To hear it described, you would think the waterfall on Fall Creek, Swan Valley, Idaho, is a photographer’s dream. Multiple streams of mountain water cascade down travertine terraces, dropping from level to level until plunging directly into the Snake River. Just set up, spin your dials and shoot, it should be a slam dunk.
Ah, not so fast. The shot is not just a vertical plane, there is a lot of horizontal relief that hides some elements and distorts others. There is a lot of marching through the underbrush trying to find a workable perspective. There is mud to deal with. And that sky, intruding into every framing possibility and causing exposure problems, while adding no interest of its own. There are several small compositions of portions of the falls that are attractive, but the beauty of the whole falls is nowhere to be found.
After stomping around the mud and snow longer than anticipated, becoming ever more frustrated, I realized that if composition wasn’t going to rescue this photo, perhaps the light would do it. There were, in fact, some dim sunbeams popping out of the overcast sky on occasion, so I took some time to let some highlights move in and out of the scene, but I was not optimistic. Later, on the computer, things were not looking any better — until I took a chance with some dark shadows, high contrast and soft focus, and suddenly something came together. It was nothing like I had in mind, but it lent a character to the falls that is unusual and interesting — a dark and elusive character that reminds me of my mindset as I stood, discouraged, in the mud. (Pricing Schedule D)