The Witch and the Waterfall
An adventure to Greg's Two Falls for portraits and beauty/glamour photography
Maybe it's not really a secret. Greg's Two Falls, after all, is on Google Maps. But this hidden waterfall off a creek that feeds the much larger (hah) Little River Canyon is tucked away in a valley off the beaten path. There are no markings, no parking, and no cell service. Since we were 90 miles from home and golden hour was rapidly approaching, it felt like quite an adventure.
It's only 1/4 mile hike, but the barely-visible path is overgrown and we had gear to carry. I try to pack light for treks like this, but the fear of missing a shot opportunity by lacking a piece of equipment is very real. Three of us carried two light stands, a  24" softbox, two flashes, an LED light, reflector, tripod, and camera bag -- and we used it ALL. 
Since one of the models is my girlfriend and the other is her good friend, they were able to take turns modelling and assisting me with lighting. Salem was the first model, and she brought two outfits. We didn't use any flashes or LEDs at first, since the shape of the visible sky made for some incredible light coming in from just the right angle.
You can see in the photos where we began to add LED rim light from the right side, just to add some definition to the outline. It's subtle but makes a big difference. I can't decide if I like the photos with our without it better. There's a certain mystery to the way she fades into the background, which works for this location.
All of these are single exposures with no compositing. If you've never shot water before, the trick is to use a slooooowwww shutter speed to get that creamy, soft look. Most are shot around 1/5 sec, f/5, iso-100, with primarily my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8.  I knew the light would define the models really well from the angle we had, so I had no need to use a shallow depth of field and wide open aperture-- which is good because I didn't bring an ND filter.
While she changed, I shot some photos of the valley and the falls themselves. It was such a gorgeous place. I had a reference photo I wanted to try to emulate with her walking towards the falls, and though I think the reference photo was better because of their location, I'm SO pleased with how ours turned out. Obviously the color temperature is a little warmer on that one, but I think it suits the mood better for the one shot. Posing is hard, but Salem's patience was extremely helpful.
After taking 15 minutes to nail just that final pose, the models switched and Sam put on her outfit. I bought her that skirt 8 months ago from an instagrammer in Europe and have yet to see her wear it, so I bought her a top to go with it and finally got to shoot photos with the whole outfit. She absolutely KILLED IT. After convincing her to let the skirt rest in the water, since it's lace black and doesn't do any weird color shifting when wet like most clothes, we shot a ton. She has more experience modelling and it's a joy to point the camera at her and get something fantastic every time. 
By this time we had our camera settings and light positioning dialed in and were able to crank out shot after jaw-dropping shot. I'll let them speak for themselves.
As we lost the last of our light, we had to scramble to collect our gear and walk back. It gets dark FAST in the woods, and with no cell service in the valley, getting out even in twilight can be a challenge. Fortunately, we knew what we were doing, so we headed out a different way: uphill towards the nearest road to get out of the woods immediately. Then, sweating and exhausted but pumped from exploring, we headed along the road towards the car and headed home.
Oh, and Sam brought her How to Train Your Dragon onesie and we took some photos in that too.

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