Scouting The Ridge Nature Area

I had a little time after work today to scout The Ridge Nature Area. I’ll let you visit the website to find more specifics about The Ridge, and I will focus on the photography.  My goal was to identify places to photograph when the light is right (i.e., golden hour, but this might be challenging because The Ridge closes at sunset).

I went in knowing nothing about The Ridge. This is a rookie mistake, but I had not planned on it.  Always research where you plan on shooting.  Because I did not do any research, I only covered half of The Ridge and only found one interested area to photograph. I’ll need to scout it again to have a clear plan for the whole preserve.

I traveled a dirt road, literally, along a ridge and parked at the far end of the ridge.  I joined the “Ridge Loop” trail and traveled north along the trail along the east side of the ridge. The ridge sloped down to my right, and I saw a distinctly flat area with newer oak trees.  I continued north along the easy with my by kept my eyes to the east because I suspected there was a creek to my right.  After about ten minutes of walking, I say the distinct cut of a creek along the bottom of the valley.

I turned east and met Ginger Cake Creek along the Muscadine Trail. I hiked north along the winding creek in the flat area of the valley.  The sun was out and cast remarkable hard shadows along the flat. There was nothing remarkable to see and was about to turn back to my truck when I heard the unmistakable sound of a waterfall..  I followed the sound and saw a small tier water-drop.  I would not really call it a waterfall because it was simply a two-foot change in elevation over rocks. I guess you could call it a small rapid. And, by “small,” I mean fifteen feet long.

On both sides of the creek were approximately five-foot sand banks. Someone, perhaps the Trust, had dumped large rocks on the bank where I was standing. Interestingly, there was a stand of trees that surrounded the rapid, which provided some diffused light over the rapid.

I debated for a good ten minutes on whether I would climb down to the rocks and take a picture.  But, I decided that I could not leave empty handed.  I set up my camera before I climbed down the banks to the rocks.

  • ISO 100
  • 4/5 sec.
  • F/14
  • 18mm
  • Tripod
  • External shutter release
  • Circular polarizer
  • ND4 filter

There was a tree extending over the creek, and I grabbed a branch to hold onto as I descended. About one foot from the bottom, the limb snapped.  Thankfully, the rocks held, and I was able to set up on the pile of rocks below.

The rocks, however, were not stable.  I was constantly fighting the rocks to keep balance and keep both me and my camera rig from falling into the water.

I shot four frames quickly because I wanted to get off the rocks.  They simply could not hold me.  The first one (below) is the one I ended up keeping. 20190312 Ridge Nature Preserve-0595

I attempted to do focus-stacking, but in post-processing, the image did not come out right (the one above is a single shot that worked). There are two reasons it did not work. First, I was in a hurry to get the shots because the rocks on which I was standing were not stable. So, I did not run off image stabilization and auto-focus, which will affect sharpness. Second, I am sure that the rocks moved the tripos ever-so-slightly while shooting the three frames for focus-stacking.

Seriously, I was glad to climb out of that little creek bed. I did not want to end up in the hospital with a broken ankle! I have been there before…

My next visit to The Ridge Nature Area will be to scout the west side of the ridge.  There are still a couple of miles of trails that I want to hike and explore.

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