Rock City and Ruby Falls

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I took the family to Rock City and Ruby Falls on Sunday. I learned a lot about shooting there, and came back with a list of do’s and don’ts for shooting photos at the two locations.

Rock City

Going into Rock City, I carried a small sling backpack (Lowepro Slingshot 202 AW) with 3 lenses and a couple of filters. The lenses that I took were the Tamron SP 17-35mm f/2.8-4, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S, and a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-S. In hindsight, all I really should have carried was the 17-35mm, a 28mm f/1.8 and a CPL and ND400.

What I learned and would suggest to others shooting in there:

  • Don’t bother with a backpack/sling. There are some tight spots, and I had to take off the sling and carry it. Instead, use a messenger bag or just drop what you need in the pockets in cargo shorts.
  • Carry a minimal amount of gear, and go wide. Don’t bother carrying a telephoto lens. I never needed it.
  • Carry a fast prime. There is a room lit with blacklights – you will need a fast lens in there.
  • Don’t bother with a tripod. Take a bean bag and a Manfrotto superclamp instead – stuff them in your pockets.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Go early in the morning before it gets hot, and avoid weekend crowds. Go on a weekday. A lot of the path is single file, and you can’t stop and setup a tripod to get a shot.
  • If it is close to lunchtime when you get to the overlook, eat there. There are not a lot of places to eat at up on Lookout Mtn. Just spend the money and eat at the Cafe7.
  • Eat before you go in – there is a lot of walking. Carry a bottle of water.

 

Lowers Leap and High Falls
Lowers Leap and High Falls, the most famous spot inside Rock City
Rock City bridge path
One of the many bridges along the path inside Rock City
Yellow Flowers
Yellow Flowers inside Rock City behind Café 7
Rock City Main Entrance
Wishing pond next to the gift shop at the main entrance to Rock City
See Seven States
The sign shows you where the 7 states are
Rock City Stone Bridge
The alternate route for those who do not want to take the bouncy swinging bridge.
Rock City Wind Direction Indicator
The Rock City Wind Direction Indicator at the ticket booth

Ruby Falls

After going into Rock City, I knew not to carry as much gear. I left everything in the car, except my 18 f/1.8 and 85mm f/1.8. In hindsight, all I really should have carried was the 17-35mm, a 28mm f/1.8 – and a couple of flashes.

What I learned and would suggest to others shooting in there:

  • Don’t bother with a backpack/sling. There are some tight spots, and I had to take off the sling and carry it. Instead, just drop what you need in the pockets in cargo shorts.
  • Carry a minimal amount of gear, and go wide. Don’t bother carrying a telephoto lens. I never needed it.
  • Only carry fast primes – the faster the better. Everything is very low light in the cave. Carry a flash – or two.
  • Don’t bother with a tripod. Take a Manfrotto superclamp instead – stuff it in your pocket. You will only use it in one place – at the falls – clamp onto the railing. You have to move fast, so make certain that you are in the closest group when you enter the falls area.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, and make certain that they are not leather soled. You really want lightweight hiking boots.
  • Go during the hottest part of the day (its always 60 degrees in there), and avoid weekend crowds. Go on a weekday. A lot of the path is single file, and you can’t stop and setup a tripod to get a shot.
  • Eat before you go in – there is a lot of walking. Carry a small bottle of water. Do not attempt to drink the water in the cave – it has a lot of magnesium, which is a natural laxative.
The Ruby Falls Observation Tower
The Ruby Falls Observation Tower
The Ruby Falls Observation Tower
Close-up of the sign on the side of the Ruby Falls Observation Tower
Tennessee River
The furthest part of the Tennessee River that you can see from the Ruby Falls Observation Tower.
Ruby Falls View of Chattanooga
Panoramic view of Chattanooga and the Tennessee River from the Ruby Falls Observation Tower – full size photo is over 20,000 pixels wide
In the Cave
One of the many rock formations in the cave
Ruby Falls
Ruby Falls