I have come to realize just recently, a fact that was pointed out to me by one of my friends, that my work seems to have turned more towards waterfalls. I do not believe this is a deliberate attempt to specifically exclude other types of landscapes, and by that I mean anything that does not include water. Admittedly I am drawn to the raucous movements and joyous sounds of cascades flowing over, under, and through mossy green rocks. But there are certain architectural characteristics as well, in the form of stacked stones and a certain layering, as if each rock had been placed by the hand of a giant. I have always been fascinated by such natural constructions. The random, yet chaotic placement, of rocks and boulders deposited over time by the forces of glaciers and water are a constant fascination. In my way of thinking, water is a metaphor for change. The constant flow against rock ever so slowly carves and sculpts the land. Water, stone, and time are nature's palette for a continuum of constant, and evolving change.
Breakneck is one of a trio of waterfalls on the east side of Slippery Rock Gorge. These spectacular, high falls, flow from tributaries that feed into Slippery Rock Creek. Because these small feeder streams flow over resistant Homewood Sandstone, they enter the gorge as "hanging waterfalls". For a short time, as the last glaciers receded some 23,000 years ago, these streams carried glacial debris into the gorge. There are no established trails into Breakneck except those cut by the excursions of college students and other visitors who mange to find their way to the base of the falls. Navigating down the cliffs from the top is daunting and perhaps give some credence as to why the falls were named "Breakneck". A fall from such a height would certainly break ones neck and a lot more as well. The more direct route, but longer, is from the bottom along Slippery Rock Creek. Either way, climbing down, or scrambling up, is a challenge. After some reconnaissance I found a "middle path" to the base of the falls. It was more of a bushwhacking affair but it offered a route that worked with the terrain. I was nursing a pulled hamstring and several expletives emerged as I had to scale quite a few downed trees. Fortunately the serenade of several feathered friends - a Robin, Wood Thrush, Chickadees, and an unidentified Vireo - kept me entertained. I could hear the waterfall too, as several days of rain brought it to life. The cascade flowed from a hidden slot in the upper section of the canyon, spreading out in successive layers on the rocky shelves below to a small flat plunge pool.
As the drier days of summer arrive the waterfall will somewhat diminish and lower flows will reveal more of the structure of the gorge. On such days careful observation reveals the striking color of the sandstone laced with the greens and blues of moss and lichen. Ferns cling precariously with a delicate foothold to the stone and sway ever so slightly in the breeze formed by the falling water. Down here, under the tall canopy of trees, everything feels a world away. Rain though will bring the waterfall back to life. The stream will swell with the run-off from surrounding pasture land and the waters will once again dance over the layers of stone. This is a symphony that plays out over and over but always with different notes. Water and time will continue to slowly carve away the stone. Down below the falls a thin ribbon of water and debris will enter Slippery Rock Creek and be carried off into the flow of the Allegheny River. It will always be this way.
Camera Details: Both images were shot with a Sony a7II and a Zeiss Distagon T, 21mm. The top image was exposed at ISO 50, at f11 for 2.0 seconds. The bottom image is a composite of two files. The first was exposed at ISO 50, at f11 for 4.0 seconds. The second, for the water, was shot at ISO 50, at f11, for 1.0 second. To manage specular highlights I used a Singh-Ray Filters 105mm Circular Warming Polarizer. It you need new filters, don't forget to use my Singh-Ray discount code Clark10 when you order your filters from the Singh-Ray Filters site.