Saturday, November 1, 2014

Waterfall, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Driving the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail requires one thing. Roll down your car windows and take in all of the sights and sounds as you drive the route. The sound of the water rushing down the huge boulders in this area of the park is unparalleled. When you first enter the route, you immediately feel an intensity of being deep in the forest. As you make your way along the route, you hear it. The water moving fast crashing over the boulders as it makes its way downstream. And then there is this. The closeness that envelopes you of being in the very depths of the forest, the rushing river a mere few feet away. Step outside of your car and you immediately feel it.

While there are areas of the park like Newfound Gap, for example, that you visit to view the grandeur of the mountains, with the Roaring Fork, it's the intensity of the closeness of it all. To make this area even more enticing, you access this route right in the heart of the small town of Gatlinburg. Once you reach Gatlinburg, you are right outside of the national park. Getting to various destinations can be time consuming. It is at least an hour to Cade's Cove, or thirty minutes to Newfound Gap, with another fifteen minutes up to Clingman's Dome, add to that another thirty minutes to reach Cherokee, the opposite side of the park. So driving the Roaring Fork is a fantastic alternative when you have just reached your park destination. Can you tell I love this drive.

For those who left me comments about photographing water, I wanted to mention that I did some post processing on this image and retouched out a small branch taking away from the composition. I did some post processing adjusting the shadows, the contrast, the sharpness and more in Adobe Lightroom. I did all of this because the waterfall was near perfect and I didn't want to ditch it. The reason this image was difficult to photograph was the sun was shining right on the waterfall and the rocks all around the waterfall were in dark dark light. And I chose not to set the aperture manually and only adjust the shutter speed.

I am no expert, but if you decide to photograph waterfalls, keep in mind composition first, light second, water third. Then comes looking at how the camera is capturing the flow of the water. Enlarge the waterfall itself on your camera right on the spot and verify how the camera is capturing the flow of water. After practice, this whole process gets easier. Then you can look for better compositions and how best to frame the waterfalls before capturing the image. You must use your manual function and set the aperture and adjust the shutter speed on these types of images always. Whether you use one or both is dictated by the light level.

A tall waterfall in the open with a high light level will probably require setting the aperture and adjusting the shutter speed. There are exceptions. Take a look at this image I captured in the Smokies here, Mingo Falls. The waterfall is in a higher light level setting. But because the waterfall sits between two very tall mountainsides and the rocks are absorbing most of the light that is reflected I only had to adjust the shutter speed. I didn't have to set the aperture. A few test shots will help you determine whether one or both adjustments will be needed.  This process is a lot of work, but the reward far outweighs that. Good luck. ENJOY!


  1. Thanks, Carol. You know I'm always asking you questions. You should do this more often - I like getting your tips. Unfortunately, since i don't carry a tripod, I have to use a faster shutter speed and can't get this lovely satiny effect to the water.

    1. I keep a tripod in my car Barb and I most of the water I photograph is a quarter mile or less from my car. The trail to Mingo Falls was at rail of steps basically up the side of a mountain. If you look for instances you might have a chance to try this technique. Hope this helps. Carol

  2. Your words capture just how we felt driving that loop in April 13. After a rain and it was gorgeous. I couldn't stop taking pictures!

  3. Carol .. you captured the atmosphere of the location superbly. Thanks for sharing the technical tips.