On my list of waterfalls I wanted to shoot as soon as possible was Crabtree Falls in North Carolina. Well today I made the trek two and a half hours to the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Pisgah National Forest to do just that.
I arrived at the campground area at about 7:30am and parked at the first trail head leading to Crabtree Falls. This was the first mistake I made. Leaving from this trail head will add another half mile to the falls. Go down further to the second trail head and save yourself some issues.
After about 1.5 miles of hiking downhill, I arrived at the bottom of the falls. I was truly stunned at this falls beauty and at the same time relaxing sounds. This is in the top three falls in NC in my humble opinion. It lacks the overall power of Linville and Looking Glass falls but it makes up for it in height and cascading beauty. For the photographer, there are seemingly endless angles to photograph the falls and the cascades which flow in steps down and under the bridge. The water is shallow enough to wade out into the current and get some nice closeups of the cascading water. To get a full image of the falls, it is best to hike up the opposite side of the hill and shoot it from that vantage point. If you have a wider angle lens like a 25mm you can get everything in the frame from the base of the falls.
Don't wait too long to get there. If you get there on a sunny day the falls will partially fall into the sunlight which will make exposure difficult. I was shooting the scene at 8:00am and the sun had not hit the falls yet. My exposure was F32 at 16 seconds and I bracketed down to 8 seconds. As soon as my film is back from processing I will display some of the images. I used a combination of a polarizer and warming filter. This is a common setup for falls.
One final thought: Unless you are an olympic athlete or are used to very long strenuous hikes do not do the entire loop trail. It is long and very difficult. This was the second mistake I made. It says on the web sites that it is medium difficulty but this is not true. When you are carrying 20 lbs worth of camera gear it is very difficult and this shoot was in the fall with cooler temperatures. I would recommend leaving on the same trail you came in on.