05.06.18: Leaves on water

Autumn leaves float on a stream, Old Man's Cave trail, Hocking Hills State Park, Logan, Ohio.


Technical information

Oct. 16, 2015,
9:46 a.m.

39°26’7.001” N, 82°32'24" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Canon EF-S 10-22 f/3.5-4.5 (22mm) 


1/2 second


When I’m on a photo hike in search of landscape photographs I’m always looking out for potential subjects. In the Hocking Hills — a geologically interesting area in southeastern Ohio — I’m looking out for waterfalls, rocky cliffs and caves.

In this case, looking down turned out to be more useful than looking out.

I was hiking the Old Man’s Cave trail, following the stream south from the Upper Falls, when I glanced down at the water a few feet from where it enters the Devil’s Bathtub (a small tiered waterfall that flows into a swirling pit before returning to the stream). Orange and yellow leaves, pushed to the side by the shallow water flowing over the rocks, formed a colorful mass, but the mass of leaves had grown to the point that some leaves were forced back into the flow.

I thought the warm color of the leaves on the water, blue from the reflection of the morning sky, could make an interesting photo. I set up my tripod and angled the camera straight down, moving the tripod into different positions until I found an interesting composition. I liked how this view showed leaves escaping the mass. The highlight and shadow areas in the flowing water provided a sense of motion.

I did shoot some waterfall, rock and cliff photos during the morning’s hike. All were nice. But this photo was different. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

The Hocking Hills is a great area for photography. Its terrain is much different from the mostly flat land in other areas of Ohio. Blame it on the Wisconsin glacier that covered Ohio from 85,000 to 11,000 years ago. It flattened the area, but southeastern Ohio (about an hour’s drive from my house) was outside the glaciation of the ice age and remained ruggedly hilly and forested.

The same glacier that flattened much of Ohio is responsible for creating the Hocking Hills, one of the most geologically unique – and photogenic – areas in Ohio. The ruggedly hilly section of southeastern Ohio features gorges, cliffs, caves and waterfalls created when torrents of water from the melting glacier rushed through that area.

According to Wikipedia: “When the glacial torrents found cracks in the hard capstone, the water poured through to flush out the soft middle layer. This left long tunnels where the gorges are today. Eventually, the weight of the tops caused them to come crashing down. The ‘slump rocks’ in the gorges today are what’s left of the hard top layer. In just a few centuries, the rushing waters of the glacier carved the soft middle layer of sandstone into the myriad dimples and wrinkles that decorate the cliffs and grottos today.”

The waterfalls, deep, rocky gorges and towering, forested hills make Hocking Hills State Park one of my favorite areas for photography. It’s about an hour’s drive from my house, but it’s worth the trip.

Old Man’s Cave Trail, where I found this scene, is named for a hermit who lived in the large recess cave in the gorge around 1800. It’s a beautiful gorge that features several large waterfalls, a series of rapids and small waterfalls and the gigantic cave that gave the park its name. The cave is located on a vertical cliff about 75 feet above the stream and measures 50 feet high, 200 feet long and 75 feet deep. The trail, like others in the region, is filled with large slump rocks in and around the stream.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.