Sunday slide 12

Bathers at Looking Glass Falls
So, there are a couple of common facets of scenic photography which can be a little (or very) discouraging. The first is that, with any truly dramatic bit of landscape, chances are it’s been done many times over – it’s probably why you even know to go there in the first place. So not only is it somewhat trite to shoot yet again, chances are some other photographer has done a much better job of it than you will; there’s even a bit of photographer’s slang about the idea: ‘tripod holes,’ meaning shooting from the exact same position as so many others that you’re wearing holes into the ground from the tripods. And if you have to travel to get there, you might have a limited amount of time to visit the site and do your stuff; the light might be bad, or water flow is less than ideal, or foliage conditions not up to snuff [what the hell does that even mean, anyway?] Most of the best photos aren’t about the landscape itself, the geography and vistas and all that, but dependent on the conditions and timing, and if you’re not there when they’re optimal, it’s much harder to produce something exciting.

And then there’s the popularity, especially if it’s easy to get to or particularly well known. In such cases, you then have to contend with what someone else might be doing, including being in your shot, or with the amount of trash that’s been left behind, or just the necessities of tourist attractions that really don’t add to the impact, like fences and signs and souvenir shops. When you see the empty and serene images of places like Stonehenge, such things were taken in extremely specific conditions, sometimes even with assistance from local authorities to keep everyone else out of the frame long enough to get the ‘lonely’ shot.

Looking Glass Falls in Brevard is one of the most popular waterfalls in North Carolina, featured in countless publications about the state. Moreover, you can practically drive right up to it – it’s actually visible from the road, and it’s a short walk down from the parking area to the overlook, which was only a dozen meters behind me and to the left when I took this image. I was standing in the river downstream, purposefully out away from the other tourists – but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about the teenagers cavorting in the shallow pool at the base of the falls. The further back I got, the more people would be coming into the image. And yes, I imagine that they felt the same way about me, despite my efforts to stay off to the side and out of the way.

And the light wasn’t really what I wanted, being a bit too flat, but I also suspect this batch of film wasn’t up to spec. It happens sometimes. Another pair of things that can’t easily be corrected when you are making one stop during a weekend trip.

The curious thing about this one is the very narrow range of settings that I must have used – remember, it’s a slide so I don’t have the luxury of referring to the EXIF info, and wasn’t taking notes. The shutter speed was slow enough to blur the water and even produce a bit of motion from the foreground leaves in the breeze coming off the falls themselves, but not so slow that the bathers are obviously moving. I can’t recall if I timed the shot for a moment of inactivity from them, or just happened to catch it, but it’s a curious juxtaposition if you stop to think about it.

The Girlfriend was with me on this trip, and stayed up on the overlook while I was working the stream below, which gave her the opportunity to hear what others were saying behind my back. A few gossiping tourists were betting that I was going to slip and dunk myself and my gear in the water, taking obvious delight in the prospect, but she kept quiet and didn’t bother to challenge their assumptions, and I was happy to disappoint them.

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