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Photographing North Carolina Waterfalls in Brilliant Sunshine

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Tip: Be Selective.

Cell phone photo of Triple Falls from a viewpoint on the trail. The only spot to safely get to the river was in the sunlit area on the upper tier of the falls. Cell phone photo: © Donald J, Rommes

As mentioned in previous blog, the weather for our two week stay was sunny and bright with blank blue skies. We had only cloudy day where conditions were uniformly favorable for photography. In the harsh light, even though the larger waterfalls were impressive in their force and beauty, we found ourselves photographing smaller, more evenly lighted sections of water.

Our first stop was DuPont State Forest which had four waterfalls in reasonable proximity to each other and connected by good and well-used trails. The day was sunny and warm, the hike to the falls went steeply uphill on a wide gravel trail, and the light was harsh. River access was difficult and dangerous due to the slippery granite rocks, so we followed the designated path to get close to the falls.

We were in bright sunlight, but every so often a small cloud passed in front of the sun and gave a few seconds of shade to limited areas. We composed several shots that would require blending but abandoned them because the bright silky water virtually guaranteed failure.

Instead, we focused on smaller details, and were glad we did.

Detail, Triple Falls. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

The second waterfall we visited was in the same forest, but lower down the same river. It too, was in bright sunshine. Not having the time to wait for sunset, when shade would be certain, we looked for details. In the end, we got images that communicated the power and pattern of a waterfall instead of a "This is Triple Falls" sort of photo.

HDR cell phone image of Hooker Falls in harsh light. Failing to get a decent photograph of the entire falls, I concentrated instead on the triple cascade on the left. The water is very bright, but there are no deep shadows, so the scene is manageable. Cell phone photo: © Donald J. Rommes

More uniformly bright conditions and a long exposure (by using a neutral density filter} allow the viewer to see nuance and patterns. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes


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