Adventures in Photography
One of my photography goals for 2020 was finding and visiting new waterfalls. I've been in western North Carolina for five years now and have gotten into a bit of a rut repeatedly going to the same locations. Some of that was by choice, i.e., wanting to catch the location in prime conditions. But now I have taken some of those images and was needing some new places to further motivate me. Additionally, I was a bit more accepting to take on more challenging locations as long as I could do so safely.
The past month I've been pretty fortunate to have visited four new waterfalls. I'll feature two here as the others, Scotsman Falls and Thunderhole Falls, did not have good conditions during my visit. Both were very weak in water flow, which surprised me given all the rain we have had in August.
One great waterfall was Yellow Creek Falls located near Robbinsville, NC. It's gorgeous and very photogenic. The site is also clean of downed trees so there are multiple possible compositions. On the day I was there the water flow was a bit high for my liking. I'll definitely go back when it's down a bit. Autumn colors would be incredible here.
The view above let's you see there are some great little cascades downstream. There are many ways to capture foreground interest and add leading lines to make stronger compositions. In the photo below you can see that there are several large boulders in the water that add interest too.
The hike in is pretty easy and short so that's nice for a change. But that also makes it a popular place for people. So if you decide to visit, I'd go early. And please don't do what I did by leaving a tripod there. I was about two hours away when I realized it so I had to hustle back and luckily it was still there. Whew!!
The next new waterfall I visited was Gage Falls, which I had never heard of. I discovered it by looking through Kevin Adam's book on North Carolina waterfalls. It's located not too far off the Blue Ridge Parkway by heading south on Hwy 215. The trailhead wasn't too hard to find but you'd likely want to take a higher clearance vehicle. The gravel road isn't too bad, however. Once you reach the spot to find the trailhead is where the fun begins. Since not many people visit this waterfall, the "trail" is not maintained and very overgrown, being nearly invisible in sections. I was leaving trail markers throughout to help us find our way out. The initial 75 yards of the trail are pretty easy but when you come to the stream there is no apparent trail on the other side. You have to walk the creek briefly toward the right and you'll see it.
Just be sure to parallel the stream the entire way as you follow the trail. In about 1/2 mile you'll see the top of the waterfall. There is no trail to the falls itself. Go back the trail a bit and you'll see the slope down to the stream that is more manageable. From here you'll just have to be careful and bushwhack your way down to the stream. Once there, the easiest way back to the waterfall is walking the creek. You'll need to be very careful here getting over some small cascades. At the larger one, I just bushwhacked through some rhododendrons to get around it. Then it was free sailing. Here's the reward.
We were greeted with stellar conditions. The waterfall is nestled in with thick trees. So even if you go on a sunny day you will have good conditions as long as you visit early. By mid morning some sun will begin shining on the falls. There is a lot of bright moss which adds so much to an image. As I got a bit closer on the other side I took this photo.
You can spend some time here getting your compositions worked out. Plus it's simply a beautiful place to just enjoy the view and relax. Getting out wasn't too bad but it was good I left trail tape as it really helped us finding our way out. Please be careful if you go. This is an isolated location. The rocks are very slippery and it's very easy to fall. There are some downed trees on the trail, which requires crawling under them.
In my next post, I'll provide some hiking safety tips, which turns out I need to follow myself. Happy shooting!!
Keywords: blue ridge mountains, blue ridge parkway, forest, landscape, long exposure, nature, north carolina, reid northrup, trees, waterfall, waterfalls
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