If you have read my previous waterfall posts Waterfalls of Victoria and Waterfalls of Queensland, you have probably figured out I’m kinda partial to waterfalls 🙂
On a recent trip to the Blue Mountains I rambled around with a friend, up hill and down some very deep dales to add a few more to my list. I plan on going back next year and adding a lot more… but for now…..
Katoomba Cascades, is a lovely, super pretty waterfall about 5 mins walk from the car park. It’s not to be confused with Katoomba Falls which is a hard, grade 4 track. The cascades are in a nice little glade, surrounded two sides by trees, with a pond at the front and big stepping-stones across the pond so you can shoot from the front or either side. You can continue on to the Kedumba River lookout if you like, but I was just interested in the cascades and went no further 😉
The sun rises over the top of the falls so if shooting on a sunny day, its best to shoot either early morning, or late in the day when it’s behind you. As I wanted long exposure for the silky water, but it was quite shady below the cliff edges I decided to bracket my shots. This also helped bring the colours out in the rocks. The above is three images shot two stops apart and merged in Photomatix
Unlike Katoomba Cascades, Empress Falls is NOT an easy walk. It’s a Gr 4 track which, under the Australian Walking Track Grading system is “Bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may be long, rough, and very steep. Directional signage may be limited” I can vouch for it being very steep. And rough. Getting down was a series of wooden steps, metal stairs, dirt tracks and stone steps including stepping-stones across flowing water, all while carrying a tripod and 9kg of camera gear on my back ! Its only 1.1km but its downhill all the way. We went from the cliff tops in this photo to the to below the tree line. If I ever talk about doing a grade 4 again, have me committed. Stat.
On arriving at the bottom the falls tumble through the canyon walls to a pool at your feet. You are on a large stone plateau with a pool between you and the falls. Large moss covered rocks and the obligatory log (ever noticed how there is one at EVERY waterfall? its like parks decor 101. Put a log in front of the waterfall)
With the large, reasonably flattish rock surface its possible to shoot from several angles. Even with the difficulty of the walk its a busy place, with lots of people stopping by for a photo before continuing on (there are two more falls on the track). We didn’t go any further. I wasnt sure how long, or even how I would get back up, so when we were done, we retraced out steps. Getting down took me about 20 mins. Getting back up was just over an hour.
Upper Leaura Cascades
After our suicidal walk the day before to Empress Falls, and with muscles still complaining next day we opted for an easier waterfall. The upper Leaura Cascades. Like Katoomba Cascades they are only a few minutes walk and half a dozen steps from the car park and adjacent pretty picnic area with man-made caves and arches. While not a large waterfall it is quite pretty in a little tree fern ringed pocket. There is a small viewing area to the side, but it’s reasonably easy to get down and in front of it.
Lower Leaura Falls
Once you are done with the upper falls, head back to the car park and to your right, under the arch, past the information sign and then down the steps. You’ll come to a small stone bridge with a view of the falls about 120m down…. keep coming for another couple of minutes, cross the footbridge and the falls and viewing platform are to your right.
The viewing platform is in front of a large rock overhang, and there are plenty of rocks to put your camera bag on rather than in the dirt… its wet there though, either put your raincover on the bag or bring a plastic bag to sit your camera bag on.
We were there mid morning and the sun was hitting the falls as it came through the trees…not really ideal with the falls strongly backlit. I would like to shoot them again, but next time, much earlier or later in the day.
The walk to Weeping Rock starts at the Wentworth Falls Picnic area. There is plenty of car parking spots, but it’s VERY popular and the car park usually fills quickly and people resort to parking in the surrounding streets. The walk itself goes past Fletchers Lookout with amazing views of the valley, then past Wentworth Falls Lookout before heading downhill to Weeping Rock and Wentworth Falls.
The path to the lookout is listed as a Grade 3 and 1.4km return. Grade 3 is considered a moderate track suitable for all ages with some short steep sections. For real people, who don’t go to the gym several times a week, its my version of hard. There were quite a few people, besides me, stopping to catch their breath on the way back. Kids did it standing on their head. Mature age people, not so much.
When we got down to Wentworth Falls there were a zillion people doing selfies, sitting in the pool, climbing over rocks. It was crowded!. SO many people I didn’t even bother trying to get a shot. We left Wentworth and headed back a little and took the track off to the right on the way back, to Weeping Rock. It’s only a very short track off to the side.. and it was gloriously empty of hordes of people.
Approaching the waterfall you come down some steps in front of it… there is no viewing area as such… you can walk anywhere around in front of it, the water comes over the top, down into the pools in front then off to the right and over the cliff to link up with Wentworth Falls. The cliff area is NOT fenced so stay well away from it. If you only go from the start of the track to Weeping Rock and forget about Wentworth Falls (the view at the top is pretty forgettable) then its on a 950m return trip.
Note: My ND filter of choice is Zomei. I know there is a lot of debate around the brands… some people swear by Lee, others by Nisi, some Cokin. Both the Lee and Nisi are well out of my price range, but cheap ND filters are worthless. They give off very unwanted magenta or brown colour casts that you CANNOT remove in post processing. While the Zomei optical glass filters aren’t ‘cheap’ they are about 75% cheaper than Lee or Nisi. My ND10 and ND64 were both around $80 each and worth every cent. As you can see from the images above, there is no loss of clarity or colour cast.