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.


  1. These are exceptional images! I am just now into phtographing falls, and I really enjoyed yours. You did an outstanding job on all these photos. Thank you. Love, Amy

    • Thanks very much!

      If you’re new to waterfall photography, you might find the first installment of my two-part series on the subject (part of my guest blogging gig at 1001 Scribbles) of some value:

      Part II will be posted this Thursday.

      • Thank you so much. I actually have just begun and am getting some amazing results. I also understand how to bring out the white in falls versus the grey. I am posting tomorrow some spectacular falls I took at twilgiht. The light in combination with the pigment in the water from a recent rain, gave some unbelievable colors. Not white. Surreal colors. And of course, all in slow shutter speed. I will go check your link out. xx Amy

      • I read what you wrote and I agree with you. I have developed my own method and so far it is working to my advantage. The results I am getting, in some photos, I just shake my head at. I need to practice, and to experiment so my goal this summer is to find waterfalls, no matter the size. I’ve also created magic with water currents going around a rock, shooting with a fast shutter speed and then a slow one for comparison. I am in awe of the images I have been getting. Most yet I still have to post. I have been so busy shooting flowers and other things, the last I knew, I had shot 4 thousand photos in 2 months time. I haven’t stopped. Everything I see I want to document. I will keep reading your tips on waterfalls … I really do thank you.

        • Always happy to help, but it definitely sounds as though you’re on the right track (e.g. I see from your own blog you’re already using a tripod, you’re obviously willing to experiment, both technically and aesthetically, etc.). I’ll try to plant it in my head to check out your post tomorrow to see what you’ve come up with.

        • You just made me smile. Thank you. I would really want your HONEST opinion. I really have so much more to learn. Yet, what I am creating, is pretty amazing. Thank you again!!!! xx Amy

        • I’ll be happy to give you my opinion, but on the sole condition that you take it with a very large grain of salt.

          My perspective on this: my opinion (or that of anyone else, for that matter) on your work is a lot less important than your opinion on your work. After all, if you’re happy with an image, it’s a success in my view, regardless of what I might think, yea or nay. So again, I’ll be happy to offer my opinion as long as you can assure me that you view it as just that–my opinion, and nothing more.

        • I promise. I want others’ feedback because I take it very seriously. If what is said does not settle well with me, I just go on. I have learned a lot just by observing others’ photography, as well as getting ideas. Your falls are fabulous. I live near Niagra Falls, but the problem with that, they are so huge there is always a spray. That’s on the Canadian side. Maybe I could do something from the American side, and not get wet. Hmmmm……I also love stumbling upon little creeks that have waterfalls. I found one yesterday and because rain is coming, I am waiting until after the rain to go back there with my camera. I wish I had to the option to travel more, but since I don’t I am discovering waters that I didn’t even know existed. I LOVE what I do and yes, I really do have dreams. Again, I really do thank you for communicating with me. Tomorrow’s post will be titled, “Twilight Magic”. I honestly felt like I walked into a realm that is just not of this earth. Your photos I feel that as well. They are just so beautiful they bring tears to my eyes. (((HUGS))) Amy

        • Thanks very much for the extremely kind words about my images. I’ll definitely plan to check out your entry tomorrow and provide feedback accordingly. Looking forward to it.

        • Life is so good and with this thought in mind, I head off for sleep. Busy day playing catch up both here and in life in general. Now, I slip quietly into the Dream and bring back that Dream to 3D to mold it into reality. xx Amy

  2. Wonderful images Kerry. They make me want to be there!

    • Thanks very much, Denise.

  3. Great images of beautiful spots and I like your writing about the journey and process. Not sure what focus stacking is. Is that joining two photos together or taking shots at different exposures then joining together like HDR? I love the gorge waterfall with the sunlight and the leading line of the log.

    • Thanks, Jane.

      Focus stacking is taking at least two shots of the same scene, but altering the focus point in each one to achieve sharpness throughout the frame. This technique is most commonly employed in close-up photography, but I use it from time to time with landscapes for a variety of reasons. For the image in this entry where I used the approach (the one with the stump), I exposed two frames–one focusing on the foreground (i.e. the stump itself) and the other on the background (i.e. the waterfall and surrounding cliff face). The zones of critical sharpness overlapped somewhere in the water between the stump and the falls, and I masked off the images at that point. Occasionally more than two images are needed to achieve the desired effect (with close-up work it often requires far more than two–I’ve stacked as many as 20-odd frames using third party software designed specifically for this purpose). I thought I’d posted an entry on focus stacking at some point in the past, but I looked through the archives and it appears that I haven’t done so to date. I’ll have to consider rectifying that omission going forward.

      • That is interesting, does what a “tilt shift” lens does , in essence.Thanks for responding.

        • It conveys, at one level, some of what you can do with a T/S lens (or with a camera with movements, such as a view camera). But the principle is different and so is the practical effect. In some cases, focus stacking is more flexible than a tilt/shift lens (because, unlike a T/S, it literally extends depth of field rather than altering it to give it the effect of doing so); in some cases it’s much less practical than a T/S which can allow you to obtain the necessary depth of field in a single shot (and correct perspective distortion to boot). I’ll try to go into this in more detail when I write the focus stacking entry.

  4. Bellissimi scatti e che luoghi stupendi. Complimenti!!

  5. Enjoying your waterfall escapade very much and love the images. I too would love to read more about focus stacking.

    • Thanks, Lee.

      I’m definitely putting focus stacking on the list of forthcoming blogging topics; the only question is whether I’ll wait until after completing the Hocking Hills series to put it together.

      • I can wait, just 🙂

  6. Great work Kerry! I have only been to Hocking Hills once but I liked it so much that I marked it as a place for me to return for sure. I had a friend that saw my shots from there and then decided to make his own trip there late in July and it was all but bone dry. So yes indeed I think this is pretty much a spring booking unless you know there has been heavy rains in the area. As for the shots, the one thing that I love about HH shots is that the water gives off such a nice glow of green. I think one of my favorite in this group is the shot from Ash Cave with the giant boulder in the foreground. That is not an angle that I have ever seen shot there at Ash Cave. As always I love what you did there!

    • Hey, Terry! Always great to hear from you.

      Yeah, it’s pretty clear that if you want water flow at Hocking Hills you need to be there in the spring–and the rainier, the better.

      The shot from Ash Cave that you mentioned–that required a two-shot focus stack. I shot that at something like 200 mm (don’t recall exactly) and there was absolutely no way to get the foreground boulder/trees and the background sharp in a single exposure. I looked at dozens of different perspectives from the left-hand side of the falls, and I couldn’t find anything that I particularly liked until I pulled out the 80-400 and started looking at tighter compositions that omitted the spill pool entirely.

  7. There is no more special day than a day in the park when you have it all to yourself, you can sit in your favorite spot and just breath in the feeling.

    • Thanks very much for taking the time to weigh in.

  8. Sorry for the late comment again, and I really can’t come up with anything new to say other than I greatly admire your talents as a photographer, and if anything, your skills seem to be improving. The photo of the Devil’s bathtub is one of the best photos that I’ve ever seen!

    • Thanks very much, Jerry. That’s really very high praise..

      Glad you liked the Devil’s Bathtub shot. I messed around at that spot a bit more a couple of days later and took some shots from different perspectives which I’ll include in a future post.

  9. How beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • My pleasure–and thanks very much!

  10. Congratulations on your pictures, This is the first time I visite your blog, I will came here frequently now. The light in your pictures are amazing, there are no deep shadows and no extreme high lights. Do you achieve it photographing in cloudy days or using HDR? thanks

    • Thanks very much for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      In answer to your question, all of the images that accompany the entry you commented upon were shot in even light–either the light of an overcast day or open shade (in the case of Day 2 at Hocking Hills, it’s the latter)–with the sole exception of Conkle’s Hollow Gorge Waterfall image. I almost literally never shoot in harsh light, precisely because such conditions are unflattering to the subject matter. With or without HDR, poor quality light is poor quality light–it’s a photographic truism.

      I do occasionally use HDR, but only when the dynamic range of a scene–as I want to reveal it–exceeds what my camera’s sensor can handle in a single exposure. (This has become increasingly rare in recent years as digital sensor dynamic range has improved dramatically.) When I do process with HDR, I use a very carefully implemented technique (which I spent the better part of five years assembling) to avoid the stereotypical HDR problem of loss of contrast.

      Again, thanks for stopping by. I hope to have another blog post from Hocking Hills by the end of the week.

      • Thanks for your answer. I live in Brazil and like visiting a Atalantic forest aerea very much preserved, if ever come to Brazil let m

        • If I ever make it to Brazil, I’ll definitely let you know…thanks very much. And, if you’re ever in my part of the world, be sure to contact me. I’m sure I can point you in the direction of some places that you’d want to see and photograph.

        • Thanks

  11. […] 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 […]

  12. […] 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 […]

  13. You have capture really fantastic pictures. Waterfalls are often photographed landmarks. One of the most stunning ways to capture a waterfall or a flowing stream is to show movement.

    Micro stock photography

    • Thanks for leaving a comment.

      Agreed–displaying the appearance of movement in a still image is part of what makes photographing moving water satisfying (at least for me).

  14. […] Day 2 […]

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