Picture Ohio! Winter Waterfalls

Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

The last two weeks in northeast Ohio have been cold, with occasional snowfalls, and I visited a few of my favorite waterfalls recently to check out the opportunities for new photographs. I wasn’t disappointed. Last winter we had virtually no cold weather, but this year, during late January, several local waterfalls provided a photogenic  mix of ice and cascading water. I’ll share a few images of two of my favorites, both located in downtown areas: Chagrin Falls, east of Cleveland in Cuyahoga County, and the East and West Falls of the Black River in Elyria, south of Lorain and west of Cleveland.

Chagrin Falls, Ohio
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

The attractive 20-foot Chagrin Falls is on Main Street in the town that is its namesake, about 18 miles east of downtown Cleveland. The waterfall is a modest 20 feet in height, but more than 80 feet in width, and faces west, so afternoon light is usually best for photography. There are two sets of steps that lead down to a viewing area on the edge of the falls, but the steps are often closed in winter when they are covered in slippery ice or snow. The steps were closed during my visit, but there are several places at the top of the steps that provide good views, as well as close-up compositions if you have a moderate telephoto lens. When I visited it was overcast, which is my lighting preference for most waterfall photography, especially in winter when the tonal range can extend from bright snow to inky black shadows. Both of the images above were made with my Nikon D7000 and favorite 16-85mm lens. I used a tripod, as always, and a low ISO setting of 100 to allow the use of the slow shutter speeds that I favor for waterfall photography. After viewing the falls, relax with a cup of your favorite coffee at Starbucks or ice cream at the Popcorn Factory, both located on Main Street next to the falls. The GPS coordinates for Chagrin Falls are: 41.43111N  81.3925W

West Falls & Lake Avenue Bridge, Elyria, Ohio
West Falls & Lake Avenue Bridge, Elyria, Ohio

In contrast to the quaint, affluent Western Reserve village of Chagrin Falls, Elyria is a gritty, industrial town in Ohio’s Rust Belt, 30 miles west of Cleveland and 8 miles south of Lorain. The closure of several automotive plants and steel production facilities in this area has had a major negative impact on the local economy, but for the waterfall enthusiast Elyria offers two of the largest waterfalls in Ohio, the West and East Falls of the Black River, both located just north of downtown Elyria along Lake Avenue. Each of these falls is about 40 feet in height. The West Falls is my favorite, and offers many more viewing points and picture opportunities than the East Falls. The GPS coordinates for the West Falls are: 41.3719N 82.1120W

West Falls, Black River, Elyria, Ohio
West Falls, Black River, Elyria, Ohio

The photo above was taken from a wooden platform that provides a dramatic, bird’s-eye view of the West Falls, which face northeast. The platform is accessed from a trail in Cascade Park. When I visited, on January 27, the falls were festooned with icicles and mounds of snow and ice below the falls. Several columns of water cascaded over the falls, and the combination of flowing water and ice offered a myriad of photo opportunities. In situations like this, when the lighting is good and I have plenty of time, I usually begin with one or two photographs that provide an overview of the falls, then move on to compositions of different sections of the waterfall. I spent three hours photographing West Falls during my visit, and could easily have found enough worthwhile scenes to fill an entire day.

West Falls, Black River, Elyria, Ohio
West Falls, Black River, Elyria, Ohio

Whenever you point your camera up, or in this case, down from a horizontal position the perspective of the waterfall will be affected, causing the columns of water and icicles to converge or diverge from vertical. If you are happy with this, fine. But if, like me, you prefer vertical columns of water and ice to appear vertical in the picture, you will need to correct the perspective. You can do this when you take the photograph if you own a tilt or tilt/shift lens and know how to use it. Or you can correct the perspective using an image editor such as Photoshop as part of your digital workflow back at home. I much prefer the latter approach, which is quick and easy, using the Crop command and the Transform option in Photoshop.

West Falls, Elyria, Ohio
West Falls, Elyria, Ohio

There are fine views of the West Falls from a footbridge that crosses the Black River just downstream from the falls, and it is also possible to hike along the south bank of the river to reach the base of the falls, where sandstone boulders provide excellent vantage points for photography, as shown in the photo above.

East Falls, Black River, Elyria
East Falls, Black River, Elyria

The East Falls, which are just as impressive as the West Falls, are located about a mile from the latter, and can be approached from a parking lot near the Elyria police headquarters on Lake Avenue. A new walkway leads to a viewing platform almost directly above the East Falls, as shown in the photo above. The GPS coordinates are: 41.3691N 82.1073W

Additional information on photographing waterfalls, as well as descriptions of another 12 notable Ohio waterfalls, can be found in my book, A Photographer’s Guide to Ohio.

 

 

 

 

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing Ian…I have never been to the falls at Chagrin.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu