I picked a perfect overcast afternoon and started my adventure at Mud Run, hiking the trail down to Hawk Falls. Which it turned out was a nice set of falls – nothing especially breathtaking or magnificent, but very nice, with a lot of good access around the right-hand side. And more importantly, access to the top of the falls. You see, one of my goals was to do some shooting from within the run itself (fun fact: run is an old-timey work for “creek” that’s popular in PA).
After photographing waterfalls and creeks for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that stream-side access is limiting and all-to-often overdone; when there’s only one place to stand, everyone stands there. The solution that I prefer is to abandon the worn pathways and, whenever possible, jump into the water and shoot from a more organic perspective.
But of course there are limitations, mainly the obvious ones: the stream needs to be shallow enough, the current not too strong, and I don’t want to freeze to death in the process. In this case it all worked out – it was a warm August afternoon and the water was a little on the low side, which made it easy for me to walk out onto the top of the falls and shoot over the edge, before turning around and working my way upstream a ways.
From a technical standpoint it’s all pretty much the usual: ISO 200, f/11 to f/16, and a 8-stop ND filter (and sometimes a polarizer as well) to get the shutter speed up into the several-second range. All the creek and falls shots were made with the E-M5 and Lumix 14mm lens, tripod mounted on my Slik tripod. The angles were achieved by opening the tripod legs to almost their full range and carefully placing the feet on the more stable rocks. (I extended the lowest leg sections first, to try and avoid submerging the extension joints themselves.)
The ND filter was new, as my previous version was only good for 2-stops. I had intended to buy a variable-ND filter at first but found the prices too steep, given how often I use NDs, so settled for the 8-stop as a good alternative. A bit surprisingly it wasn’t quite strong enough and I was only able to drop the shutter speed down to about four seconds.
I wrapped up my brief tour of the park by driving the loop that ends by the old chapel, one of the few buildings that remains from the original village of Hickory Run. It’s a lovely example of period architecture, set in front of a set of artificial falls such that it reflects in the pool. On this summer day it was very green, but I can imagine that it would look stunning in autumn – or even in the winter.
There are a number of other creeks/runs in the area that are equally lovely. I wasn’t able to visit them all; some I just noted on a park map as I drove by. But I’ll definitely be returning later this year.