"Swirls" are long exposure pictures of flotsam or leaves that are floating around in eddies in streams. The long exposure makes the swirling trails. I'm not sure what it is about swirls that I find so interesting but ever since I saw the first picture of one I've kept an eye out for them on every waterfall hike.
The past two weekend hikes were really big fun, one to Laurel Falls (via the trail off 321) and a second trip back to Big Creek to see the Midnight Hole in fall colors. Both hikes produced some excellent swirly opportunities, it's was just unfortunate that the weather wasn't real good for getting good pictures.
These next two picture are from the Laurel Falls Hike on 10/14/2012. I've walked in to Laurel Falls several times from the Dennis Cove side, but never from the 321 side. The trail is part of the AT which makes me a section hiker now. On the first 1/2 of the trip the trail generally follows the river; the second half of the trip goes uphill to the top of a ridge then slowly wanders back down to the river about 1/4 short of the falls. It was a beautiful cloudless day, which meant that good waterfall pictures would be tough to get. So my goal for the day was to get some good swirl pictures. The next two pictures were taken with just a polarizer; it wasn't enough to knock down the sky, but it was enough to get a 10 second exposures to capture the swirl.
The next four pictures were taken on a my second trip to the Big Creek area of the GSMNP on 10/18/2012. I was there about 5 weeks ago when it still green and the water was way low. This time the colors were fantastic, lots of yellows and limes, plenty of orange and red, and just enough dark green to set it all off. If it wasn't peak color day, it had to be close. The only downside was the cloudless sky that made it tough to get good water pictures ... it was a polarizer + ND filter day.
While waiting on the rest of our group to arrive, I took this picture of the bridge to the Baxter Creek trail. It had a decent leaf swirl going but I didn't have the ND filter installed so I couldn't get an exposure longer than 15 seconds ...
|Bridge to Baxter Creek Trail with a swirly|
I found a video on the interwebs that said the "largest undocumented chimney in the Park" was located just off the Baxter Creek trail, so that's where we went first. The lighting was not optimal and most of the leaves were already down, but I took some pictures anyway. The chimney is probably 30 feet tall.
|Chimney on Baxter Creek Trail|
We went back through the parking area and got on the trail to the Midnight Hole. The next picture was taken from a rock in the middle of the creek on the way, and yes, it really was that yellow looking up the creek, it was stunning. If this wasn't the peak color day for this part of the park it was darn close.
|Looking upstream toward Midnight Hole|
Water flow into the Midnight Hole was much better than the last time we were here. And the breeze was blowing just enough to fill the creek with leaves ... excellent! There were leaves swirling at every depth in the pool it was stunning to look at. Every once in a while a cloud would pass over that would knock the sun down for a few seconds. I tried to get some long exposures that showed the swirling leaves but it was tough. This next picture is one of the best.
|Midnight Hole Leaf Swirly|