Hope for the Best, but be Prepared for the Worst - Hocking Hills Winter 2019 / by Jeremy Mudd

“Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality.” - Eliyahu Goldratt

A month or so ago, I got a note from a fellow photographer that he’d be interested in meeting up at Hocking Hills and spending the day shooting. Always up for shooting at Hocking, especially during the winter, I threw out a few dates. While the initial group plans didn’t work out, a small group of us settled on Monday February 11th as the date to block our calendars and take a vacation day in order to hit Hocking during winter weather AND, more importantly, on a weekday when the visitor level at the park is low.

As the date loomed closer, the weather started to look promising, with snow predicted the night before and a mostly clear day. Unfortunately though, that forecast changed and it looked like most of the day would be rainy.

“Moody” was the word I bantered about, hoping that the rain and cold temps would mean fog, wet rocks, good flow, and atmosphere. The group decided to soldier-on, so in the days leading up to the trip I began to clean, pack, and prep the Pathfinder for the trip. I bought high-wader rubber boots just in case and made certain to pack my water-proof winter jacket and gear, along with my waterproof camera backpack.

I prepped some digital gear and charged batteries, with an assortment of lenses covering the 14mm to 400mm range,

Then I went overboard when I thought about the fact this was the first trip I’ve made to Hocking for ONLY photography (not vacation and hiking, with photography as secondary), so I cleaned and packed nearly all of my mainstay medium format film gear: Two RB67 bodies, all of my RB67 lenses, 4 backs, my GX617 with all three lenses, and my Hasselblad 500C with all three lenses. Lots of ACROS and EKTAR film. I was fired up to shoot both digital and film, but mostly film.

We left Dayton at 6am – it rained the whole way. It was beginning to look like a very wet day. We found a great “lone tree” in a snow-covered field not far from our first planned stop so we got out and took a few shots.

Lone Tree - Hocking County. Digital Pano Stitch


Shortly after that we arrived at Boch Hollow and shot Robinson Falls. I’ve shot there in warmer months and also late fall/early winter and this was the first time I’ve seen snow there. It was gorgeous.

Robinson Falls in Boch Hollow - Digital Pano Stitch

Next stop was Old Man’s Cave. It was then I had to come to the stark realization that I was not going to haul out my big medium format film gear and hike in the pouring rain, on ice and snow-covered trails. Not only was the weight a concern, but the fact that it wasn’t really waterproof while most of the digital gear I had was. And there was a big chance (err, I mean “guarantee”) of falling – if I fell with my GX617 and broke it I would be heartbroken and out a lot of $$$ as they are fairly rare and therefor pricey when they do come up for sale on occasion.

Let me say that Old Man’s Cave did not disappoint. While the going was super slippery and all of us fell at one point or another, it was well worth it.

Upper Falls - Digital Pano Stitch

Upper Falls with Bridge

Upper Falls with Ice in foreground

I’ve never seen Upper Falls flowing that well; it was stunning and powerful to see. After the Upper Falls we made our way to the Devil’s Bathtub. I’ve shot this several times in the past, but finally came away with a shot that I like.

Below the Devils Bathtub

Eric at Middle Falls - image courtesy of Bob Blum

After that we made our way to Lower Falls, and shot the Middle Falls along the way. We stopped for a hazy, wet selfie along the way.

Eric, Me, and Bob - image courtesy of Eric. This shows you just how hazy it was…..

The last part to Lower Falls was probably the most treacherous, but well worth it. The flow once again was amazing and the little bit of snow that the rain had yet to chase away added some nice highlights to the scene.

Lower Falls - 18 image Digital Pano Stitch

We took the upper trail out of the area back to the car, with the next stop being Cedar Falls. It was flowing so well the signature split with the rock in the middle was almost impossible to see.

Cedar Falls

Hidden Falls, in the same area, was also flowing quite well.

Hidden Falls

After that we headed to Conkle’s Hollow. The light was fading so this would be our last stop on our whirlwind tour.

Conkles Falls - Eric and I in action. This image shows how difficult the lighting was and why bracketing was so important. Image courtesy of Bob Blum.

Conkle’s Hollow

We stopped on the way home at Canal BBQ, my favorite BBQ joint in Chillicothe. As usual they didn’t disappoint.

So now that myself and my gear are finally drying out, here’s a few observations from the trip:

1.    If you’ve got the room, there’s no harm/foul in packing a bunch of gear hoping for good weather and the ability to use it.

2.    But you better have your back-up plan in place and have good gear that can handle the inclement weather.

3.    Towels and micro-fiber towels are your friend. The rain was coming down so much that I was wiping the lens after every shot even with a lens hood on.

4.    Tall high-wader boots are worth any price you paid for them if your feet stay dry the entire time.

5.    Bad weather DOES make for great moody shots. And those are usually the type of shots the general public doesn’t get because they can’t make the commitment to get out there in the crap weather.

6.    Being with other like-minded people on your foul-weather adventure does make the going seem easier and helps keep you engaged.

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading! Most of my images from this trip should be up for sale on my site shortly.