This is my Photo Blog detailing my adventures into the world. From exploring the waterfalls, mountains, and the beauty that is Western North Carolina, urban exploration, to anywhere my lens takes me across the country. Also visit my site The Digital Mirage

Adorama "TechTock" interview with The Digital Mirage's Walter Arnold

Adorama's Jack Howard (Author of "Practical HDRi") interviews me about my photography, techniques, workflow and other tips and tricks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Eastatoe Falls 11/04/2007

I found this beautiful falls off hwy 178 near Rosman. It was on private property but there were no "no trespassing" signs. According to the Kevin Adams book you "Walk through the yard behind the house and then follow the grassy path to the base of the falls." And no kidding it was someone's house! I parked in their gravel driveway next to their car and got out, walked through their yard, and sure enough no more than 200 feet was a beautiful 50 ft tall waterfall. I would kill to have this in my back yard! You could see it from their house!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cathy's Creek NC 09/23/2007

I got the urge to go out again today! Even though my legs were still sore from the Pearson and Little Bradley Falls hikes yesterday, I wanted more! So while Nicole was shopping in Asheville I headed out past brevard to Cathy's Creek to check out the falls there. According to the book there was only a 100 yard hike down a very steep level 8 trail. I figured it would be a quick trip. I followed the dirt road off of 64 for about 3 miles to a pull off described in the book and donned my pack. I was in the middle of nowhere! I had not passed a single car on this one lane dirt road and could hear no cars or anything except the forest, it was great!

I could not find a discernible path from the pull off but the forest was passable down the steep embankment and I could hear rushing water from where I was so I started down the ravine towards the sound of the water. The embankment turned VERY steep very quick. no more than 20 feet down and I was side steeping very slowly. The very loose earth crumbled under my feet and the brush suddenly got very thick. This most certainly was not a trail of any kind let alone the one from the book. Since I knew I could not be that far off from the falls I figured I would continue down and just hike up along the creek to the falls and take some pictures there and then take the real trail back up and walk back down the road to my car.

Still side stepping down the embankment a small 7 inch in diameter tree that I leaned against for balance suddenly gave way and toppled down the hill! I quickly lost my balance and slid (luckily) on my butt about 20 yards down a very steep part of the hill. At this point I was a bit shaken and thought it best to go back to the car and find the real trail, but much to my dismay I found that the steep part I just slid down combined with the very loose earth mad it almost impossible to climb back up. Where I stood the forest was so dense around me that the only way was down to the stream.

I made it to the stream and I could not see the falls from where I was so I started to make my way upstream. After attempting (unsuccessfully) to navigate through the very dense brush on either side of the creek I decided to get my feet wet and wade upstream. This consisted of wading about knee deep through pools and on and off slippery moss covered rocks. As I made my way up I stopped at about 2-3 places and took a few shots of the creek and a few very small cascades.

After about an hour I had gone about 0.3 miles (hey I was walking up stream taking pictures trying not to fall!!!) I saw up ahead the falls! But as I neared the area I could see that the falls and the area around them tapered into a very small quickly rushing stream of water that emerged from between 3 giant rocks that jutted out from the solid rock ravine walls into the middle of the stream, completely preventing me from navigating through them. Looking to either side of me the steepness of the sheer rock walls and then the density of the forest at the top of the 10 foot rocks was so great that I did not think I could pass. I did find an area near these rock that looked like I could climb up about 10 feet or so but all the small footholds looked like they went deep into the rocks and all I could think about were rattlesnakes!

I stood there baffled as to what I should do. I could risk climbing the rocks and possibly falling or risking snakes, or I could trek BACK down the creek another 0.3 of a mile (Which is a long hike up a slippery creek!) to try again to climb out of the ravine. After thinking about this for a few minutes I decided that since I was alone I would do the safe thing and go back down the creek until I could find an area that looked like I could climb back out...

About 30 minutes later I neared what looked like the area which I had descended. Several attempts to negotiate the climb out were unsuccessful. At this point I was freaking out that I might be in trouble! After gaining my cool I decided that I would "sprint" up the embankment. I launched myself upward as hard as I could, scrambling with all fours against the crumbling earth to a small sapling tree about 20 feet up, where I pulled myself up and rested. I did this repeatedly for about 10 minutes, scramble...grab until after about 80 yards I was near the top. My legs were so exhausted at this point they were shaking and I felt like I was going to hyperventilate! I made it the last 30 feet and stumbled to my car and collapsed. After about 2 bottles of water and 15 minutes of rest I figured I would at least drive the remaining .3 of a mile to see where i SHOULD have pulled off.

Sure enough there was another pull off just up the road with a definite trail leading down. At this point I was so exhausted, there was no way I was going down there. I drove back home a little discouraged and completely wiped out! At least I got a few decent pictures out of the trip!

As you can see from the following video the brush on either side was VERY dense and navigating my way upstream was tough to say the least especially with a backpack full of camera equipment that would be ruined if I slipped!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pearson Falls and Little Bradley Falls NC 09/22/2007

Today we struck out together and headed out to Pearson Falls on the recommendations of several people. Pearson Falls is located just outside Saluda NC off of 176. It is privately owned land and we were charged $3 per person to enter the area. A nice lady came down from a cabin to a little stand and took our money and welcomed us to the falls. We parked in a tiny gravel parking area around the same time a busload of church kids unloaded and filled the serene forest with echoing shouts and screams. We double timed it up the trail before they could get a start! The well maintained trail led up a creek and crossed over a quaint little stone bridge. Not more than 3/10ths of a mile up we reached the falls. Pearson Falls is a beautiful multilevel cascading falls about 75 feet high coming off the colt river. Several other people were there but I set up shop on a large flat rock and started shooting. (Remember you can click on ANY of the photos here for a large version!)

I used my new darker neutral density filter which allowed me to get 6-10 second exposures without blowing out the shot. The longer exposures allowed me to create that very nice "silky" smooth water look. The kids soon invaded our peacefulness and for about 5 minutes I guarded my tripod while they ran around asking questions. I moved my 'post' out onto a rock in the middle of the stream to get a few more shots. While I shot the falls Nicole found a fuzzy caterpillar crawling up her pants and amused herself with it for a while!

After we had our fill we packed up and went back to the car (While "collecting" a few warning sign shots).

We broke out the book to find out where we wanted to go next. We decided on Bradley Falls which looked to be only about 15 min from Pearson Falls and headed out. We stopped at a little cider shop on the side of the road and purchased a big jug of "peach cider" (have not tasted it yet) and asked a nice down home looking man for exact directions to the road we needed and were on our way.

We made our way to the trail head for Bradley Falls and after talking to some other hikers we decided not to hike to the falls as the water flow was low and would not lend itself to a good shot. Looking back in the book we found Little Bradley Falls and drove back up the road a half mile to the area the book said led to the trail. When we parked the car on the very narrow shoulder we looked down the VERY steep embankment beside us that was covered with large dumped rocks to prevent washing out and we changed our mind about climbing down that way. So we went back again to the Bradley Falls trail head and found Cove Creek that led up to Little Bradley Falls and began our hike there.

As we began we met a couple with a beautiful husky that was loaded up with a doggie pack to carry their stuff! (Need to get me one of those!) we led ahead of them for a short time until we met two guys who also donned camera holding hiking backpacks. Together we attempted to find the trail which was not marked and pretty much consisted of bush whacking our way along the side of the creek. On three occasions we had to cross the creek by rock hopping and balancing on less than steady rocks. At one point I inevitably slipped and found myself standing with both feet in calf-deep water.

We continued on with soggy shoes and a less than happy Walter. Finally we passed the very steep rocky hill we had looked down on earlier. The falls were not much further. We were the first couple to the falls and went ahead and took what I thought was the best spot to shoot from. I took a bunch of shots from different angles here. Little Bradley Falls is a multilevel cascade about 40 feet high.

After chatting with the two other photographers about their setups and techniques we sat and enjoyed the falls before packing up. We were the last couple to leave and as we came back to the steep rocky area we saw the two guys climbing about halfway up. Knowing how many more creeks and slippery rocks we would have to cross we decided to follow suit and began climbing up the rocks.

Notice my awesome camera-hiking-backpack with the special tripod holder!

Only about 50% of the rocks on this steep grade were stable. A few times my weight sent a cascade of rocks rolling down below. After about 10 minutes of this pretty dangerous climb we neared the top and one of the guys stuck out his walking stick to help pull us up the last 10 feet. We walked the last half mile back to the car.

On the way back to the interstate we stopped and a little roadside stand a bought some boiled peanuts. As I was making my purchase I heard someone ask "How was Bradley falls?" I turned around and the cider guy from earlier was also at this stand! Weird... A nice hot cup of salty boiled peanuts was the perfect way to end this day!

Here is some viedo from Pearson Falls!

And a quick one of Little Bradley:

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rainbow Falls NC 09-16-2007

Rainbow Falls on Horsepasture River Transylvania County

I struck out by myself today. Nicole was still getting over the bronchitis I gave her while we were on vacation in Florida. It was really strange I got up this morning and open the waterfall book that we bought at the outdoors shop in Brevard last time, and I just flipped open the book to a page randomly, and the description of Rainbow Falls outside of Brevard NC was on the page. So I read some about it both in the book and online and all the descriptions I read were saying that if they had to pick one waterfall in North Carolina that was the most beautiful they would pick this one! So once I determined that it was only about 20 minutes further than cathedral falls and right off hwy 64, I knew that was where I was going!

Drove out there and found the parking area for the Gorges National Park. I asked a guy with a fishing pole if he knew which way the falls were, and he said he was looking for the same place, so we read a few excerpts out of the Kevin Adams book and finally determined the correct route to get to the falls. I started off before him and made my way out of the parking lot left on a trail following the road and then past a closed gate with a sign indicating that this road should not be accessed and that people have died on these trails.

Nothing like a warm welcome from the park rangers! I continued down the trail for about a half mile or so and then descended a steep embankment (completely missing where there was a trail off to my right) which eventually came out at the top of the first falls called Turtleback Falls. The trail actually led out onto the bedrock of the river at this point and you walked around an outcropping of trees on the rock until you got back on the dirt trail.

At the opening of the trail onto the river I met a little old lady that had stayed behind while her daughters had gone ahead and trekked down to Rainbow Falls. We chatted briefly and as we did the man that I had spoke with in the parking area came up behind us and continued on down the path. I parted ways with the lady after giving her my printed information about the falls and telling her about the website. I took a few shots with the Sony at the top of Turtleback before moving on down the trail across a small bridge and the onto a small rock outcropping that offered me a decent front on view of the falls.

Wishing I had a wider angle lens than 18-55mm I snapped some shots with my neutral density filter on and quickly realised that on sunny days like this one I was going to need a darker ND filter. I packed the camera back into my new specially made camera hiking backpack and moved on down the trail stopping at one or two other easily accessible areas.

Finally after about another half mile I came to the top of Rainbow Falls. It was breathtaking. the dry exposed bedrock allowed me to get right to the very dangerous edge of the top of the falls and also stand on some rocks in the middle of the river and snap a few shots.

What an amazing feeling, looking out over the top of this 120' high falls. I could see two people far below be at the bottom of the falls sitting on some rocks. I stood for a minute there just watching the roaring water rush around me and taking in the amazing view of the explosion of water at the top of the falls and the trees and mountains in the distance. Again I packed my things and made my way down the trail to an area that looked to go down to the base of Rainbow Falls. Climbing down involved stepping very carefully and holding on the rocks and any tree limbs I could find. Finally I made it to the base just as the couple that I saw above sitting on the rocks were leaving. I took a few (unsuccessful) shots of the waterfall through the trees and then broke tree cover and stepped out onto the giant rocks below the falls. I stared in wonder at this massive falls for a few minutes and then walked around without my pack to find a good place that I could safely take the camera and still get a decent shot. I found a spot and rattled off a bunch of shots, some of which turned out very nice.

I spent a good 20 minutes at the base of the falls before moving on. After pulling myself back up the steep embankment I was thoroughly exhausted and after sitting for a moment decided to go a little further down. Along the way I met a couple with a pretty white dog who they said was not theirs. They said the dog which they had dubbed "Snowdrift" had found them and walked with them all day. The dog had a tag that said: "I live in the Gorges Park area, I am not lost, I will find my way home." The couple told me that there were more falls further down and many more trails. I started on down but did not get too far before I figured the hike back was long enough as it was. I finally turned around and started the very long hike back. After about an hour I made it back to the car and all but passed out. I had a great day and found an incredible location that I plan on going back to visit very soon!

Below is a short vidoe of the falls along the river.

Stopping the time
Rushing, waiting
Leave it behind
Shifting and shaping
Keep it inside
It all goes passing by...

Cathedral Falls NC Day 2 08-26-2007

Nicole joined me in this return trip to the falls. Again we parked in the Living Waters Ministry parking lot and started down the trail. Before we got to the first falls we met three people exploring like ourselves. We shared our limited knowledge of the area and I joined one of them in taking some pictures of the first set of falls. The man taking pictures had a very nice Nikon setup with a wide angle telephoto lens and a square filter mount with a graduated Neutral Density filter. I asked him about the settings he was using and he told me a 3-4 second exposure with an Fstop around 13-16. We all chatted for a bit and Nicole and I took off before them to start walking down stream.

Nicole and I stopped at the same places I had gone the previous day and we took in the sights and the sounds of this beautiful area. Nicole sat at the top of Cathedral Falls while I took some more pics.

I noticed some dark clouds gathering and I rushed her back onto the path so we could get to the base of the falls in case a storm was coming. We got to the base and I rushed her to sit on the bed rock so I could shoot a portrait of her with the falls as a backdrop but I was barely able to set up and snap off 3-4 shots before a light drizzle began. I ran the camera back up to the bag which was under cover of some trees, and grabbed my backpack and brought back down to her. It was still barely drizzling so I popped out a water bottle I had brought that was filled with some wine, poured some into our red plastic dixie cups, and we toasted our new hobby together. We sat there a few minutes and enjoyed the cool mist and light rain.

Suddenly the skies opened up and it started pouring. Nicole found a small area that was sheltered by the massive rock outcropping and made her way there. I ran back up the inclined bedrock to grab the camera bag. On my way back down in my haste I slid standing up about 6 feet or so while maintaining my balance (barely) and made it safely to the semi-sheltered area. We watched as the rain fulled the roaring river and the dry spots where we were sitting quickly started filling up with running water. We stood there for 15 minutes or so and watched the rain, drank the rest of our wine and talked.

When it looked like it was letting up a bit we grabbed our things and made the wet muddy hike back to the car. Just as we were nearing Living Waters the rain picked up fast. When we broke free of the forest cover we made a dash towards the car. Suddenly lightning struck so close the the transformer on the power line not 20 feet from us emitted a flash of sparks. Nicole stood under cover of a small firewood pavilion while I made another mad dash the last 25 yards to the car. We drove down off the mountain and back into Brevard where we stopped and bought some hiking equipment and decided that we would definitely do this again!

The last clip in this series of videos is of Cathedral Falls the rest of the video is the of other falls and cascades along the half mile stretch of river.


I'm aching to believe

Give me something real enough

Give me somewhere to fall from...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

08/25/2007 Cathedral Falls NC Day 1

I drove out by myself, took 64 from Hendersonville through Brevard until I came to Hwy 215 leading North. Drove up the mountain about 7-8 miles and parked in the lot of the Living Waters Ministry building. Spoke with a few kids and got permission to check out the falls. Made the very brief hike (I could hear the falls from the gravel parking lot) down to the first falls, which consisted of two merging water sources in a semi-circle. This location was fed by a branch of the french broad river and another large creek.

Falls were 15-20 feet tall. I snapped a few pictures from a small piece of exposed bedrock that jutted out into the water. When I was done I got back on the path and stopped a few other places along the way where the river was accessible and took a few pics / video.

In all there were about 6-7 locations with falls in varying heights that were easily accessible. The well maintained path took me through some creepy bending branches/plants that canopied the train low enough for me to duck as I went through. I finally got to what seemed like the end of the trail and made my way down to Cathedral Falls. This was maybe a 25ft falls that flowed under a giant rock outcropping about 100 feet tall that it had been carving away for years.

Yellow lichen adorned the striated rock wall.

The roaring falls tapered down stream into a peaceful creek that flowed further down the mountain. I took more pictures here and experimented with the camera settings which I am still getting used to. Incidentally I never got a full shot of Cathedral Falls, both times I went I neglected to bring my wide angle lens with me and I could never fully frame the final falls (All the more reason to go back again!) All in all it was an incredible trip and I learned a lot about shooting waterfalls.

I'm wide awake and so alive

Ringing like a bell

Tell me this is paradise

And not someplace I fell

'Cause I keep on falling down...

About Me

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Hendersonville, NC, United States
Check out my professional photography site at The Digital Mirage I post also my photos over at Flickr! Check them out