Penasquitos Canyon Waterfall

On most of my visits to Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, I omit the “waterfall” because it is a real people-magnet. I do think it is a spot worthy of a little photographic exploration though. Late in December after some rains, I gave it a try and hiked out there on a weekday in the late afternoon, timing my visit with sunset.

I’m writing “waterfall” with quotation marks because this is a waterfall by Southern California standards – in the same way the “rivers” here are lesser creeks from my German perspective. ;-) Anyway, my idea was to walk/scramble around a little bit, trying to get some different angles and compositions.

But – needless to say at this point I guess – the place was full of people, just as usual. People in neon-orange shirts, I’d like to add. I understand the desire to wear bright and visible colors outdoors just in case there’s an emergency or you’re hiking in an area that’s also used for hunting, but from a photographer’s perspective, a codex that promotes wearing camouflage colors in the outdoors would be desirable, sometimes… ;-)

So people are climbing and lounging on the rocks around the waterfall and no, they do not leave as the sun sets – they stay. Why do they not go home after sunset? The people on the beach do that! (really, they do.)

On a somewhat exposed and sketchy ledge I found an angle where I could point the camera down and still use the wide angle lens, thus excluding the folks who share the place with me from my photo. It was just a matter of minutes before a man carrying a baby entered my territory from the side, looking for his wife. :-} He was shouting her name from my left, and she was shouting his name from my right. They couldn’t hear each other over the rushing sound of the water of course – so I shouted at him and then shouted at her so that they could find each other.

After their spontaneous and happy family reunion, I was actually able to make a photo! :-)

I went for a really long exposure because amidst the clutter of rocks, I wanted to render the water of the creek as smooth as possible, as a counterpoint. Also, quite typically after rains, a lot of foam builds up where water is agitated. This happens both in creeks and at the coast, where waves and wind whip up foam. Here at the falls, the foam moved relatively slow and I was hoping to “hide” it by blurring its movement with a very long exposure.

So this was my first attempt – and there’s room for improvement. I guess I’ll try again in the early morning on a weekday, maybe I can avoid the crowds then. :-)

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