Kennedy River Cascade

Looking Downstream
Looking downstream from the rocks near the main falls on the Kennedy River.
ISO 100, f/16, 1/30 sec – Nikon D600, 16mm

It is a popular stopping point about half way between Port Alberni and Ucluelet/Tofino and a place to take a break before Highway 4 begins to wind its way down to Kennedy Lake. On the west side of the Sutton Pass, the Kennedy River falls down through a cascade of boulders that look like they’ve been tossed there by giants. The water here has worn the rock into smooth sculptures and the unique, and accessible, landscape is popular with tourists. Usually I drive on through, but last week the light was good and I thought it worth checking out.

Kennedy River Rocks
Further downstream there are very interesting boulders to photograph.
ISO 100, f/11, 30 sec – Nikon D600, 16mm, 10-stop B+W ND filter

The falls are the main destination, but I’m uneasy with edges and heights so I decided to look for some compositions downstream. It is challenging to capture the cascade without people in the image since so many stop here, but getting a little further from the pull-off can work. Timing is everything. I created a few compositions looking back toward the road, but because I was shooting 30 second exposures it was tricky to get an image that didn’t have a person’s head popping into the image.

Looking Upstream
Looking upstream towards the main falls. There are some gorgeous pools in this part of the cascade. Hard to get more of the top part of the rocks without someone’s head poking up into the image!
ISO 100, f/9, 30 sec – Nikon D600, 16mm, B+W 10-stop ND filter

I had much better results when I focused on the rocks and the water and it was much quieter away from the parking area. A few people ventured down to where I was photographing, but they didn’t stay too long. The light was excellent—a bit overcast so the lighter coloured boulders weren’t too harshly lit. I think it would be more difficult to get good images here in bright sunlight.

Water Over Rocks
Rocks and water make for an interesting composition.
ISO 200, f/11, 30 sec – Nikon D600, 16mm, B+W 10-stop ND filter

The rocks and water here are fascinating and the landscape is compelling (despite the crowds of people). A good tripod and a neutral density filter are required—I tried a couple of exposures without the filter and the water just didn’t have the same look to it. The great thing about 30 second + exposures is the beautiful look of the water—the bonus is that the longer shutter speed gives you an opportunity to slow down and really enjoy the landscape.

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