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Cataract Falls

Posted by
Barbara Lee (Oakland, United States) on 26 April 2011 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

Yesterday, my husband and I went on one of the most amazing hikes we have ever done - right here nearly in our own backyard. This is Cataract Falls, on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County. This part of the mountain is not officially in the state park, but in an area maintained by the water district. When we have as much rain as we have had this year (tons!), the ground gets soaked and these falls develop. The runoff spills into Alpine Lake, the source for drinking water for Marin County.

We were blown away! We started our hike at the bottom of the hilll, and climbed about 2000 feet in a mile and a half - a pretty good workout. Each time I thought that we had seen the last of the falls, we would round a bend and see even more. There must have been at least 9 spillways.

I have not had much success in the past photographing waterfalls, but this time, I took along my new Vari ND Grad filter, a pretty expensive toy which really did the trick for this. You can dial in the exact level of exposure you want by twisting it like a polarizer and slow the falls to just the amount you would like.

I am very happy with the result here, but know that I can do even more. So, I will be back before the water runs out. I am told that by summer, there is nary a drop of water to be seen. Amazing!

NIKON D90 8/5 seconds F/16.0 ISO 200 46 mm (35mm equiv.)

To view more of my images, visit my portfolio at Barbara Lee Photography. Also, visit my Facebook fan page at!/pages/Barbara-Lee-Photography/244133283497[/url

Spotlight photo at

Marie LC from Entre montagnes et Bretagne, France

Wonderful choice of focus and beautiful place

26 Apr 2011 10:18am

Aubélia from Kortrijk, Belgium

A beautiful picture of nature. Nice composition.

26 Apr 2011 10:59am

marci from in, Morocco

so soft and beautiful! really lovely!

26 Apr 2011 2:15pm

Denny Jump Photo from Easton, PA, United States

Well the filter did a great job but you still exposed, composed, transposed and set this beautiful frame, Barbara....the water is just perfect I must say...Unfortunately at the end of each month I have to make a decision between house payment and new toy so guess who wins? Do you rent your equipment out?? ;-) I have long wanted to make the trk up Tamalpias but never been in shap[e for that..I have always had the feeling that it is a jewell of a place...This is just amagnificent composition, Barbara, even discounding the water! That brideg is just wonderful and the moss an colors are really cool. I love your perspective that you took here...beautiful. Thank you very much for sharing this with us!!

26 Apr 2011 2:37pm

@Denny Jump Photo: Why thank you, Denny! It was an amazing place. I felt like I was in the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. I will be back!

Dan Creighton from SE PA, United States

Beautiful. Nice tones, depth, composition.

26 Apr 2011 3:27pm

@Dan Creighton: Thank you, Dan! I appreciate your comment, since I respect your work a great deal.

Barbara Kile from Ft. Worth, United States

You have a lot going on here, but it's a great image with great comp. I too have the Vari-ND and sometimes when you need it - ya gotta have it with you! Great job.

26 Apr 2011 7:55pm

@Barbara Kile: Thanks, Barbara. Composing landscapes like this always is a real challenge for me. It is very busy, but I hope that the falls anchor the image and that the green provides an interesting frame. I will be using that Vari-ND more, you can be sure!

Larry Lefever from Lititz, United States

Very nice, Barbara. That filter is on my wishlist and it served you well. And, I love that large fern in front of the bridge. Well done.

26 Apr 2011 8:56pm

@Larry Lefever: Thanks so much, Larry. I have trouble composing the big landscape. You just have to figure out how to work with all the chaos that is there. The big fern did help. This was only the second time I have used that filter. It was on my wishlist for a long time, too!

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

marvelous capture. i used to go there all of the time when we lived in san rafael

26 Apr 2011 9:09pm

@john4jack: Thanks, Jack! This was the first time I had ever been there. Not sure why I never had heard of it over here in Oakland, but you can be sure I will be back. It is a great workout climbing those steps, right? My quads thanked me!

karla from Omaha, United States

Wow, looks very tropical. That is beautiful !

27 Apr 2011 12:20am

David from Detroit, United States

Beautiful. The light seems to have been perfect for this kind of shot-- not too bright, not too directional. The rich, moist vegetation proves your point: it has been a wet spring for you.

27 Apr 2011 1:19am

@David: Thank you David. I had the best of light - overcast and cloudy. But then the sun came out and I had to wait for those moments when the sun went back behind the clouds. Sorta like hide and seek!

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

wonderful and lush scenery! nice work on the exposure - the light is very well balanced and the water has a good flow to it! my kind of setting...

27 Apr 2011 2:25am

@DarkElf: Thanks, my friend!

Doug from Long Beach, United States

Ah, the beauty of nice toys.

28 May 2011 10:24pm

8/5 seconds
ISO 200
46 mm (35mm equiv.)