It’s always interesting to me to visit waterfalls at dawn. Not an hour after, not on an overcast day necessarily, but at sunrise. Hiking in the dark and being there at the earliest hour. Some of my favorite waterfall images have come from these types of adventures and, while not always productive, they’re always a good start to the day.
Roaring Fork Falls is a waterfall I’ve visited many times but never been able to get a compelling image of. Whether it was water level, down trees, time of year, whatever. It just never came together. On Monday, my original plan was to shoot the sunrise from somewhere near the Mount Mitchell or Craggy Pinnacle area as the forecast of rain/fog is actually exactly what I like to hear for good light and drama in the skies. But, when I arrived in the area about an hour early (~5:15) I found dense fog with no signs of it letting up. Now, most times I would have waited and seen what would happen at sunrise but on this particular morning, I was tired and slightly frustrated (it was a 1.5 hour drive to get there) so I changed plans and headed to Roaring Fork Falls.
When I got parked and walked the easy 1/2 mile in, it was about 20 minutes before sunrise so things were light enough to not need a headlamp. The composition was obvious… get in the big pool in front of the falls and shoot the zigzagging lines coming down whilst point the cascade to the bottom left of the frame. As the light got stronger, I noticed a discrepancy between the upper right corner (brighter) and the rest of the scene that wasn’t working out well for my long exposure times I needed. So, I used a 2-stop hard-line graduated neutral density filter to hold that part of the scene back. In post-processing, this decision required a bit of dodging and burning to hide my filter use (pretty typical). What resulted was an interesting exposure and one that has surprising depth for a cascading river scene.
Canon 5D Mark II + 17-40 L @ 20mm, 20 seconds at f/14, ISO 200. Circular Polarizer, 2-stop Hard Grad. ND (hand-held).
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- Scott Hotaling