Photographing the Cloudland Canyon
After spending about 5 days in the Smoky Mountains, and enjoying the stillness and less populated areas, I knew it would be a huge contrast staying in Atlanta before heading further to Savannah and Charleston. To ease the transition from shooting in solitary to dealing with crowds of people, I directed my sunset sessions towards a bit more remote areas. Let's just say that I now have a better understanding of the term "redneck" and "hillbilly"!
Cloudland Canyon was one of those places I stumbled across coincidentally while doing research for my trip, and was also mentioned to me a couple times after this. I wasn't sure it would be the most spectacular place for sunset, especially since I now was spoiled with the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. However I had read about a waterfall hike, and the images I saw convinced me that this was worth the drive alone. I should probably mention that it wasn't a bad spot for sunset after all.
The Cloudland Canyon Waterfall Loop
This 2 mile (3.2km) hike will take you to what I believe is some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of Georgia (Big statement for someone who spent less than a week there). Even tho it is a short hike, it could be a tough one if you're not in the best shape. In total there is approximately 1,200 stair-steps, yes you read correct. 1,200. I got to admit it was a good workout for my legs, and the heavy backpack and way to high temperatures for a Norwegian did not make it any better! But, I actually quite enjoyed it, at least running down!
After about 0.45 miles you will reach a junction. Following the trail to the left, you will arrive the first waterfall of the loop, Cherokee Falls.
Some of you may know that waterfalls are some of my favorite elements to photograph or just simply visit. I still remember the mixed feeling of excitement, joy and relaxation that arose when the waterfall appeared in front of me. And again, nobody else was there, just me, my camera and nature.
I quickly started looking around for compositions and perspectives, as the light was perfect due to the suns low position on the sky. I kept in mind the numerous warnings that wading and swimming where strictly forbidden, while testing my balance jumping from rock to rock without getting wet. Falling into the river may not have been so dangerous from this exact spot, but not to many meters behind me there are multiple small waterfalls before a 30 meter drop.
One of my favorite features with Cherokee Falls, was the vividly blue water at falls base. At a moment I thought I was standing by the ocean in Hawaii or someplace tropical.
Unlike Cherokee Falls, you are not able to walk all the way up to Hemlock Falls. You can't get closer than a observation platform, and the window to shoot is rather tight. Trees cover most of your view, but there is a small opening that the falls are visible through.
The sun was still low and gave a great glow on top of this exquisite 30 meter waterfall.
Walking further down past this fall, towards the West Rim, there are many more smaller waterfalls. I do recommend spending some time exploring these, as they are just as beautiful as the more majestic Hemlock and Cherokee Falls.
The Cloudland Canyon View
As I said earlier, Cloudland Canyon isn`t only mesmerising waterfalls, it also has a fantastic view of the canyon itself. After being spoiled with the beauty of Smoky Mountains, I was afraid that this view wouldn't be as pleasing. I was wrong. The soft sunset made a calming atmosphere that really matched this untouched terrain.
To capture it all, I decided to shoot a Panorama of the entire canyon. I don`t think my Mac was as pleased as I was. I think it nearly got a battery-attack while processing this enormous file in Photoshop..