Little Mashel Falls – July 4th

I had the day off and could have slept in. But by 7:30AM, I had my camera bag and tripod in the car and was driving the hour east to Eatonville, Washington.  Just outside the town, the Little Mashel River drops in a series of waterfalls through a deep gorge in the dense forest.

Lower Mashel Fall - 4 sec, f/16

Lower Mashel Fall – 4 sec @ f/16

This is the lower falls, where I had to sling my tripod on my back with my camera bag, and hold onto a steel cable to climb backwards down to the base of the falls.

Lower Mashel Falls - 1.5 sec @ f/16

Lower Mashel Falls – 1.5 sec @ f/16

I used to love taking these kinds of pictures with my film camera in the 90’s. I love having so much more control and immediate feedback with digital!  I used a circular polarizing filter to bring out the rich colors and cut the bluish reflections on the water and wet rocks.  Obviously, every shot here was on a tripod, but I also used a cable release, and a lens hood to prevent flare from the morning sun across filter.  It’s always fun trying to rotate a circular polarizer with a hood covering it.

Mashel River - 1.5 sec @ f/16

Mashel River – 1.5 sec @ f/16

I had already been to the middle falls the month before, so I skipped them headed straight to the upper falls – which I could not reach without wading.  So I doubled back and took a little trail down the steep gorge to the river between the upper and middle falls, and found the shot above.

I just have to say, please don’t take your kids here. It’s actually dangerous. You can fall and kill yourself easily if you’re not being cautious. There was a place where the weeds covered the trail so I couldn’t see where I was stepping as I pushed through them, then suddenly there was a gravel slide off a 70-foot drop to the river below. I could have slipped off if I wasn’t taking it slow and stepping carefully.

Mashel River - 0.7 sec @ f/19

Mashel River – 0.7 sec @ f/19

This is a really cool pair of mini falls between the upper and lower falls.  On the left is a straight drop, and on the right is more of a waterslide down the rock.  The wet rocks with moss on them are as slippery as polished ice!  I had to be very careful when maneuvering for the best angle to set up the tripod. A fall on these boulders would be more than painful.

Little Mashel River - 2 sec @ f/16

Little Mashel River – 2 sec @ f/16

My primary targets were waterfalls, but I’ve learned to look around for other things that might make good photos. Especially when you drive some distance to a shooting location. I thought this line of rocks through the shallows was interesting.

Little Mashel River - 1.5 sec @ f/19

Little Mashel River – 1.5 sec @ f/19

This was a great morning which I enjoyed immensely, even if I was alone.  Photography is like a treasure hunt sometimes, which is fun, but it’s an extra challenge to use your skills and equipment to capture the “treasure” you found so you can bring it home.

I really don’t mind doing this for free, and it would be a dream come true to get paid for it. But there a lot of people better at it than me out there, and smart people will only pay for the best.  You want to see what the best looks like? Go check out the 500px website. It blows my mind every time I visit that site and see what some of the best photographers can do!

Unfortunately, by about 11:00AM, the sun got to an angle that started creating hot spots on the river and falls, so I collapsed my tripod and climbed out of the gorge to hike back to my car.


4 thoughts on “Little Mashel Falls – July 4th

  1. These were great shots. I’m going to have to try that too. I took some pictures using different aperture settings but that didn’t work as well as I wanted.

    • Thank you, Arun. A small aperture (f/16 or f/19) did 2 things: 1. Got most of the picture in focus, and 2. Helped reduce the light hitting the sensor enough to allow slower shutter speeds to blur the water. Around 1 sec and you still have some texture/detail in the water, but anything over 2 sec is so blurred the water begins to look surreal. A polarizer or neutral density filter can help you get the shutter speed you want at the desired aperture setting. Have fun!

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