#NJSpots organised a sunset photography meetup at the Red Mill Museum Village in Clinton on Thursday night.

Aug 22, 2019, NJspots Meetup — FujiFilm X-T2 + 16-55 mm f/2.8
Aug 22, 2019, NJspots Meetup — FujiFilm X-T2 + 16-55 mm f/2.8
Aug 22, 2019, NJspots Meetup — FujiFilm X-T2 + 16-55 mm f/2.8
Aug 22, 2019, NJspots Meetup — FujiFilm X-T2 + 16-55 mm f/2.8
Aug 22, 2019, NJspots Meetup — FujiFilm X-T2 + 16-55 mm f/2.8

Two weekends ago I visited the Stokes State Forest a New Jersey state park in Sandyston, Montague, and Frankford in Sussex County. My friends Chris and Walt were camped out near Sandyston so we organised a photo hike. It was originally five of us but two others dropped out the day before. The report called for heavy rain all weekend but we proceeded anyway.

While we were hiking looking for waterfalls we got caught out in the middle of a heavy downpour with our cameras, tripods and camera bag. We packed up and pushed as quickly as we could to get back to the cars. We were drenched by the time we made it back to the cars.

Stokes State Forest Moss—Stokes State Forest—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/4.5

The forest is amazing. I have never seen so much green. The sweet dampness of the air added to the overall experience. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Green trees everywhere. Oaks, hickories, maples, as well as birch, chestnuts, beech, sycamore, cherry, walnut, ash, elm, and other hardwood tree species. I am allergic to most if not all of those trees but because of the rain, I had nothing to worry about. Moss and lichen grow for about a foot up from the base of almost every tree I saw.

Stokes State Forest Waterfall near Stony Lake—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/22

We were in search of waterfalls so we hiked up through the Tilman Ravine Trail. Once we found the waterfall I couldn't decide where to set up. I think places like these are places I need to visit more than once. There is so much one can do. With the threat of rain and very slippery rocks, I picked a spot and started shooting.

Stokes State Forest Waterfalls at Tillman Ravine—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/10
Stokes State Forest bottom of Buttermilk Falls—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/9.0

After hiking around Tillman Ravine we decided to drive over -- the risk of rain drove our decisions that day -- to Buttermilk Falls. It was a very bumpy ride in the car. The road was full of potholes. I took some shots at the base while my friend's daughter climbed around. The change in light between the base and the top of the waterfall made this a challenging exposure for me. There was a lot of patient re-shooting and Adobe Lightroom work to get this one image.

Stokes State Forest—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/16

Finally, we climbed very steep stairs to the top of Buttermilk Falls. Now I know how out of shape I am. And it didn't help that I was carrying a tripod and a camera bag of gear and water.

I didn't get as many images as I wanted and since I was working with a new lens -- Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX-II for Nikon DX -- my setup and composition for each shot took longer than I expected. Plus hiking to each spot took some time. But I had fun and now I know what it's like to hike through a forest during a torrential downpour carrying tripods and camera bags.