Raven Cliff Forest

This picture of Terri was taken at a non-marked waterfall on Duke’s Creek near Raven Cliff Falls in north Georgia. There’s a story behind this once-in-a-lifetime shot. So settle in for a quick read about how this shot came to be.

Many many moons ago I befriended the owner of a long gone “adult” modeling agency, E Glamour, by asking if I could take non-adult, non-nude photos of some of his models. This was when I was learning how to take pictures, and really needed someone who knew how to pose while I concentrated on the technical aspects of the picture. AND this was in the pre-digital age when any one of my shoots was limited to 3 rolls of 36 exposure film! I had to make every shot count!

After I worked with a few of the models doing non-nude portrait work, and developed a good reputation as a non-creepy, non-sleazy photographer, I was invited to a New Models Picture day. He had a half-dozen new models who needed some marketing photos done, and I was invited to join for the day.

After a long hike into the forest opposite the direction of Raven Cliff Falls along Duke’s Creek, we settled on a spot with this waterfall, a swimming hole, and a lot of rocks and water – perfect for pretty girls in nature photos. Terri boldly wanted to do something at the top of this 3 level waterfall. There was no trail – no path. To get there, she had to climb. Fortunately, one of the folks with us that day – the one who knew about this hidden spot – was a trained climber who just happened to have some climbing gear with him. He built a rig and helped Terri get to the top of the falls (not seen in this picture, he is just off camera still strapped into his climbing rig and ready to come to immediate aid).

While they climbed, I set up my Nikon N80 on my very heavy and secure tripod (I still have that beast!). While I watched the harrowing climb, I noticed in the corner of my eye that my camera seemed to be tilting. I reached down to catch it, but it fell off of the tripod and splashed in the mountain stream. Just like that, my camera, my hobby, my fun time in the mountains with models and photographers was gone.

After a few brief moments to try resuscitating it, the reality hit. I had to figure out a Plan B. Terri was almost in place. I had an awesome model in a dangerous spot to do a picture for me! In my camera bag was a Holga 120n – a cheap plastic camera notorious for light leaks and questionable focus. It was also a popular “art camera” in the days before Instagram and SnapChat filters. It was all I had, so that’s what I used.

Terri got into position, and I shot a whole 12 frame roll in a matter of minutes with zero confidence that any of the shots would come out.

I was, obviously, wrong.

I processed and printed this photo myself in an honest-to-goodness wet darkroom. I made a number of prints, and gifted a few to Terri. I know that she, in turn, gifted a framed one to another adult photographer she knew in LA who hung it on his wall (I wish I remembered his name!).

So that’s the story of this photo. It was a long hike, cost me over $800 (had to replace my camera), and is one of the more dramatic pictures I’ve ever done.

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