Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfalls, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea. —Mikhail Lermontov
For eleven years these waterfalls have haunted my memories.
When I first moved to Indiana and was looking for places to shoot, McCormick’s Creek State Park was one of the first places recommended. I wasn’t expecting too much in the way of excitement because, after all, this is Indiana; the state’s not exactly well-known for its dramatic topographical variances. When I first experienced the waterfall, though, I was hooked. I bought an annual pass and made the trek down there two, sometimes three times a week. I would arrive at 7:00 AM, right as the gate opened, shoot through the early morning sunlight making its way down the canyon, and be eating breakfast in Bloomington before 10.
Some of the pictures we took here that summer are still among my favorites. Not only are the waterfalls beautiful, but the creek itself meanders softly through the canyon giving home to incredible amounts of wildlife, if one take a moment to explore. Small snails cling to the rocks. Minnows dart back and forth in the shallow waters. Uniquely colored birds fly through the trees. As a photographer, the choices of scenery and background are never-ending. One could shoot here for innumerable days without capturing the same scene twice.
Sadly, after that first summer, my circumstances took a severe change and I wasn’t able to go back. Even when I did have access to a vehicle and sufficient time, I knew I didn’t dare make the trip alone anymore. I’m not as sure-footed at clambering over the rocks as I once was. Excuses were easy enough to find.
Until this past week, that is, when I decided to put excuses aside and take the family on a day trip. We don’t get many chances to wander now that Kat’s in school full-time, but we had an opening and took advantage of it. Even as we packed the water and snacks we would need for the trip, though, I wondered if everything would still be the way I remembered it. Would the stairs down to the waterfalls still be steep? Would the waterfalls still be as broad or would natural erosion have taken a toll? Would the pool below the waterfalls be too deep or too crowded for the kids to enjoy? Would the creek itself be as I remember?
The drive to McCormick’s Creek is only about an hour South of Indianapolis. There are three different totally reasonable routes to take, but I suggest using state highway 67 South through Mooresville, Friendswood, and Paragon. The drive is much more quiet and serene, void of the traffic on Interstate 70 and without the maddening construction on state highway 37. Note: You’ll want to use Google Maps, not Bing, for directions. Bing won’t give you highway 67 as an option.
Since we were taking the kids, we didn’t arrive as early as I might have wanted for my own purposes. Putting kids in the car at 6:00 AM would have created challenges we didn’t need. So, we didn’t arrive until nearly 11:30. The sun was high, which normally makes for horrendous photographs, except that the canyon prevents much direct sunlight from getting through. As the light bounces off the bare limestone, the light is diffused so that there is almost always a good angle for taking pictures.
The kids, of course, loved the waterfalls and were thrilled that we actually let them get into the water (Kat tends to be a bit cautious). Little man tried climbing the falls while Tippy enjoyed sliding down the rocks. While there, we met an old hippy with dreadlocks in both his hair and his beard, a couple with a six-month-old great dane puppy, and plenty of other families out exploring. I have always been pleased that McCormick’s Creek is not one of those places where a constant presence of park rangers is necessary to prevent trouble. People who come here do so to relax, not act like assholes.
Of course, I have pictures and what we’re showing you today is just the first set. I made Kat take a swimsuit and do the model thing, but we’ll save those pictures for tomorrow. These focus more on the kids and the natural surroundings of the waterfalls. Peaceful. Quiet. I processed most in black and white because I feel the look is more dramatic, but I did keep a couple of images in color; one because Kat requested such, and the other because the bright orange of Little Man’s shirt against the dark rock of the waterfalls was too powerful to mute.
We’ll be returning to McCormick’s Creek a couple of times in the next few weeks. One will be with a friend I’ve not seen in a while, and the other will be to camp for the weekend with extended family. Both will give us ample opportunity to explore even more and capture additional pictures and different times of the day.
For now, we hope you enjoy these and that they’ll encourage you to get out, stop making excuses, and resuscitate your imagination with waterfalls and sunshine.