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Located just 60 miles north of Atlanta, Amicalola Falls State Park is one of Georgia's scenic jewels. Amicalola is a Cherokee Indian word for "tumbling waters," and within the park resides the Amicalola Falls, which, at 729 feet, is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River. From hiking to photography to bird and wildlife watching, there's something for everyone, and in addition to a lodge and convention center, the park has tent and RV campsites, as well as cabin rentals. More than 12 miles of hiking trails thread through the park, including an 8.5-mile trek that leads past the Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain, which sits at the southern end of the more than 2,000-mile-long Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
At 1,900 feet in elevation, Amicalola Falls offers milder temperatures in the summer months than is typical for the Southeast region. Temperatures can range from the 90s at times in the summer to near zero on rare occasions in the winter. The fall and spring seasons are the most comfortable times to visit and enjoy Amicalola Falls, with typical highs in the 70s during the day and lows in the 30s at night.
When working with water like the Amicalola Falls, I use circular polarizers much of the time to control reflections and saturate colors. The polarizer also serves well as an ND filter, when slower shutter speeds are necessary for capturing more artistic image blurs of flowing water. I bring a Tamrac Expedition backpack to carry all of my equipment. It provides easy access to my gear, and the backpack keeps the bulk behind me on narrow trails. My postprocessing is done with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and various plug-ins as needed, and for this image I put together an HDR composite with HDRsoft's Photomatix Pro. This five-shot sequence was taken at one-stop intervals, postprocessed with Photoshop CS4, and tone-mapped with Photomatix Pro HDR software. My primary camera on a trek is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and I carry a Canon EF 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6L IS telephoto zoom mounted on the body for rapid-fire shooting when wildlife opportunities arise. I switch to a Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L IS standard zoom for most of my scenics.
October is an ideal time to visit when the temperatures are comfortable and the colors are splendid. The last hour and a half of the day offers the best opportunities for photographing wildlife. Within the last two weeks of October, northern Georgia's striking fall colors cast a beautiful backdrop. With these fall colors come the fall tourists as well, so if you plan to photograph the Amicalola Falls during the peak leaf season, you'll need to plan to arrive during the middle of the week.
Contact: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, www.gastateparks.org/amicalola, (706) 265-4703. See more of Alvin Stewart's work at www.alvinstewartphotography.com.