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
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
After some experimentation, I settled on a shutter speed of 2 ½ minutes.
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
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
I also looked for available intimate compositions.
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
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
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
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
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 #3, 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Autumnal Splendor, 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
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
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.