A Savage Waterfall
Jul 17, 2017
Waterfalls can be a very rewarding subject for photographers, and the timing of when you shoot them can make a big difference in the appearance of your photo. The technique you use can really affect the mood of your photo as well. Using a longer shutter speed for that classic silky look such as in this photo can make even a raging scene seem almost peaceful, while a faster shutter speed that freezes the waters motion can emphasize the water's power and bring tension to the scene. The waterfall in this photo, Lower Greeter Falls, is located in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area, a unit of South Cumberland State Park near Tracy City, Tennessee. It is one of four waterfalls on the short Greeter Falls Loop Trail: Upper & Lower Boardtree Falls and Upper & Lower Greeter Falls. The trailhead is in an out of the way spot on the far west of the natural area, and would be easy to miss without solid directions.
This waterfall image was the result of strategic planning, as well as taking the time to fully explore the scene while I was there. I had read that Greeter Falls was the most spectacular of the falls in Savage Gulf, so it had been on my list of places to visit for some time. After a series of heavy spring rains brought good flow to the rivers and creeks, I decided it was time to go and see it. When my wife & I arrived at the falls, the roar of the water was so loud it was hard to talk. I spiral stairway descends the cliff to the rocks at the edge of the pool. Extra caution was required when maneuvering around the area, as the wet rocks were very slippery. The current in the creek was very fast, and falling in would most likely have meant being swept downstream to the next set of falls. Nonetheless, the scene was spectacular. When photographing a new location, it is often more productive to take some time exploring the scene to find the best angles and compositions. It's also a good idea to photograph from multiple spots, working the scene to find its best look. That's exactly what I did here. I began by trying to place myself as close to the edge of the creek as possible, trying to create the idea of standing in the creek itself. My own safety near the fast moving water made this tricky however, and the tree seen in this photo tended to cut that composition in half. From there I moved over more onto the rocks, finally arriving on this composition that used the tree and rocks to complement the waterfall instead of competing with it. This also allowed me to show the turbulence in the splash pool, showing the power of the water's flow in this high water period.
By using the strategy of visiting the area when it would photograph at its best, and taking the time to study and work the scene, I was able to make a photograph of a locally well known site that will stand out from the rest. My goal with this photo was for viewers to feel the power of the scene, as well as connect with the feeling of the spring season that the fast flowing creek and the fresh green of the leaves on the trees provides. One can almost feel the fresh, crisp feeling in the air. It's a great example of how some careful planning ahead of time can help your photo stand out from the rest.
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