Rodney Campbell's Blog

Kelly’s Falls…

by on Apr.18, 2015, under Life, Photography

After our wet sunrise session at Coalcliff we headed towards the Seacliff bridge for a quick recce for a potential future shoot and then went in search for breakfast. It was Easter Friday so, well, not a lot was open (in fact nothing in this area).

So since the conditions were still very overcast we decided to head to nearby Kelly’s Falls at Stanwell Tops first and we’d do breakfast/brunch afterwards. The conditions were ideal for shooting waterfalls – pretty much 100% cloud cover giving a soft diffuse light everywhere and it had been raining heavily overnight (and it was still drizzling a little) so there was enough water about and all the rocks were nice and wet.

Lower Kelly’s Falls

Lower Kelly's Falls

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 18 mm, 2.5 sec at f/11, ISO 100

It’s a very short little drive off the main road to the car park at the top of the falls.

There are in fact two large sets of falls here and for each there’s also a small set of upper falls with the main falls cascading over the high cliffs down into the gorge below.

We’d arrived around 9:00AM and after checking out some of the vantage points from up top we looked for the way down to the bottom of the gorge.

Some vague instructions online indicated looking for a large stone chair and for the “track” opposite it going down the cliff to the gorge below.

The track down was fine until we get to the part where it dropped over a small cliff a couple of metres high. There was a couple pieces of rope tied to various things on the rock face including the main one to a very small springy sapling with a trunk much thinner than my wrist.

Unfortunately Deb didn’t think she’d be able to make it down (or back up) so she left us and headed back to the upper falls whilst Gerry and I scrambled ever downwards.

Soon we were down at the bottom and we made our way to the base of the main lower Kelly’s Falls.

In the shot at the top it’s 9:40AM and I’ve setup just below the lip of the large pool at the bottom of the falls. You can see that the water drops down the main cliff in the background into a large pool at the bottom (I’d say it was a good ten metres or more across) and then on this side of the pool there’s a rock edge and the water cascades down again and over the rocks into the gully behind me.

I’ve actually got the tripod perched precariously spread across two very large pointy boulders which are insanely slippery. It was all I could do to stop myself and my gear from sliding everywhere and breaking everything – gear and body parts…

I actually wanted to be slightly higher for this shot but just couldn’t safely get there.

Gerry is behind and below me down the gorge taking this shot here at the same time.

Like Gerry I took some bracketed frames for this image however in the end the awesome dynamic range of these recent set of Nikon full frame cameras saved the day. The normal exposure RAW had all the shadow and highlight detail preserved so I just processed the single frame (maybe ‘cause I’m just lazy :)). Plus I liked the natural vignette the shadowing trees already gave the scene.

There were two massive head trees in the gully behind me (one is in Gerry’s shot). I liked the look of the other with all it’s twisty gnarled branches but where it was positioned it didn’t look like it was ideal for any sort of clean shot. Still I decide to head around and down to where Gerry was to check it out.

Second Kelly’s Falls

Second Kelly's Falls

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 8 sec at f/16, ISO 100

The wet ground and rocks here made for an extremely slippery experience. You really have to be sure footed and careful lest you slip and break some bones on the sharp edged rocks or worse fall down a large drop.

I decided to go around instead of straight down and on the way I could see some other falls in the distance over to the right. I decided instead to detour over there and when I got closer I could see these falls were (in my mind at least) even nicer than the main falls. I shouted over to Gerry to indicate they were good and he indicated he’d be over in a while 🙂

I liked these falls better for a number of reasons, the pool at the bottom was much smaller and the shape of the falls at the bottom was in my opinion much nicer. Lastly you could actually get closer to the falls to shoot (even right up to the falls as evidenced in this Waterfall Selfie of Gerry’s.

The shot above is a manual layer blend from three separate exposures. The bulk of the image comes from a 0EV exposure for the scene. I’ve blended a little of the foreground in and some of the upper falls where it got quite bright from the -1EV shot and a little of the darker areas in the greens and crevices on the cliff face are brought out using the +1EV frame.

Inspired by Gerry’s antics – watching a gangly tall man slide crab like slowly across the very slippery cliff face to get in position for a selfie I figured (after taking some shots of Gerry taking his shots :)) I’d do a somewhat less precarious selfie of my own…

Admiring the Fall

Admiring the Fall

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 24 mm, 1/2 sec at f/9, ISO 200

We’d been down here for nearly an hour and a half now so we figured it was time to head back up to see if Deb was still alive :)…

but not before one last shot at the base of Lower Kelly’s Falls. This is that large pool I spoke of earlier and the small slippery stone walkway which crosses the gully at the end of the pool before is cascades down further into the gully to the right.

Kelly’s Falls Pool

Kelly's Falls Pool

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 2.5 sec at f/16, ISO 200

Back up the top we met Deb who suggested we go take a look at the bottom of the upper falls, so…

Upper Kelly’s Falls

Upper Kelly's Falls

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 5 sec at f/16, ISO 50

Collecting some nice coloured leaves to place in a not so natural looking “random” pattern :(. So I admit that we did arrange these leaves, looking for something in the foreground than just the flow of water. Heading into Autumn there were plenty of nicely coloured leaves just ready to be abused like this :). Sigh nature just does a better job of this…

Leaf Action

Leaf Action

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 5 sec at f/16, ISO 50

Pro Tip:If you are coming to shoot at a place like this – waterfalls, wet rocks, wet leaves – a circular polariser is a MUST. If you don’t want all your rocks and leaves to be bright, hazy washed out patches and you want the smooth flowing water to stand out white against a deep rich background you need to be using a polariser – period :).

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