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.
June’s Image of the Month is this one, of a lovely waterfall in its lush green late spring glory. I chose this photograph because the location is one that is very special to me and currently changing. For the past three years, I have lived on a beautiful piece of property in the southeastern corner of New Hampshire, where I have rented a room/apartment from a fantastic retired couple. Sugarbush Hill spans 60+ acres of field and woodland, and we are lucky enough to have a brook that runs through the property and drops along an area where the topography changes and it drops in tiers of waterfalls. Since the waterfalls are located on private property, I never have to contend with other photographers, swimmers, or other outdoor recreation enthusiasts at the falls and they are a mere five minute walk from my door. I have never taken advantage of this luxury as much as I should, but during late spring when water levels are high and everything is vivid green with fresh new leaves, the waterfalls are pretty spectacular and make a great photographic subject.
Last week I closed on a new home and am in the process of moving all of my worldly possessions out of my apartment at Sugarbush Hill. I’m really excited about this new chapter in my life, but leaving such a beautiful home with such great people is somewhat bittersweet, as all good endings should be. This morning, I woke up at Sugarbush Hill to see the outside world shrouded in fog and hear the birds singing happily despite the lack of morning sun. The trees and plants are dressed in their boldest green, and the water is running heavily and clearly through all the streams. This is likely my last morning here, as I have just a couple more car trips to move the last of my things. As eager as I am to finish the moving out process, I know I will miss this place and it will remain fondly forever in my heart.
PS: Don’t forget, you can get 15% off current Image of the Month prints. Just enter code IOTM at checkout.
Waterfalls are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. Usually, I prefer to photograph waterfalls on overcast days after rain when the rocks are still wet, as direct sunlight often results in contrast too difficult to capture well in an image and dry rocks often look too bright. On this day while exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, I was very eager to hike to this waterfall, as it had just rained hard for two full days, and I knew the waterfall would be flowing well. When I arrived, the storms had gone and sun had broken through the clouds. Instead of high overcast soft light, I had varied photography conditions as the clouds passed overhead, sometimes blocking the sun but other times letting its rays shine through, illuminating the mist hanging in the air from the waterfall and humid, sweltering landscape. Instead of waiting for the clouds to come between shots, I tried to capture this sparkling, glistening quality when the sun shone just right. As a result, I ended up with this shot, which after some tweaking following nearly 10 months of sitting untouched on my hard drive, is something I rather like. Creativity rarely follows rules, and even though there are a lot of guidelines to techniques that will make you a better photographer, often it is experimentation that results in some of the most unique and exciting images.