Beginning Waterfall Photography :: Intention

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When I first started taking pictures of waterfalls a few years ago I did what most people do: stuffed a camera into my backpack and took pictures of whatever I happened to see. I wasn't very happy with most of my photos, but I am always happy to be playing in the mountain rivers of western North Carolina. I started to learn more about exposure and composition, hoping to develop the skills to make photographs that could do some justice to the beautiful places I was going. I thought some magical combination of camera settings would enable me to make great photos.

And then it clicked. As the great photographer Ansel Adams famously said "You don't take a photograph, you make it." Our photos don't just show the places we've been, they also show our intention and dedication. If you want to take great pictures you must be willing to do the things others are not willing to do. You must be willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience and go where others won't go. You might have to get up early, you might have to stay out late. Whatever it takes to get to the right place at the right time.

I set my alarm for 4AM, drove to Lake Toxaway when there is no one on the road but cops and truck drivers. Hiked in the dark up that brutal hill beside Greenland Creek falls. And finally reached the falls at 7AM. There is nowhere I would rather be: alone and free to focus my intention on a beautiful waterfall when the lighting is right.

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