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December Fog

We had an unusually warm and rainy December 1st and the weather report called for fog around the Hocking Hills, Ohio area. Flowing waterfalls and fog sounded like a great photo combination so I headed down to Rock Stall Nature Preserve.

The preserve features a waterfall at the end of a narrow hollow. Last time I was there it was down to a trickle and I hoped that after all the rain it would be flowing stronger this time. When I got to the preserve it started pouring rain so I waited in the car and had a snack. Once the rain let up, I headed down the short trail to the stairs that take you down in to the hollow. Most of the trees in and around the creek are evergreens and the lowland was filled with a thick fog – it was beautiful. It was like having a little piece of Oregon transplanted an hour east of Columbus.

Rock Stall Fog Samsung S5
Rock Stall Fog
Samsung S5

Unfortunately even after the rain the waterfall wasn’t flowing well.  I had it mind to combine the fog and waterfall and no composition I tried was effective. If the camera was far enough from the waterfall to see the fog then you couldn’t see the waterfall. I like the arc of the land leading to the waterfall, but with so little water it doesn’t work.

Rock Stall Falls December ISO:100 - f/11 - 10mm - 3.2 sec
Rock Stall Falls December
ISO:100 – f/11 – 10mm – 3.2 sec

If the camera was close enough for a good view of the water then it was too close to see any fog. Even up close the waterfall was lackluster. Maybe I’ll try again next spring.

Rock Stall Falls Close ISO:100 - f/11 - 16mm - 6 sec
Rock Stall Falls Close
ISO:100 – f/11 – 16mm – 6 sec

It was very wet and still drizzling occasionally so I had the rain cover for my backpack and a rain sleeve for the camera. Working with a camera in a rain sleeve is a pain – the focusing ring can move with the sleeve, the screen is hard to see and the buttons are hard to manipulate. The rain and sleeve also made me very reluctant to change lenses. A longer lens might have been a better choice than my usual wide angle Sigma. The longer focal length compresses a scene front to back so it may have gotten me a composition with both waterfall and fog visible.

Camera Rain Sleeve Samsung S5
Camera Rain Sleeve
Samsung S5

After packing up and hiking back to the car, I decided to try Ash Cave. I’ve never photographed there before and I was hopeful that the waterfall and fog would be better there. Wow! It was. Not only was the 90 foot (27 meter) waterfall flowing strong, but a thick fog filled the gorge. Ash Cave is enormous. The horseshoe shaped overhang is 700 feet (200 meters) long and 100 feet (30 meters) deep. The shot below was my favorite of the day. It captures the fog, the soft light, the waterfall, and the size and drama of the cave. I used a circular polarizer to remove glare from the water, but I may have over done it – you can hardly tell there’s water there at all. D’oh!

Foggy Ash Cave ISO:100 - f/11 - 10mm - 1.3 sec - EV -2 CP filter
Foggy Ash Cave
ISO:100 – f/11 – 10mm – 1.3 sec – EV -2 CP filter

A second shot from a little further back with the camera position a little higher off the ground, uses a fallen log as the foreground element. The intention was to create a zig zag path to the waterfall, but it falls off the right side of the frame and it’s a bit too sharp. If I’d moved back a bit more and to the right then I could have possibly created a gentler, contained ‘S’ path.

Foggy Ash Cave Two ISO:100 - f/11 - 12mm - 3.2 sec - EV -0.7
Foggy Ash Cave Two
ISO:100 – f/11 – 12mm – 3.2 sec – EV -0.7


To enlarge the waterfall, I moved closer to the edge of the pool and set the camera low and angled up. The waterfall is more prominent and you can still see the fog, but the size of the cave is lost and so is some of the light. The only ND filter I have for the Sigma lens is a 10 stop. At f/11 the 10 stop filter would have given me a 12 minute exposure time so I opened up to f/5.6. Opening to f/5.6 does reduce the depth of field, but because it’s such a wide lens, everything past about 3 feet (1 meter) is in focus. With the camera tilted up slightly, the closest part of the foreground was further than three feet. There are a couple things I don’t like about this shot. The fallen branch is a distraction. If I’d been a little closer then the hemlock branches wouldn’t have been in frame on the right and the pool would have exited the frame on the right and made the foreground more symmetrical.

Foggy Ash Cave Close ISO:100 - f/5.6 - 10mm - 175 sec
Foggy Ash Cave Close
ISO:100 – f/5.6 – 10mm – 175 sec

The last shot I tried was right in front of the waterfall looking up. I moved a piece of fallen branch into the foreground to provide a point of interest and positioned the camera so the piece pointed right at the bottom of the waterfall. First I took a 4 minute long exposure with the ND filter, but this close to the waterfall the filter got covered in water drops. I removed the filter, stopped down to f/7.1 and took a 1/2 second shot. Any longer than that and water drops became a problem.There’s still a little fog, but again the size of the cave is lost.

Ash Cave Waterfall ISO:100 - f/7.1 - 10mm - 1/2 sec - EV -2
Ash Cave Waterfall
ISO:100 – f/7.1 – 10mm – 1/2 sec – EV -2

There were very few people at the normally popular cave. I love foggy, rainy days and was happy with a couple of the photos I created, but I need to find a better way of taking photos in the wet.

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