Cedar Creek Falls, March 2022

A couple of years ago, my introvert tendencies led to a certain disdain for the Cedar Creek Falls hike — solely due to its popularity with people of course, not because of the scenery. But after March 2015, when I hiked with my friend Joe on a weekday in the early morning and we had the place to ourselves, I switched it to a challenge: go there, and photograph it without people.

While this approach still works, as the photo proves, the ever-increasing crowds at the place have made the window much narrower. In 2015, another solo hiker arrived only around 10 AM. This year, I was on the trail at 6:15 AM and packed up my camera at the falls at 8 AM — a group of four people with a dog was approaching the falls already by then, and as I made my way back uphill to the trailhead, many (many) more people were hiking down. When I was back at my car, the parking lot was full. I was stunned. The ranger began his hike down, to keep an eye on the hordes.

What draws me to the area is less and less the waterfall, and more and more the overall scenery and nature. I was hoping for some fog down in the river gorge but while that didn’t happen, a nice amount of wildflowers was in bloom, shifting through the various species as the trail’s elevation changes. Mountain Bluecurls were in bloom near the trailhead, followed by Willowherb Clarkia, Tidytips, Needle Goldfields, Parry’s Phacelia, California Primrose, Fringepod, Owl’s Clover and many more that all showed nice flowers along the trail.

The San Diego River crossing down in the gorge was entirely dry — Cedar Creek appears to be the only tributary to the river up there that is actually carrying water this year. I doubt it will change, as our rainy season is coming to an end.

There is a saying that when you think you have reached perfection all is lost because then you have nothing more to strive for, but for me, my March 2015 photo of the falls and pool are as close to perfection as I’ll get to making a photo of this place… (you’re allowed to have a different opinion, of course;-)

For the 2022 take on it, I was looking for a different composition. My idea here was to connect the shapes of the waterfall and the sycamore tree, while also carrying the idea that the falls provide the water to the tree — waterfall top left, tree bottom right, water from the pool at the falls flowing towards it, in the center. Maybe that’s a bit too much thinking already. :P

The end result differs slightly from my March 2016 photo of the falls because this year, there was actually a little bit more water, which allowed for that intermediate foreground area between the rocks:

I made this photo as a panorama and this is stitched from a total of 10 frames at 24mm focal length, with a vertical camera position. That’s a lot of frames for a panorama that is not very wide, but I learned that at wider angles, it’s better to have plenty of overlap for successful stitching.

My position, and the camera’s, was rather awkward too, pressed against and wedged in between two bigger rocks. As a result, I wasn’t able to level the tripod as properly as I would have liked for the panorama, and added as much room as possible, knowing that I would have to crop quite a bit away. Lightroom’s panorama merging promptly choked on the sequence and didn’t align the images properly but luckily, Photoshop’s panorama merging worked.

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3 thoughts on “Cedar Creek Falls, March 2022”

  1. Like you, I have sometimes stopped going to locations because they’d grown so crowded. And I’ve also sometimes discovered they’re still worth going to just at different times, like weekdays. As busy as this one sounds it does appear to be worth the effort. Your photos are fantastic and show what an incredible location it is. I can understand your feeling about the 2015 photo being as close to perfection as you might get. What an image! But I also like the idea of continuing to visit a location. You just never know what else you might be able to make of it.

  2. All very interesting, thanks for describing your experience and especially, what you were looking for in the current photos. The earlier one is gorgeous and the newer one is, too – but different. I’m glad your schedule is flexible enough to allow you to visit places on weekdays because don’t I know it, weekends can be tough! But sometimes I go to the popular places even on a weekend and search out the less crowded parts of them, looking for things I hadn’t noticed before. I like that you concentrated this time on the whole of the trail, not just the goal. Whole, not goal – pretty good, eh?
    Out-of-season is good up here – winter days aren’t popular and can be the best times to visit the state park. The reverse is probably true where you are and summer days are probably just too damned hot.
    I love the idea of connecting the waterfall to the tree, both aesthetically (complementary curves) and conceptually. I wonder what this photo would look like in black and white?


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