Every year as the winter descends on the trails I look forward to visit one special place. I guess you could sort of call it a magical place; a quiet trail hidden away in a canyon among the trees and rocks. A place where time seems to stand still while I wander the road to take photos. It may not really be magical but I feel like I do to take a step into the mystic with a hike down the Uvas Canyon Waterfall Loop.
Nestled away near the base of the Santa Cruz mountains Uvas Canyon is a short but spectacular hike along the path of Uvas and Swanson creeks. From the moment you step out of your car in the parking lot you can hear the water tumble and cascade along the rocks nearby. The trail is fairly easy to navigate and there are several opportunities to get near the creek bed for photographs.
And that's what this hike is all about, taking photographs. Where most of my other hikes are adventures on the trail where I take photographs this day is all about the pictures. Packing my Canon Eos 40D, a 24-70mm 2.8 zoom, a 10-22mm f 4 zoom and 70-200mm f.4 zoom along with a tripod, electronic cable release, spare batteries and memory cards I hit the trail looking for the perfect waterfall.
Right off the bat I knew I would have plenty of waterfalls to choose from. I started out across from the parking lot in a little area of the creek thick with branches and dead falls from storms long ago. It is a part of the trail that few go and I was alone with the rushing waters as I set up my camera.
With the sound of the r]water roaring around me it is easy to lose track of time. I couldn't tell you if I was in this first spot for 10 minutes or half an hour. Time really does seem to stand still on the trail standing at the edge of the creek. With he sound of the water droning in my ears i am oblivious to the world around me. My world is confined to the live view picture I am composing of the waterfall before me.
Thoughts of work, family growing old and the half a dozen other daily decisions that invade my mind are replaced with simpler thoughts. Shutter speeds and f stops rule my moment along with thoughts of light and shadow. It is a slow paced deliberate photography as i judge the image on the screen for content. Is the water too blurred, are the highlights to bright, is this what I want to say about this moment in time?
I don't think I take as much time crafting an image as i do at the waterfalls. Over the three miles I hiked I spent five hours taking just over 300 pictures. I weighed and
debated the merits of some scenes and compositions with myself to a point that I rarely do even on assignment for work.
The sights along the trail can be eerily spectacular too. Water drops into a pool hidden in the shadows of a steep rock ledge. A black rock wall glistens as water pours across its jagged edges. it seems mystical if not medieval in places. There is always the sound of water crashing the rocks and running the course of creek. Soon it becomes almost a white noise even blocking out the sound of my breathing.
I could have stayed there the entire day exploring the different falls, watching the water course and pour between branches and stone but I had to leave. Looking at my photos it seems another time in a place where things move slow enough to see the ebb and flow of the water across the landscape.
I'll have to wait a another year to return to this place and as the rains arrive next year I will know it marks the time to return to this special trail, my own step into the mystic.