daily shooting options while staying in Lake Louise–I knew I had far more that I wanted to do than time in which to do it–I asked Royce if he had any suggestions.  He threw me a curve ball by recommending something that hadn’t been on the menu–a day trip to Lake O’Hara.

I hadn’t been familiar with Lake O’Hara–which is located just across the provincial border from Lake Louise, in Yoho National Park in British Columbia–up to that point, but Royce described it as “one of the crown jewels of the Canadian Rockies.”  When a photographer with decades of experience in the region (Royce) makes a statement like this, someone who doesn’t know his a** from his elbow with regard to the area (me) should sit up and take notice…so I did.

Royce warned me that access to the Lake O’Hara area was highly limited and that securing permission to enter was–I’ll be generous–a bit convoluted.  Lake O’Hara lies at the end of a road, roughly seven miles in length, that is closed to private vehicles.  There is no formal limit to the number of people who can hike into the area–the length of the hike (it’s all uphill–imagine doing that with a heavy pack full of gear–I figure it’s a 2-3 hour proposition) is limitation enough.  But you can gain access–for up to three days–by securing a reservation on a bus, which makes a round trip run from the parking area four times daily, for a relatively modest fee.  There is a campground up there, and a lodge–which runs its own shuttle.  (The lodge runs $500 CN per night, with a minimum two-night stay–yeah, I had the same reaction.)

So, if you want to go up there for the day, you can ride up on the bus as early as 8:30 AM and come back as late as 6:30 PM, which gives you a nice, solid 10 hours on the ground.  The only hang up?  The number of people allowed into the area is so highly restricted (to protect the fragile alpine environment) that you must call exactly three months to the day that you want to access the area in order to have a chance to secure a spot.  So, for a reservation in late September, I had to call in late June.  Oh, and the phone call?  The line doesn’t open until 9 AM (Mountain Time) and if you don’t get through to a person by 10 AM, you can basically forget it (the reservation space will be eaten up).  Oh, and there’s no sitting on hold–if you don’t get through to the sole person answering the only phone, you get a busy signal and you have to try again.  If this sounds like something from the era of Leave It To Beaver, it should.

To make a long story modestly less long, I decided that September 24–my first full day, and one of only two full days I was due to spend in the area–was the day to shoot for (if you’ll pardon the pun), so I dutifully made my call at 10 AM (Central Time) on June 24…and failed to get through…again and again and again.  I must have hit redial at least 300 times and finally, after about 50 minutes, I got something other than a busy signal.  I literally obtained the last seat on the 8:30 bus for September 24.  Hooray.

A bit of foreshadowing: at some point during the summer, when I was thinking about the then-upcoming trip, I thought to myself that the one thing that I hoped to avoid on the day of the Lake O’Hara visit was an all-day rain.

About five days before I was due to fly to Calgary–roughly one week before Lake O’Hara Day–I started checking the weather forecast for the Lake Louise area.  You know what’s coming.  At first, the forecast was calling for a chance of showers…or, at one point, a chance of morning showers.  From that point, I checked the forecast daily and every day, it seemed to get a bit worse.  By Sunday–the day before my flight, three days before Lake O’Hara–the forecast was simply “rain.”  And it stayed that way.  By the evening of Tuesday the 23rd–the day I drove from Calgary to Lake Louise Village, and the day before Lake O’Hara–the forecast was calling for a 70-80% chance of rain the next day.  Great.

I woke up well before dawn on the 24th, quickly got my things together and headed outside in the pitch dark.  To my surprise it wasn’t raining.  With my hopes up just a tad, I got in the car.  It takes about two minutes to drive from the parking lot of the motel I was staying at to the Trans Canada Highway for the 10-15 minute drive west to the Lake O’Hara parking area.  Before I reached the highway, the windshield was streaked with rain drops.  And, unfortunately, that was to be the story the rest of the day.

A light rain fell all the way during the drive to the parking area.  It continued to rain as I sat in the car, waiting for the light to come up.  It was still raining when I meandered over to the bus loading area, to hand in my reservation form.  It rained while I sat on the bus, waiting for it to depart.  It rained all the way on the ride up to Lake O’Hara.  It rained as I hit the trail.  And it never stopped all day long.  I mean that literally.  At no point during the entire day, did the rain stop.  Once or twice it was very light…but it never completely stopped and most of the time it oscillated between a light steady rain and a moderate steady rain.  On occasion, the wind picked up, just to add to the misery index.

The attraction, photographically, of a trip to Lake O’Hara isn’t necessarily the lake itself.  Don’t get me wrong, Lake O’Hara is quite pretty, but it isn’t obviously nicer than many other alpine lakes in the Canadian Rockies.  No, the appeal is the opportunity to take one of a number of trails that emanate from Lake O’Hara.  Of these trails, the one that sounded the most appealing to me when I was planning the trip was the Opabin Circuit.  This trail loops around part of Lake O’Hara and then climbs up to the Opabin Plateau, which lies to the southeast, past several small lakes to the edge of Opabin Lake which sits below several glaciers, and then loops around the same group of lakes back toward Lake O’Hara.  The Opabin Plateau sits hundreds of feet above the valley that includes Lake O’Hara, so it’s necessary to climb up, and then down.  The circuit is roughly five miles in length, but contains many side routes that the hiker can take that will lengthen the trek.

One of the appeals of the Opabin Plateau was the opportunity to traverse a series of larch groves.  The larch is the only coniferous tree species that sheds its needles each year.  In the fall, the needles turn a bright golden color before falling off.  I’d seen pictures of larches in the fall and I really wanted to see this phenomenon for myself.

And so, I dragged my sorry behind, through the constant rain, up to the Opabin Plateau.  I ended up being on the ground in the area for about 6 1/2 hours.  Even though I had dressed for the occasion, I still got drenched, as did my gear.

I know of a number of people who claim that they enjoy photographing in the rain.  Obviously these people are suffering from one of several serious mental defects, because I’m here to tell you that it’s a miserable experience.  Off-and-on rain is annoying, but workable.  Extremely light rain–drizzle, say–can be dealt with.  Steady rain, in a place utterly devoid of shelter (e.g. the Opabin Plateau) is another thing entirely.  It’s almost impossible to keep the front lens element (or filter) dry, which makes picture taking unpleasant at best.  It’s also nearly impossible to change lenses.  And, if your equipment–cameras and lenses–aren’t weather-sealed, shooting is basically a non-starter.

On this day, over 6 1/2 hours in the field, I created a grand total of 12 unique shots.  12.  Two of those 12 were basically grab shots, and a third was essentially ruined because I was evidently in such a hurry to get the camera out of the rain that I goofed up my focus settings and ended up with a soft foreground.  The other nine shots accompany this entry.

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

What made the experience especially frustrating, however wasn’t just the weather and its implications on photography.  No, the most important factor was the fact that the Opabin Plateau may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life.  There were countless photo opportunities.  If the weather had just been lousy instead of something approaching a worst case scenario, I might still be up there setting up shots.  If the weather had actually been good

East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hopefully the images I’ve included here provide some semblance of the jaw-dropping beauty of the place.  With everything soaking wet, the colors were naturally heavily saturated.  There was a golden color to both the larch trees and the grasses (which were already in the early stages of dormancy, with winter approaching).  Even with the flat light, lousy visibility and the relative lack of reflections (a function of the wind blowing ripples on the lake surfaces), I think you can get a sense of what I was seeing with every step I took, in every direction I cast a glance.

Hungabee Lake from the East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake from the East Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Since producing images was such an unpleasant task, I only took the camera out when I told myself “I simply have to take a shot of this.”

Hungabee and Cascade Lakes from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee and Cascade Lakes from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

I can only imagine what the place would have looked like with anything approaching a clear vista, in any direction.

Hungabee Lake from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake from the West Opabin Trail, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

My discovery of an inlet stream to Hungabee Lake and the ensuing cascades and waterfalls was one of those “I have to get a shot” (or in this case, two) situations.

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake Inlet Stream, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Hungabee Lake Inlet Stream, Opabin Plateau, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Lying at the northern end of the Opabin Plateau is a rocky outcropping called the Opabin Prospect.  It overlooks the valley including Lake O’Hara and, even with the wind blowing rain in my face, I had to figure out some kind of way to get out to the edge and produce one image.

Mary Lake and Lake O'Hara from the Opabin Prospect, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara from the Opabin Prospect, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

On my descent back to the valley, via the West Opabin Trail, I photographed the valley lakes from a slightly different perspective.

Mary Lake and Lake O'Hara from the West Opabin Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara from the West Opabin Trail, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

By the time I reached the valley floor–still about a mile short of the Le Relais shelter, which doubles as the Lake O’Hara bus depot, the rain had hardened.  It was now mid-afternoon, and I had decided to take the next bus out (4:30 PM–I had a good, solid hour wait); I’d abandoned any plans to photograph around Lake O’Hara, given how cold and wet it was.  It was a good call on my part, because not five minutes after I reached the shelter it started to really pour.  For the next 90-odd minutes the rain alternated between hard and steady and outright downpour.  The steady rain continued on the ride back to the parking area and all the way back to Lake Louise…and as far as I know, didn’t stop until some time well after dark.

I spent a good chunk of the evening using a hair dryer to dry out my backpack, hiking boots, and articles of clothing.

It had been an interesting day.  The conditions (as I have undoubtedly demonstrated) were awful, but the place itself had been mind-blowing.  I was left with the knowledge that I’d had my only crack at it.  (I later found out that the next day–the only other day that it had been an option to secure a reservation–was a rerun in terms of all-day rain–which shocked me because I spent the day in and around Moraine Lake and Lake Louise and it didn’t rain at all.)  I was left to ponder the means by which I could return to Lake O’Hara some day, in an attempt to give the place its photographic due through my eyes.

Next:  Day 3 – Moraine Lake, Saddleback Pass and Takakkaw Falls

Posted by: kerryl29 | October 14, 2014

The Canadian Rockies, Day 1: Bow Valley Parkway

Late afternoon on Monday, September 22 I boarded a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare airport destined for Calgary, Alberta.  The flight didn’t arrive until 8 PM local time and after going through customs, a delayed delivery of luggage and picking up a rental car, I didn’t clear the airport until well after 9 PM.  After staying overnight at an airport hotel, I hit the road shortly before sunrise the following morning (Tuesday, Sept. 23) for the 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive to Lake Louise Village.  Thus began my nearly two-week-long adventure in the Canadian Rockies.

Aspens, Fireside Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspens, Fireside Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

I’ve wanted to visit the Canadian Rockies, camera gear in tow, for as long as I can remember.  I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen, but a series of events made it possible this autumn.  I began seriously planning the trip in May–four months in advance of departure.  I timed the visit to coincide with the fall color season–essentially, aspens and golden larch–and I wanted to make the most of my time on site.  Two weeks (parts of 13 days, to be exact) sounds like a lot of time for a photographic location, and in a sense it is, but when you’re in a place as sizable and rich in photographic potential as the Canadian Rockies, it’s remarkable how brief a period it really is.

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Overlook, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Overlook, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was a mostly cloudy day as I drove west from Calgary toward the town of Banff.  Just as I entered the southern perimeter of Banff National Park, it started to rain–hard.  But as I kept driving, the rain stopped in short order and the skies partially cleared.

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Trunks Black & White, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Trunks Black & White, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Just north of Banff, the southern terminus of the Bow Valley Parkway intersects the Trans-Canada Highway.  The parkway essentially connects Banff and Lake Louise Village on a low speed (60 kmh) two-lane road that provides direct access to numerous scenic locations and trails.  My plan was to scout/shoot along the parkway, as conditions permitted, the rest of the morning and first part of the afternoon.  I couldn’t check in at my motel at Lake Louise Village until at least 3 PM, but I did want to scout Lake Louise, Morraine Lake and a few other locations before dark that day, due to my pre-planned itinerary.  I was to stay in the Lake Louise area through the morning of Friday, Sept. 26, but one of those days had already been earmarked for Lake O’Hara, at nearby Yoho National Park, across the border in British Columbia.  (Much more on Lake O’Hara in a future installment.)  So, there wasn’t a lot of time to experience all the richness of the Lake Louise area; I was determined to do as much as I could along the Bow Valley Parkway.  My main guide was Darwin Wiggett’s e-book, How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies:  Banff National Park.  (I purchased and made heavy use of four of Darwin’s destination e-books and I highly recommend them if you’re planning on photographing in the region.)

Aspen Leaves and Rocks, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Leaves and Rocks, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

My first stop was less than a mile down the parkway (which runs approximately 30 miles in all)–the Fireside Picnic Area.  I shot along a creek that was just steps from the picnic parking area and then wandered perhaps 1/2 mile down a trail, and photographed a bit in the forest along the path before returning to the parking area and moseyed a few miles down the parkway to the Muleshoe Picnic Area.  I spent more time here–both shooting in the forest alongside the picnic area and then on the seldom used Muleshoe Trail, which begins across the parkway from the picnic area of the same name.

Outlet Stream, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Outlet Stream, Fireside Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

The main attraction to the picnic area itself, in my view, is the beautiful aspen forest that surrounds it. and with mostly cloudy skies still the order of the day, I had the perfect soft light with which to photograph it.

Aspen Trunks, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Trunks, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Forest, Muleshoe Picnic Area, Banff National Park, Alberta

The Muleshoe Trail runs through an old forest burn area and then up a fairly steep slope.  Eventually, it reaches the foot of an open meadow and runs straight up a very steep, uncluttered slope–and I do mean straight up; there isn’t even the hint of a switchback.  I forced myself up this extremely precarious trail because I could see that there would be some terrific views of the Bow Valley–including the muleshoe of the Bow River–below.  Despite the difficult footing and what felt like a 45-degree slope I kept pushing myself to climb higher, because it promised a better perspective with each step.  Finally, I reached a spot that allowed me to formulate the composition I wanted.  It was difficult just to put my backpack on the ground and keep it from rolling all the way down the slope.  Propping up the tripod–and myself–on the steep slope to produce the shot was even more difficult, but I managed to do it.

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Muleshoe from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

When I descended to flatter ground, I found some areas where I could use a telephoto lens to produce some patterned shots of the mixed aspen-coniferous forest in the river valley below.

Aspens and Conifers from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspens and Conifers from the Muleshoe Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

After returning to the parking area I headed back down the road for the location along the parkway I had been most intrigued by after reading the e-book–Hillsdale Meadows.  This open meadow with stands of golden aspen and mountain peak backdrops with the now-partly cloudy sky accent was postcard perfect and I wandered in with my backpack and tripod and set up shop for awhile.

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Twins, Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Twins, Hillsdale Meadows, Banff National Park, Alberta

From here, I made the trek to my last planned location along the parkway this afternoon–Castle Mountain.  I wanted to at least scout the location–along the Bow River, with the distinctive mountain peak as a backdrop–and shoot it if conditions allowed.  Unfortunately, the weather was deteriorating a bit and there was no light on the peak at all.  I did shoot, briefly, along a tributary to the Bow River, just downstream from the bridge that abuts the main shooting location for the mountain itself, but it started to rain while I was there, so I just managed a single shot and then trudged back to the car.  It was now pushing 4 PM, so I decided to check in to the motel and, if it stopped raining, do the rest of my scouting.

Bow River Tributary, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Tributary, Banff National Park, Alberta

By the time I got to the motel at Lake Louise Village it had indeed stopped raining, so after checking in I went back to the car and drove straight to Lake Louise itself, about five miles away.  This had been one of the iconic locations I had really wanted to see and, while the lake itself was quite pretty, the atmosphere there isn’t the best.  The place was just inundated with tourists, many of whom were undoubtedly staying at the Chateau Lake Louise, a huge hotel just steps away from the lake itself.  I wandered around a bit and made a few images, a couple of which I’ve included here, but on balance I was disappointed.  It was just too touristy for me, and after less than an hour I headed off to Morraine Lake for a quick scout.  I still needed to make my way over to Yoho National Park to locate the Lake O’Hara parking area, where I’d have to be early the next morning (more on this next time).

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

I did check out Morraine Lake, but didn’t do any shooting.  It was now completely overcast and the point of my visit was to scout the location for a probable morning shoot on either Thursday or Friday (or both).  I immediately saw why the place is so widely acclaimed.  It’s difficult to describe the experience of seeing Morraine Lake for the first time and I’ll let some images in future installments do the talking for me.  Suffice to say that I was seriously impressed.

Boaters on Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Boaters on Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta

I then rushed back to the access road.  It was less than an hour until sunset (or dark–there would be no real sunset on this cloudy day) as I made my way back to the Trans-Canada and drove approximately 10 miles, across the provincial line into British Columbia to the Lake O’Hara parking area–which was easily found.  Having located the following morning’s destination, I quickly headed to the Yoho Valley Road to try to make a couple of quick images along the Kicking Horse River before I lost the light completely.  And so I did, donning my rubber boots and descending to the edge of the raging river, to produce the below shot, which I like best in black and white.  The shutter was clicked just moments before it was so dark that I could no longer see to focus.

Kicking Horse River Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Kicking Horse River Black & White, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

That brought to an end the first day I experienced in the Canadian Rockies.  Day 2 was to be spent at Lake O’Hara back in Yoho National Park.  This was something I had been looking forward to for months.  Now if only the weather would cooperate…

Day 2:  Scenic Nemesis – Lake O’Hara and the Opabin Plateau

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 17, 2014

A Pinpoint of Light

Those of you who read this blog regularly–and thank you for doing so, not incidentally–are aware of the fruits of my May trip to Hocking Hills in southeast Ohio.  What you almost certainly aren’t aware of is the fact that the trip to Hocking Hills was the last time I was out in the field with my camera…until this past weekend.  The reasons for the nearly four-month-long hiatus are manifold and, frankly, not very interesting, so I won’t bore you with the details.  Regardless, I felt a strong need to work with the camera in the field.

Why?

On Monday, September 22, I’ll board a plane for Calgary, Alberta to start a nearly two-week-long trip to the Canadian Rockies.

My parents honeymooned in Banff National Park more than 50 years ago, roughly four years before I was born, and one of the things they brought back was a painting of Lake Louise that they had purchased, on the spot.  I saw that painting countless times growing up (I saw it again, most recently, a few weeks ago), and it depicted a place I always wanted to see with my own eyes.  In fact, it’s possible that this painting had a subconscious impact on my own connection to the landscape;  I’m not certain.  But, in any event, I’m going to have the opportunity to do just that (i.e. see Lake Louise), finally, after all these years.

It seemed to me to be nothing short of absurd to head off on what will be, by leaps and bounds, the most exotic photo trip of my life to date after failing to interact with my equipment for more than four months, so early Saturday evening, when I was in Indianapolis, I headed off to Eagle Creek Park to go through the important exercise of seeing the landscape…and, not incidentally, to tangibly work with the camera.  Call it a refresher course of sorts.  My wife accompanied me, and brought Kiko, our 10 1/2 month old collie puppy, along for the ride.

We parked the car, I pulled out my backpack and tripod and we trudged off on a trail in the park that I’d never explored prior to this visit.

 

Cloud Reflections, Eagle Creek Reservoir, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Cloud Reflections, Eagle Creek Reservoir, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

The point of this time in the field–which didn’t last more than an hour–was pragmatic, but it turned out to be much more than that.  It was a reminder of why I spend time in the field with camera gear in tow in the first place.

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

You might think I wouldn’t–or shouldn’t–need such a reminder, and I would agree with that assessment, particularly given that I’ve written about this very thing before…right here, on this blog.  But for some reason, it seems that I periodically do require this smack in the back of the head.  And after just a few moments on site, the purpose was effectively served.

It didn’t take very long before I was essentially lost in what I was doing, which is a major part of the exercise.

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

During this time, I took no more than a half a dozen unique images–most of which accompany this entry–but I still managed, I later realized, to use every lens in my bag (except the macro lens), from ultra wide angle to telephoto.  I regarded this as a good sign–it meant I was seeing the landscape this day with an open mind, free of any preconceived bias.  I was, in effect, taking what the landscape was giving me, something I regard as very important when I’m in an unfamiliar place…be it that trail at Eagle Creek or the Canadian Rockies (a place I’ve never been).

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

Eagle Creek Reservoir at Sunset, Eagle Creek Park, Marion County, Indiana

This will probably be my last blog entry prior to my trip to the Canadian Rockies.  For those of you interested I’ll be spending some time in Yoho National Park in British Columbia and Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta.  For the first week or so during my time there I’ll be shooting on my own.  The final six days I’ll be part of a small photo tour (not a workshop) led by Royce Howland, a Calgary-based landscape photographer with encyclopedic knowledge of the region.  I return to the Chicago area on October 6 and I will undoubtedly be relating my trip experiences on this blog in the ensuing weeks and months.

“See” you in October.

Posted by: kerryl29 | September 2, 2014

Hocking Hills Day 5 – The Final Morning

I had one last morning to shoot at Hocking Hills and I decided to spend that time tying up some loose ends–obtaining shots that I’d seen earlier in my stay but hadn’t been able to pull off for one reason or another.  So, I headed back to the Old Man’s Cave area one final time.  Each morning during my time in southeast Ohio it had been quite humid, but on this final morning it was really humid.  I knew that low-lying fog was a possibility and, sure enough, as I drove to the park I ran into some, in the vicinity of a farmstead that I’d admired several times while making the journey to or from Old Man’s Cave.  I stopped and took a quick shot, as a tiny bit of warmth from the rising sun penetrated the fog.

Farm in Morning Fog, Hocking County, Ohio

Farm in Morning Fog, Hocking County, Ohio

When I arrived at the Old Man’s Cave parking lot it was empty, as usual.  I quickly made my way to Middle Falls.  There was a shot that I’d found on my first day at Hocking Hills but couldn’t execute successfully that day.  I’d set up on that evening and, after waiting for nearly 30 minutes, gave up.  The shot required an ultra-wide angle lens–in my case, the 14-24/2.8–which meant an extremely broad field of view and that day, with copious activity in the area, people kept walking into the shot–through no fault of their own.  I realized, after a bit of frustration, that it simply wasn’t realistic to try to obtain the shot when the park was crowded.  The people who were getting into the shot couldn’t possibly have seen what I was doing, so they were straying into my frame without knowing it.  I decided that I’d have to return when the area was empty–as it was this morning.  So, again I placed myself in between two very large fallen logs that were pointing towards the Middle Falls, carefully adjusted my position, and produced the shot you see below.

Middle Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Middle Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After obtaining the above shot, I made my way down to the Lower Falls area.  I’d done a bit of work there earlier, but this time I had my rubber boots on and waded well into the pool below the falls to investigate some different perspectives.

Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I wandered all the way to the right-hand side of the pool and played with several different foreground elements.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I then moved around toward the left-hand side to procure another shot or two.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

When I was finished in the Lower Falls area, it was still early enough to do a bit more exploring, so–for the first time–I made my downstream from the Lower Falls.  As I was wandering down the trail I heard the unmistakable sound of falling water.  I waded across the shallows of Old Man’s Creek and found a mostly overgrown trail heading up a steep hillside, and I saw clear signs of runoff as I climbed up the trail.  About halfway up, I noticed some interesting ferns and made a note to stop at the spot on the way back down.

The sound of the running water grew stronger as I moved up the heavily forested trail and, after a few minutes, I caught a glimpse of a waterfall.  I had to do some rock hopping to get a better look.  I was intrigued by what I saw, and poked around to gain an even better look.  What I saw, when I climbed on top of a very large boulder, was a tall, narrow rock slot, with water pouring down it.  It took some manipulating, but I was able to prop up my tripod and obtain the look I was after.

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I later discovered that this waterfall had a name–Broken Rock Falls.  I hadn’t heard of this waterfall when I was doing research on Hocking Hills, but I was extremely glad that I had stumbled across it on this morning.  I converted the above shot to black and white to better emphasize the shapes and textures.

Broken Rock Falls black & white, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Broken Rock Falls black & white, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

While still atop the boulder, I turned around and looked behind me.  I saw a glen, thick with forest growth.  I also saw the fog–which hadn’t been present around Middle or Lower Falls, but seemed to stick to the trees, plants and moss-covered rocks.  It was an enchanting scene, reminiscent, at least to me, of the “magical hollow” shot I’d made on Day 3.

Misty Glen, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Misty Glen, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

As I backtracked on the trail, I first stopped to take a shot of Broken Rock Falls at the spot from which I’d first glimpsed the cataract.

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Broken Rock Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Finally, I returned to the intimate scene with the ferns that I’d spotted on the way up.

Ferns and Rocks, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Ferns and Rocks, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

And with that, my photo journey at Hocking Hills came to an end.  It had been a very productive last day, with the fortunate discovery of Broken Rock Falls–and its environs–added to the shots of the features with which I was already familiar.  All in all, it had been a revealing trip to southeast Ohio and I hope to return to this area at some point in the future.

I hope you enjoyed my presentation as much as I enjoyed sharing it.  In case you missed the earlier entries in this series, the links below will take you straight there.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 19, 2014

Hocking Hills: Day 4

I’d spent quite a bit of time in the Old Man’s Cave section of Hocking Hills during the first two days of my time in the area.  During the limited opportunities I had on the evening of Day 1, I had noted several potentially interesting shots, but was limited in my ability to get what I wanted because there were too many people milling about.  On Day 2, I had more time to scout, but by the time I wandered back down to the Middle Falls area, hotspots–created by sunlight–were beginning to creep into the environ so I limited myself to identifying additional opportunities with the intention of coming back on a later day.  This was the “later day.”

Once again I arrived at the main parking lot at daybreak and, once again, it was blissfully empty.  I quickly made my way to the Upper Falls area to nab just a few additional images that I hadn’t managed to obtain on my two previous attempts.

Upper Falls & Bridge, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Upper Falls & Bridge, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I focused most of my attention on tighter, more abstract shots, with the intention of converting to black and white when it came time to process the trip’s imagery.

Upper Falls Intimate Black & White, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Upper Falls Intimate Black & White, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After wrapping up at the Upper Falls area, I slowly made my way downstream in the gorge, and stopped at Devil’s Bathtub again (I’d shot there previously on Day 2).  Before wading into the stream again, I decided to investigate perspectives from above the tub itself.  I was intrigued by the pattern of the water as it spiraled downward.  There was very little color of consequence in the frame, so I converted the shot to monochrome.

Devil's Bathtub, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Devil’s Bathtub, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Then I moved back into the stream itself to work on the bathtub again from below.  The resulting image, taken at greater than 200 mm, was pieced together by focus bracketing three frames for extended depth of field.  Again, there was very little color, so a conversion was natural.

Devil's Bathtub Black & White, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Devil’s Bathtub Black & White, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

On the way down canyon, in the direction of the Middle Falls section of the Old Man’s Cave area, I noticed a host of ferns, penetrating cracks in the canyon wall, at least 40 feet above where I was standing.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to capture an image of one of these “hanging gardens.”

"Hanging Gardens," Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

“Hanging Gardens,” Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Further along, I photographed a small ephemeral waterfall that I’d noticed upon each of my entries into the Old Man’s Cave area of the park.  I spent quite a bit of time checking out different perspectives; it was difficult to eliminate a number of features that I felt detracted from the ambiance of the scene and ultimately settled on the shot you see below.

Unnamed Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Unnamed Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

From this spot it was back to the area near the Middle Falls itself.  I had greatly admired an area of cascades immediately above the falls during my previous sessions in the area and I took this opportunity to capture the scene, from several spots.

Cascade, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cascade, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

It was a bit of a dicey proposition climbing down into the stream bed itself at this point.  The rocks were exceptionally slippery and I had to be careful, not only with my own footing, but also with regard to the tripod itself.  It was quite dark down in this small hollow, so long shutter speeds–several seconds in duration–were the order of the day.

Cascade, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cascade, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

On my scouting visit to this spot, back on Day 2, I had been intrigued by the presence of a few isolated ferns, perched on the rocky ledge above the cascades below.  I’d spent a lot of time sizing the shots up–with an attempt to incorporate the ferns in the foreground and the cascades in the background.

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

There was absolutely no way to obtain these images with a single frame; the depth of field was simply inadequate.  I ended up taking two shots of each, one focusing on the foreground and the other on the background, and then masked the shots into one manually using Photoshop.

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Ferns & Cascades, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

This wrapped up the morning’s shoot.  Early that afternoon, some threatening weather blew in–a tornado watch was issued for the county–so I hunkered down at the hotel for awhile.  Early in the evening, I raced back to Old Man’s Cave, and came away with the shot below, showing the trail down to the stone bridge that crosses the creek immediately below the Middle Falls.

Old Man's Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Old Man’s Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I was literally standing below the Old Man’s Cave overhang when I captured the above image and while I was doing so, I heard several loud claps of thunder.  I hotfooted it out of there and back to my vehicle, and headed back to the hotel.

It was still about an hour before sunset when I got back to town, but the sky was awfully angry looking.  It wasn’t raining, but it appeared as though it could pour at any moment.  I kept seeing lines of storm clouds blowing in from the southwest.  As sunset approached, some incredible light began to appear in the sky.  I decided to see if I could find somewhere nearby to capture it.  There was no point in heading back to Hocking Hills–it was too far away, for one thing, and down in the gorge the sky (and great light) wouldn’t be apparent anyway.

When I headed back to town on Day 3 from the Cantwell Cliffs area of the park I had taken a detour past Lake Logan, to see if there were any intriguing sunset (or sunrise) locations to take advantage of.  I’d seen a couple of interesting spots, but I’d been frustrated in my attempts to realize any of them, by fog in the mornings and an absence of sunsets in the evening.  But here was an opportunity.

It was less than 10 minutes to one of the spots I’d found alongside Lake Logan–a small area of boat slips–and I raced over there.  It was getting quite dark, but when I arrived at the deserted parking area there was enough light, I thought, to attempt to do something with the and the interesting sky.  I had to “make do” with the composition, but in all I was relatively satisfied with what I ended up with.  I took a series of exposures and what you see below is a blend of five bracketed frames.  The “glow” you see on the boats and the docks in the foreground is a function of a street lamp immediately out of frame to the right.

Lake Logan Sunset, Lake Logan State Park, Ohio

Lake Logan Sunset, Lake Logan State Park, Ohio

With that, Day 4 was put to bed.  I had one more morning’s worth of shooting to go and it turned out to be a good one.

Next:  Hocking Hills, Day 5 – The Lower Falls Area and Rock Crack Falls

Posted by: kerryl29 | August 5, 2014

Hocking Hills Day 3: Cedar Falls and Rock House

As mentioned in the last installment covering May’s trip to southeast Ohio, I spent some time scouting the Cedar Falls area of Hocking Hills State Park on Day 2.  While the main feature is Cedar Falls itself, I noted some other potentially photogenic scenes during the scouting session.  The light was not suitable for photography when I was scouting, so I planned to return first thing in the morning on Day 3.

I arrived at the Cedar Falls parking lot at daybreak; as anticipated, it was deserted.  It was an almost entirely cloudy morning which, given the subject matter, provided ideal soft light with no need to feel rushed.  If there was to be any issue dealing with crowds this morning, it would be at the main attraction–Cedar Falls itself–so I decided to photograph there first.  Then I would turn my attention to secondary features which would be of less interest to any tourists that might wander into the area.

Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cedar Falls is a uniquely shaped waterfall; it splits in two around a large, protruding rock and then rejoins, forming a kind of oval of moving water.  It makes for a compelling center of interest, but the area immediately around the waterfall’s spillway makes it difficult to obtain anything but a straight forward composition.   There’s quite a bit of clutter in the splash pool below the falls and the layout of the area makes it effectively impossible to use the downstream creek as a foreground.  And the pool around the falls becomes quite deep very quickly, making getting close another impossibility.

Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I climbed into the pool, at one point, and shot the waterfall from a slightly more dynamic perspective than that of a traditional “head on” shot, but I’m not sure that it made all that much difference in the end.  I also played around with different focal lengths, with the intention of converting some of the images to monochrome.

Cedar Falls black & white, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Cedar Falls black & white, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After shooting Cedar Falls from several spots with a couple of different lenses, I turned my attention to other photo opportunities.  I was immediately captivated by some maple leaves that I was able to isolate (sort of) with a long lens and a wide aperture.

Maple Leaves Intimate, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Maple Leaves Intimate, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I then moved to an unnamed waterfall that was flowing from a tributary of the creek that is created by Cedar Falls itself.  While this waterfall was less impressive in isolation than Cedar Falls, in a way I liked it better, because superior accessibility made it possible to experiment with more meaningful perspectives.

Unnamed Waterfall, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Unnamed Waterfall, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

This waterfall was in a fairly tight hollow which provided interesting sandstone walls–some of which were heavily covered by moss and lichen–to use as a foreground interest and/or leading lines.  It also made tight vertical shots workable.

Unnamed Waterfall, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Unnamed Waterfall, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Wandering along the gorge creek, downstream from both of the waterfalls, more subtle compositions were available.  The walls of the gorge were at least 50 feet high in this area.  Every so often a bit of heavily diffused sunshine would partially filter into the scene, which made for an enchanting glow in the hollow that buttressed the creek when coupled with the spring greenery.  I wandered into the shallows of the creek bed to compose the image you see below, which to me felt like something out of Middle Earth.

Magical Hollow, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Magical Hollow, Cedar Falls Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

It was still overcast and threatening to rain when I finished up in the Cedar Falls area and made my way roughly 20 miles to the northeast to the Rock House section of Hocking Hills.  Rock House is a fascinating cavern that nature has carved out of a towering (approximately 150 feet) sandstone wall.  It was starting to rain lightly when I arrived at the empty Rock House parking area, but I simply put on a light jacket and hit the trail.

I wandered down that trail through thick forest, and after 1/2 mile or so, arrived at a bridge that crossed a small gorge, leading to a rocky staircase that lay astride the towering cliff.

Rock House Trail Bridge, Hocking Hills State Park

Rock House Trail Bridge, Hocking Hills State Park

After following the staircase several hundred feet, I came to what appeared to be the entrance to Rock House.

Rock House Entrance black & white, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Rock House Entrance black & white, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

The rain had stopped some time ago and other park visitors were starting to show up in significant numbers, so I had to work around these folks after entering Rock House itself, but the effort was undoubtedly worth it.  Initially, it was almost impossible to see inside the cavern, except for those areas immediately surrounding portals and “windows,” but after a few minutes my night vision started to kick in and features became discernible.  Given the presence of several openings and increasingly bright light streaming in, the contrast inside the cavern was tremendous.  Exposure stacking was imperative and exposures necessary to reveal shadowed areas inside the cave were quite long.  Below is a shot looking out one of the “windows,” opening on the forest area.

Rock House Window, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Rock House Window, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Given that I was bracketing exposures, with some of them lasting more than a minute, I had to wait for the cave to clear to shoot an image that looked from one end to the other (Rock House is approximately 200 feet long).

Rock House, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Rock House, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I converted the image to black and white as well; I think it may bring out some of the details of the sandstone better than the color version.

Rock House black & white, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Rock House black & white, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After I wrapped up at Rock House, I spent the rest of the day wandering around the Cantwell Cliffs area of the park.  This section is set deep in a narrow gorge and is very heavily forested.  After an extremely heavy rainy period, this area might be of great appeal, but I found it to be the least interesting section of the park.  I only took a couple of shots during the several hours that I wandered around, including the intimate that you see below.

Forest Floor Intimate, Cantwell Cliffs Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Forest Floor Intimate, Cantwell Cliffs Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

The weather turned again early in the evening as some thunderstorms rolled in and at that point I called it a day.  Day 4 would bring another set of adventures.

Next:  Day 4:  Storm Light

Posted by: kerryl29 | July 14, 2014

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

For the past six or seven weeks I’ve spent just about every free moment working on a long overdue project to overhaul the content on my website.  This is something I’ve been planning to do for several years; the primary goals are to:

Bond Falls in Morning Mist black & white, Bond Falls State Scenic Site, Michigan

Bond Falls in Morning Mist black & white, Bond Falls State Scenic Site, Michigan

  1. Cull images that are mediocre, redundant or both.
  2. Impose a uniform size standard on all images.  A few years ago I decided that the images on the site were too small, so from that point on all photos that were uploaded were roughly 50% larger than their predecessors.  I did not, however, go back and increase the size of all previously uploaded images.  I’m doing that now.
  3. Fix bad links.
  4. Apply new processing skills, techniques and tools to all of the old images that meet the criteria necessary to remain on the site when doing so will enhance their appearance.
Lake Bridge in Autumn, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Lake Bridge in Autumn, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

As you might imagine, it’s the fourth of the listed goals that’s the most time consuming.  Some of the images on the site are considerably more than a decade old.  I’ve learned an awful lot about image processing in that time and the majority of photographs would benefit substantially by applying my current skill set/tool set to the task of image optimization.

Newfound Gap at Sunrise, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Newfound Gap at Sunrise, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The culling part of the process is a big deal as well.  In the past, due to an evident reluctance on my part to choose between images, I had the tendency to post anything I thought was halfway decent on the site, even if there were several other shots that were just about identical in appearance.  I’m rectifying the redundancy issue now.  Additionally, my standards have changed over the years and I’ve removed everything that I regard as run-of-the-mill (or worse).  I haven’t officially kept track, but my best guess is that roughly half of the images have been removed from the galleries I’ve updated; several galleries have been reduced in size by approximately 75%.

Foggy Morning black & white, Ft. Harrison State Park, Indiana

Foggy Morning black & white, Ft. Harrison State Park, Indiana

There were more bad links on the site than I care to admit.  I always knew that there were some present, but I had no idea just how many.  The process by which the update is taking place is allowing me to uncover most, if not all of them, and I’m fixing them as I go.

Blackwater Canyon at Sunset from Lindy Point, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Blackwater Canyon at Sunset from Lindy Point, Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Still, the most intriguing part of the process has been the reprocessing task.  I’ve really seen some old images come to life as a function of using tools and skills that weren’t part of my kit once upon a time.  Images made since the beginning of 2012 are mostly unaffected by all of this, but anything older than that is a potential update candidate.  Every image accompanying this post is among those redone.

Sea Star Pair, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

Sea Star Pair, Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington

So that’s a quick and dirty explanation why I’ve done so little blogging of late.  I’m about 75% of the way through the process and hope to have it completed within three weeks time.  I’ll get back to the images from my trip to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio with my next post.

Chagrin River Falls, South Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

Chagrin River Falls, South Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 23, 2014

Hocking Hills, Day Two

Day 2 at Hocking Hills was a Monday; I presumed that there would be fewer people at the park’s hot spots, but just to insure that I’d have some uninterrupted quality time at the Upper Falls–where a music video was being shot on the evening of Day 1–I was out the door roughly 30 minutes before sunrise to make the 12 (ish) mile drive to the Old Man’s Cave section of the park.  I arrived right around daybreak and the huge parking lot was entirely empty, much to my pleasure.

I’d seen enough during the previous day’s (mostly) scouting session to know that my trusty waterproof rubber boots would be highly useful, so I donned them and quickly made my way into the gorge and swiftly hiked the roughly 1/2 mile to the Upper Falls area.  I noticed a few potentially interesting shots on the way, but figured I’d attend to them later that day–or possibly at some point over the next couple of days.

The Upper Falls area was deserted, as expected, when I arrived.  Since I’d just been there the previous evening and–despite the video shoot–had used the opportunity to check out some different compositions, I didn’t waste much time before setting up.

Upper Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Upper Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After messing around–unsuccessfully–with the roots of a tree as a possible foreground, I waded into the pool surrounding the waterfall and moved very close to the rock face, incorporating the rather stately bridge that arches above the Upper Falls.

Upper Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Upper Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I then used an old tree stump–which the model for the music video had been sitting on the previous day–for foreground interest.  I exposed this twice, both at f/7.1, first focusing on the stump and then on the falls.  It was a simple Photoshop masking job to find the overlapping zone of sharp focus and blend the two images into one.

On my way out, I stopped at an area called Devil’s Bathtub–where the creek that flows downstream from the Upper Falls spirals into a vary narrow crevice and drops into a surprisingly deep pool.  I waded into the middle of the creek below Devil’s Bathtub for the shot you see above.  It was a spot I would return to several days later.

Devil's Bathtub, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Devil’s Bathtub, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I poked around a bit more in the Old Man’s Cave area but after a short time I returned to my car and drove the seven-odd miles to the Ash Cave section of Hocking Hills.  Ash Cave is a huge open-faced cavern with–under wet conditions–a tall waterfall (approximately 90 feet) dropping over its edge.  It was mid-morning when I visited the area for the first time and the light was already a problem, but I thought this was a good opportunity to scope out some different perspectives in prelude to a return under better conditions.

The walk from the parking area to Ash Cave itself is a short one–perhaps 1/2 mile.  Before long you can hear the waterfall and very shortly thereafter it comes into view.  The trail runs the length of the cavern itself, behind the waterfall and up a bluff, before looping back to the parking area.  I found several shots that I thought would be appealing in even light and resolved to return early evening when the sun had dropped below the bluff.

On my way out, I saw some reflections in the creek that winds down from the waterfall that I thought were appealing and stopped to take a shot.

Creek Reflections, Ash Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Creek Reflections, Ash Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

It was now late morning and I made a stop at the Cedar Falls area of the park, just a couple of miles back up the road, to scout the location.  The light was now truly awful, and the location was fairly crowded, but it was another opportunity to do some scouting.  I saw an awful lot worth coming back for, and planned to do so first thing in the morning the next day.

By the time I was done at Cedar Falls, it was early afternoon.  I took a short break and mid-afternoon I made my way to Conkle’s Hollow.  Conkle’s Hollow isn’t, strictly speaking, part of Hocking Hills State Park; it’s adjacent to Hocking Hills and is administered as a separate state nature preserve, but is often treated unofficially as part of the park.

Conkle’s Hollow lies in a gorge that is lined with a creek and is heavily forested, with impressive stands of ferns as part of the undergrowth.  The gorge narrows progressively as you walk farther into it and culminates in what is something approaching a slot canyon at the end.  I walked all the way to the end, though I took in some of the scenery along the way with the intention of stopping and shooting on the way out.

When I reached the end of trail, I was standing in a canyon with no direct sunlight, despite the fact that it was mid-afternoon.  There was some reflected light–much as the aforementioned slot canyon might reveal–but the shadows were so deep that the dynamic range was extreme and the exposure times needed to pull detail out of the deepest shadow areas were very long.  I combined a series of exposures to produce the shot you see below–the longest of which was two minutes.  (I had the camera on “Bulb” setting and counted off to myself in true “one Mississippi, two Mississippi” style.)  Note the reflected light–that’s not direct sunlight–in the crevice above the waterfall.

Gorge Waterfall, Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ohio

Gorge Waterfall, Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ohio

I converted the above shot to black and white for an alternative presentation.

Gorge Waterfall Black & White, Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ohio

Gorge Waterfall Black & White, Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ohio

On my way out, I photographed some of the spots alluded to earlier, including the one below.

Bluff & Trees, Conkle's Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ohio

Bluff & Trees, Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve, Ohio

When I was done at Conkle’s Hollow it was early evening and it was time to retrace my steps and head back to Ash Cave.  It was about 90 minutes before sunset when I arrived and the light was just about shootable at the spots that I’d identified earlier, but to my dismay there were a fair number of people milling about.  Since most of the shots I wanted to take were quite wide, a person just about anywhere near the waterfall would be in the frame.  With the better part of two hours before sunset, I simply decided to wait it out and, though it was a bit frustrating at times, I reminded myself that other people had every bit as much right to be there as I did.  (I will confess that the people who pulled out a Frisbee did push my buttons a bit.)  In any event, I did get my shots, though it was just about dark as I made my way back to the parking area, the last one out as usual.

Waterfall, Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Waterfall, Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

A few of the shots–including the one immediately above–took in a bit less area than others, so I turned my attention to those compositions, like the one framed by the trees and boulder, first.

Waterfall, Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Waterfall, Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Most of the waterfall shots were taken with wider angle lenses, but I did pull out a telephoto and focus stacked a pair of shots to obtain the image you see below.  There was no way to get the necessary depth of field in one shot.

Waterfall, Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Waterfall, Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

It had been a very long day–I had been up and about for roughly 16 hours by the time I got back to the hotel, but getting out very early had proven useful as a way to spend significant time all by myself at an ordinarily busy spot.  I would leverage the same approach when I returned to the Cedar Falls section of Hocking Hills first thing in the morning on Day 3.

Next:  Day 3:  Ash Cave, etc.

Posted by: kerryl29 | June 10, 2014

Hocking Hills, Introduction and Day 1

For a variety of reasons, my hopes/plans for a photo trip of significance this spring evaporated somewhere in the vicinity of late November of last year.  Things stabilized, relatively speaking, by the beginning of May, so I took the opportunity to squeeze out a brief trip (three full days plus an evening and a morning) to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio.  The park is located in rural Hocking County, about an hour southeast of Columbus.  I had never been there, but it has been on my to-do list for quite some time now.  The park is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Indianapolis, and I’d been hearing about the place for years, primarily from contacts in the Cleveland area.

My decision to sneak off to Hocking Hills was made on fairly short notice–about a week’s time, which for me is in incredibly brief.  I had little time to plan; I downloaded some maps from a website and viewed a few images on-line, but that was about it.  I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants.

What I already knew about Hocking Hills is that the park is divided into six distinct sections:  the Old Man’s Cave area, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Conkle’s Hollow, Rock House and Cantwell Cliffs.  (Conkle’s Hollow is technically not a part of Hocking Hills State Park–it’s a state nature preserve–but it abuts park property and is typically regarded as an informal part of the park.)  The principal attraction here is a series of waterfalls, set amongst fairly deep gorges and copious, dense forest settings.

Beyond that, I didn’t know much when I set off for Hocking Hills late on the morning of Sunday, May 18.  I arrived at my place of lodging in Logan, Ohio, mid-afternoon, and after a settling in a bit, set off for the Old Man’s Cave area of the park–the best known and most popular section of Hocking Hills–at about 5:30.  It’s about a 12-mile drive from where I was staying to Old Man’s Cave on a winding, hilly two-lane road.  It was around 6 PM when I arrived at my destination, roughly 2 1/2 hours before sunset.

Since I’d never been to the park before, I figured I’d spend most of my time scouting the area, though I did bring my gear with me (naturally).  From the large parking lot, which was perhaps half full, I followed the signs to Old Man’s Cave itself.  The Old Man’s Cave area of Hocking Hills–so named because of the large cave in the center of this particular gorge that was (legend has it) inhabited by a hermit back in the 19th Century–is a mile-long gorge that can be easily traversed either along the rim or through the gorge itself.  The eponymous feature–Old Man’s Cave–is roughly halfway from the head of the gorge to the foot.

All of the waterfalls at Hocking Hills–not just the ones in the Old Man’s Cave area–are fed by runoff, not by permanent creeks or rivers–so the park itself can be mostly or entirely dry in the summer and fall.  But in the spring, the falls are almost always running.  It’s no accident that I decided to visit the park during the spring.  I was lucky that there had been a fair amount of rain in the area during the week leading up to my time there.

I made my way to Old Man’s Cave from the rim of the gorge, and wandered down the steps to the cave’s base, along Old Man’s Creek, an ephemeral waterway, which was flowing pretty nicely when I was there.  There were still a fair number of visitors when I was there, which made photography fairly frustrating.  I did a bit of shooting but I mostly just looked around, sizing up some shots that I could take upon returning to the area when it would (presumably) be less crowded.

I did scramble over some boulders and make my way all the way down to the base of the cascade-fed waterfall (Middle Falls) that lies immediately below the huge, arching cut out that is Old Man’s Cave.  With some patience, I managed to get a shot devoid of people.

Middle Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Middle Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After noting some potential perspectives–in the cave, near the falls and around the cascades immediately above the falls–for a return visit over the next few days, I followed the gorge trail downstream to the area around the Lower Falls.  After descending a long staircase to the lower falls area, I took the time to photograph the impressive stone bridge that crosses the creek at the point where the Lower Falls can be accessed directly.

Bridge to Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Bridge to Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Despite the late hour–it was now well after 7 PM–there were still a fair number of people milling about the Lower Falls, so, again, I did more looking than shooting.  I still managed to make a couple of images.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

I had not taken my rubber boots on this hike–it was, after all, mostly a scouting expedition–but I resolved to wear them on the return trip to both the Old Man’s Cave and the Lower Falls.  They would allow me to explore additional, more photogenic (in my opinion) perspectives that wouldn’t be possible without some waterproof footwear.

Lower Falls, Old Man's Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Lower Falls, Old Man’s Cave Area, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

After producing a few shots, I climbed back out of the gorge and hiked all the way to the head of the canyon, where the Upper Falls area is located.  I noticed some potentially interesting shots in the gorge, between Old Man’s Cave and the Upper Falls, but with the hour growing late I resolved to examine them more closely when I returned.  I didn’t encounter anyone on the trail on the way to the Upper Falls, but when I got to the Upper Falls area itself, I found several people who were clearly shooting a music video.  There was no way I could do a thorough exploration of this section without getting in the way of this group, so I poked around the periphery, to avoid interfering with the production.  I took no pictures, however.

By the time I climbed out of the gorge for the final time and returned to the parking lot, it was dusk.  There were only two or three other vehicles in the parking lot (which contains at least 200 spots).  I resolved to return to the Old Man’s Cave area the following morning, first thing, to do some shooting in the Upper Falls area.  I anticipated fewer people.  I turned out to be correct.

Next:  Hocking Hills, Day 2:  Upper Falls, scouting Ash Cave and Cedar Falls

Posted by: kerryl29 | May 27, 2014

Fall Back

I’m preparing this post during a break in my (brief) spring photo trip to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio (which will undoubtedly be the subject of a future blog entry (or several). But spring seems like the perfect time to cover a topic I’ve neglected for months—my fall photography outside of the already-chronicled journey to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in early October of last year. After returning from the UP, I was able to get some local (read: northern Illinois/central Indiana) shooting in before the color disappeared. Fall color actually lasted into early November in northern Illinois—a bit of a feint, given the brutal winter we were handed—so I got out in the field when I could (which wasn’t nearly as often as I would have liked). (My apologies in advance for the image-heavy post.)

Fall Creek Gorge

Fall Creek Gorge is a Nature Conservancy preserve near the small town of Attica, Indiana, roughly halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis. I’ve been there once before—a few years ago, in the summer. The principal feature at the preserve is the abundance of potholes in the gorge itself; when there’s too much water flowing through Fall Creek, the potholes are completely obscured, but—most of the time—by autumn, the flow of water has diminished enough to reveal these “divots.” That’s why I decided to make a side trip, on a drive between Chicago and Indianapolis, to Fall Creek Gorge in late October of last year.

It was a mostly cloudy weekday morning when I hit the road, and I arrived at the small, deserted Fall Creek Gorge parking area on a rural back road late morning. I was on the ground at the preserve for roughly five hours and I never saw another soul. The trail from the parking area leads to a confluence of Fall Creek and a minor tributary, at which the base of the gorge itself is located. I wandered around this spot for awhile, looking for compositions, but never found anything I liked, so I returned to the trail, which leads to an area above the gorge. It’s impossible to hike up the gorge itself, but it is possible to hike down into it; exactly how far down depends on how low the water level is and how lucky you feel.

Upriver from the gorge is a small waterfall—smaller than it was during my last visit, when water flow was much stronger—with a good-sized pool at its base. A significant part of the pool was filled with brightly colored fallen leaves.

Fall Creek Waterfall, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Fall Creek Waterfall, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

I noticed that there was a very slowly moving motion of these leaves in a counterclockwise direction, so I piled on the neutral density filtration in order to render a slow enough shutter speed to highlight the swirl.

Leaf Swirls, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Leaf Swirls, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

After some experimentation, I settled on a shutter speed of 2 ½ minutes.

Leafy Vortex, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Leafy Vortex, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

I converted this image to black & white, to allow the leaf swirls themselves to better reveal themselves.

Leafy Vortex Black & White, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Leafy Vortex Black & White, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

I gradually made my way downriver to the top of the gorge. Water levels were, at most, half of what they’d been during my previous experience. The potholes were revealed, in all of their glory.

Potholes, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Potholes, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

I also looked for available intimate compositions.

Fall Creek Intimate, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Fall Creek Intimate, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

I finally made my way back to the confluence and hiked the tributary upstream. Water levels were quite shallow, making the hike fairly easy. My eye was still searching for intimates, and I found one in relatively short order.

Tributary Intimate, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Tributary Intimate, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

By this time, the clouds were beginning to lift, spelling an end to the shooting day for me, but I had one last shot in mind. I had to wait out both the wind and the fickle diffusion of the now partly cloudy sky to obtain this final image.

Fall Creek Tributary, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

Fall Creek Tributary, Fall Creek Gorge Preserve, Indiana

McCormick’s Creek

McCormick’s Creek State Park is a small plot, about a mile square, located near the town of Spencer, in Owen County, Indiana, roughly 20 miles northeast of Bloomington. I’d been to McCormick’s Creek once, in the early spring of 2012, and was impressed. I decided to see what it was like in autumn—less than a week after I was at Fall Creek Gorge—and I wasn’t disappointed.

The feature around which everything at McCormick’s Creek is based is the creek itself, which winds its way through the park. Near the center is a decent-sized waterfall, and that’s where I headed first. I was treated to some fog in the creek gorge on this uncharacteristically humid fall day, which added just a touch of mystery to an already enchanting scene.

Misty Falls, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Misty Falls, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

With the same pair of rubber boots that I used to navigate around the watery areas of Fall Creek Gorge (and countless other places over the past six-odd years), I picked my way close to the waterfall itself and found myself staring at an almost endless number of compositions.

Waterfall #1, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Waterfall #1, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

The above shot is a blend of two images, which were focus-stacked for the purposes of extending apparent depth of field.

Waterfall #2, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Waterfall #2, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

Waterfall #3, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Waterfall #3, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

Waterfall #4, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Waterfall #4, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

I probably could have spent all day below the falls, but I wanted to explore a few other spots so I reluctantly climbed out of the creek gorge after a couple of hours. I did nab a parting shot of the scene—an aerial perspective, of sorts—from the staircase that leads to the rim.

Waterfall #5, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Waterfall #5, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

I decided to explore one of the trails that leads downriver from the falls, back into the gorge itself, and came upon this WPA era shelter.

Trail Shelter, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Trail Shelter, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

From there it was back out of the gorge and an exploration of an area high above the rim, north of the creek, where the color was still quite nice in pockets.

Fall Trees, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Fall Trees, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

Maple Intimate, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Maple Intimate, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

I wandered back down near the north rim of the gorge and came across this golden forest of maples.

Golden Forest, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

Golden Forest, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

By skirting along the rim to the east, I was able to find a few spots where I could walk out on outcroppings, 70-odd feet above the creek, to shoot images of trees on the south side of the gorge, including the following:

A Celebration of Color, McCormick's Creek State Park, Indiana

A Celebration of Color, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

By this time it was getting dark. I’d been at it all day, without having realized it. I had slowly come to appreciate what a little gem of a park McCormick’s Creek really is.

Morton Arboretum

It was early November before I returned to the Chicago area and I was surprised to find that the color was holding out so well. I didn’t have time for a long excursion, but I did make a quick jaunt into the Morton Arboretum, only about 15 minutes away, while the color was still holding. Within a couple of days of the time the below images were made heavy rains and wind knocked virtually all of the leaves off the trees throughout the area.

The Arboretum is divided into an East Side and West Side. In the past I’ve spent the bulk of my fall Arboretum shooting time on the East Side, so this time around I decided to do something different and check out parts of the West Side. It worked out pretty well.

Autumn Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Autumn Intimate, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Autumnal Splendor, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Autumnal Splendor, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Fall Layers, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Fall Layers, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

After capturing these images, I headed to another area on the West Side of the Arboretum, one filled with ancient oaks, which were in beautiful autumn dress.

The Chosen Path, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

The Chosen Path, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Oaks in Autumn Dress, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Oaks in Autumn Dress, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

It was a cloudy, chilly day and it had been getting darker and darker as the day wore on. Finally, it started to rain, just I was putting the parting touches on this image of leaves on the ground.

Fallen Leaves, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Fallen Leaves, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

I hope you enjoyed this autumnal retrospective. I’ll return to more topical matters, including the fruits of the Hocking Hills shoot, in forthcoming entries.

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