Photographing Waterfalls
Mark Layman

While Brenda and I were in New England and New York earlier this week, we sought out some of the beautiful waterfalls in those areas.

This one is Ripley Falls in Crawford Notch State Park, NH. We had to hike half a mile, mostly uphill, on a rather rough trail to get to it. Everyone coming the other direction said it was worth the hike and, once we got there, we agreed. We took many shots from a variety of perspectives. I like this one because it has the foreground interest of the pool and rocks at the base of the waterfall.
Waterfalls can present a number of photography challenges and are a good place to try out and practice various techniques. Shutter speed greatly affects the appearance of the moving water. The longer the shutter speed, the silkier the water will look. The height of the waterfall, along with the possible desire to have foreground interest, can demand a small (high number) aperture in order to get the necessary depth of field. Waterfall scenes will often have some areas brightly lit with sunlight and other areas in the shadow of trees or rocks.DSC_0844This will force you to pick which portions of your composition you want properly exposed and which parts you are willing to have over or under exposed. In this photo, I have sacrificed the blue sky in favor of having most of the 100 foot waterfall and the foreground sufficiently exposed. Also, you may need to get off of the beaten path in order to get the right perspective on a waterfall.

Below is Taughannock Falls, a 215 foot waterfall near the western shore of Cayuga Lake which is one of the Finger Lakes in New York. This photo was take from the observation area and is one of many shots I took trying various compositions, exposures, etc. Although I’m relatively happy with this shot, if we would have been there at a time of day when the light was more directly on the falls, it might have been easier to get a well exposed shot of the falls as well as nice blue skies. A little research and advance planning can help you to get images with the light the way you want it to be instead of making due with the light available when you happen to be there and doing some repair with Picasa or Photoshop afterward (which is what happened with this photo).DSC_0209

The photos below are of Watkins Glen in New York. This fabulous state park is a must-see location if you go to the Finger Lakes region. Tip: pay $3 to ride the van up then walk down the stairs through the glen. The varying light and shadows makes photography difficult but also adds a lot of interest to your photos. As always, you’ll need to think about your composition, depth of field, shutter speed and what part of the image needs to be in focus and properly exposed. I did a lot of setting the focus and exposure, based on some part a scene, then reframing to get the actual composition I wanted.DSC_0138DSC_0143DSC_0178DSC_0188DSC_0197

The last waterfall we went to was in Treman State Park outside of Ithaca, NY. It turned out that the pool at the bottom of this waterfall is a popular swimming and diving spot. Brenda got this shot by focusing on the end of the diving board and then switching to manual focus so that the camera didn’t have to try to focus on the flying kid. Shutter priority was used so that a fast shutter speed could be set.DSC_1008
Photographing waterfalls is fun way to practice and improve your photography skills. There are numerous waterfalls in the Old Man’s Cave area as well as other locations around Ohio. When you find yourself with the opportunity to photograph a waterfall, keep in mind the shutter speed which will affect the appearance of the water, and what parts of the scene need to be properly exposed and in focus. A tripod, monopod, beanbag, or other means of stabilizing the camera can prove to be useful, too.

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