Photography Story: The Thunderous Bald River Falls


January 10, 2016

landscape, waterfall By: Jason Barnette

I almost didn't make it to the Bald River Falls. I was in one of those positions where I didn't have precise GPS navigation, and the directions I was given had taken me to a point about two miles behind me. I was just about ready to turn around when I slowly came around a bend in the road and there it was: the loudest, most stunning waterfall I had ever seen.

The Bald River Falls was a nice stop during my little day trip along the Cherohala Skyway from Tellico Plains, Tennessee to Robbinsville, North Carolina. The waterfall was about six miles off the national scenic highway, but on that curvy, unmarked road it felt more like twenty. Fortunately there was plenty of parking nearby and the waterfall is viewable right from the road.

You could also feel the waterfall right from the road. The thunderous crashing of the water created a mist that floated for hundreds of feet through the air, across the narrow road, and down the river. It was a warm summer day so the humidity felt like 100% (especially once I left, and as I crossed the invisible barrier at the edge of the mist it felt like the temperature dropped twenty degrees).

This, of course, made it incredibly difficult to capture any photos. I pulled out all my usual gear for capturing photos of water: tripod, camera body, lens, ND-400 filter that allows me to take long exposure shots in full sunlight, and a remote shutter release. But the humidity was so high and the mist so thick that the ND filter kept fogging over. I had to remove it completely, wait for the sun to duck behind some clouds, and shoot as quickly as possible using the best camera settings I could.

It was frustrating, but that feeling subsided quickly when I took a minute to realize I was standing just two hundred feet from the loudest, most stunning waterfall I had ever seen. My joy increased exponentially later that evening when I shared the final photo with my best friend, who declared it her favorite photo of mine I had ever captured. She gawked over the photo for days and although I was not entirely happy with the result myself, she gave me an appreciation for my own artwork.

As I write this I have a signed canvas gallery wrap print of this waterfall that I had meant for my best friend's Christmas gift, but it arrived too late for me to mail it to her. Instead, I have kept it safely tucked away for the next holiday or opportunity to see her again. Being able to see her reaction while opening this print would be just as great as seeing this waterfall for the first time on that warm summer day.



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