“Everything is practice.” ~ Pele
Dick’s Creek is one of the waterfalls I’ve shot and shot again.
Along with many others in the mountain areas I wander. Particularly as each season changes.
Not that frequency or familiarity stop me from heading back each year—in the fall, in particular, when the world comes to vibrant life, as if touched by a master impressionist’s brush.
Each return is a wonder to me. It’s also a chance to apply, mark and hone skills I’ve accumulated since my last visit.
I’ve learned to have a goal in mind, for example, as I shoot.
This trip to Dick’s Creek Falls near Cleveland, it was to work with my tripod (with which I’ve thankfully mastered a bit more fluidly in the last year), and to apply the more advanced long exposure techniques I’ve acquired, in particular when focused on moving water.
Hence, this “long shot” of the opening image above, where I captured not only the falls, but the mesmerizing movement of water as it flowed downstream.
The resulting composition is so much more powerful to me, personally, than a tighter image of the falls alone.
I could have stopped there. Mission accomplished. I was smiling and tired from a long few weeks climbing all over the Georgia and North Carolina mountains. Why not take the rest of the day off, kick my feet up, and gaze at the view from my deck?
Except for the pesky matter that I tend to shoot portrait (vertical), when others might veer toward landscape (horizontal), and another goal of mine whenever I practice is to capture both perspectives with equal enthusiasm.
So, how to grab a tighter view while maintaining visual interest?
Framing became important—those glorious trees rising out of the tension and energy of the falls. This was taken at a different angle (by raising my tripod/camera and shooting less of what’s close to me by telephoto-ing into the falls and eating up the distance).
I’ve learned a lot this year, too, about post-processing.
The darker water (except for the reflections in the foreground) draws the eye towards the brightness of the falls and then up from there into all the color.
At least that was my plan.
And then there’s my recent commitment to growing my wide-angle skills.
NOT my strong suit yet. I worked a good bit with it on the upper falls, above this major cascade, with limited/spotty results I’m not inclined to share. For an hour at least, I practiced what I knew already and what I hope to get batter at.
Then later, I was wrapping things up after shooting the waterfall images you’ve already seen. I was climbing out of the ravine—almost. Until something caught my eye. A new opportunity for wide-angle practice.
I was worn out. Ready to go home. But when would I have another chance before next fall?
So this happened.
After twenty minutes or so of working my way into the heart of the foreground I hoped to capture, with the falls still prominent in the background, I snapped this image.
And suddenly all the practice earlier today (and on so many days before), seemed to fall into place.
A perfect image?
Not at all.
But I’m happy with the result and my progress with the technique. I’m inspired to keep trying.
Maybe even tomorrow.
I’m on my way home and have tons of work to catch up on. But what could getting up early one last time for one final morning hurt—when the next fall I’m blessed to shoot will be an entire year away?
If I REALLY want to practice something and get better at it, I can always find/make the time. We all can.
Why not find your own inspiration today—to try one more time whatever you’re longing to improve yourself?