Waterfalls are easily one of my favorite natural features and favorite things to photograph. I enjoy them so much that I even authored an eBook called The Essential Guide to Photographing Waterfalls back in 2011. In it, I share a number of tips and recommendations, one of which is that generally I prefer to photograph waterfalls on overcast days, when cloud cover softens the harsh contrast of glittery water flowing over dark rocks.
Well some rules are meant to be broken and this is one of them. Given the right conditions, the right setting, and the right tools you can create beautiful waterfall images when the sun is shining.
I took this photo while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains with photographer Greg Downing in Tennessee back in 2013. It had rained hard the previous day, and I was excited to go find a good waterfall to photograph because I knew they would be flowing. By the time we reached these falls, the weather had improved by normal standards, but it proved tricky for waterfall photography. It was partly cloudy and breezy, which meant the slow shutter speeds I would typically use the blur the moving water would also show any movement in the leaves from the wind. It also meant the light kept changing, from full sun, to partial sun, to complete cloud cover. I took a lot of shots from different angles, trying different techniques, hoping to capture something memorable.
For this image, I snapped the shutter as the sun emerged from behind the clouds, purposefully allowing highlight details to blow out. I was aiming for the bright, fresh feeling of spring, which I think translates well. It took several years of reworking this shot to get it to the point where I feel comfortable sharing it, but even if it isn’t the best waterfall shot I’ve taken I like how its so different from many of my other photos of similar subjects.
I’ve been on the road since April 10th, spending time in Florida, South Carolina, and now Tennessee. I’ve been doing a mix of my own photography, workshops, events, and scouting and it’s been a fun trip so far.
My days have mostly consisted of not enough sleep, but in between shooting and working, I’ve had time to process a couple shots. Most of this road trip is focused on shooting in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a place I’ve wanted to visit in springtime for at least five years. I actually haven’t gotten too many quintessential shots from here yet, but I’ll be in the Smokies until Tuesday, so there is still time and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can create something really special before it’s time to leave.
In the meantime, I’ve also been trying to promote a documentary project by my friend Jerry Monkman called The Power of Place. This 30 minute film will focus on the impacts of the Northern Pass, a proposed power transmission line that will cut through 180 miles of New Hampshire and impact some of the state’s most iconic landscapes, including the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Trail. Jerry has launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising the funds needed to successfully produce the film, and if successful, I’ll be assisting him – he’s even given me the title of Associate Producer. Jerry is using Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding platform, to gain support for his project. To learn more about The Power of Place and the Northern Pass, visit Jerry’s website. Please also consider donating to this project – we can’t complete it without your help. You can make a pledge on The Power of Place Kickstarter page.