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Web Extra: Chasing Waterfalls

In the August issue of Texas Highways, photographer Laurence Parent and writer Joe Nick Patoski paired up to create a tantalizing story on Texas waterfalls. We hope it’s the cool visual respite that will make you forget—if only for a moment!—the drought and high temperatures. Senior Editor Lori Moffatt recently spoke with Laurence about the benefits of shooting water on cloudy days, the accidental intrigue of hungry water snakes, and while Texas doesn’t have the biggest waterfalls in the world, size isn’t everything.

“I went out to Gorman Falls at the end of March, after we had finally had some good rains, and got some good shots. Especially given last year’s hot, dry summer, I thought that a story on waterfalls might be fun to do.

Waterfalls are fun to shoot. Not only are they photogenic, but it’s usually cool and wet around them. Surprisingly, cloudy days are often the best times to shoot waterfalls. They’re usually down in valleys, canyons, and ravines, and in the brilliant sun, the water can be blindingly bright, with dark shadows under the cliffs. The contrast is just too much. A cloud cover softens the contrast, so the camera can capture details in both the shadowed areas and the bright-sun areas.

I had a friend lined up to go with my to shoot the waterfall at Lake Georgetown, because I wanted to make some images with people in them. My friend had to drop out, so I was happy to go out there to find a mother and her daughter, and her daughter’s friend, splashing in the falls. By the time I was ready to make the photos, they were soaking wet and having a great time. I had never heard of the falls here until a few years ago, when I was doing a revision of my book Hiking Texas. I did the south side of the Good Water Loop of the San Gabriel River Trail at Lake Georgetown, and I found this area. It’s not well-known and is very beautiful.

The waterfalls in Big Bend take more hiking to see them. I like them because you put your physical effort in and you get your beautiful reward.

The Hamilton Pool shoot was interesting. I was shooting there with my wife and my kids, and also with photographer Mike Murphy. After I was done shooting, around dusk, my wife and one of my daughters were swimming to the other shore when they found a big water snake that had caught a catfish. It was a harmless diamondback water snake, and he was trying to swallow this big fish.  The snake didn’t like all of us looking at him and Mike and me trying to take photos. The fish was trying to get away. Finally, the snake swam away to an island of brush.

I’ve shot photographs at Niagara Falls, Yosemite, Yellowstone, and in Canada and France. It’s hard to beat Yosemite, but the Texas ones are special, maybe because they’re so rare. And you consider the shape of the water, the shape of the cliffs, the landscape surrounding them. The size of them is not critical to how beautiful they are.”

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