Winter Waterfalls – Finding and Photographing Them

Honey Run Falls, Knox County, Ohio
Honey Run Falls, Knox County, Ohio

Cold weather has returned to the Buckeye State, turning many of Ohio’s waterfalls into a photogenic mixture of snow, ice, and falling water. In this article, I will share some tips on finding and photographing winter waterfalls in and around Ohio.

Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

My book, A Photographer’s Guide to Ohio, includes a chapter on waterfalls, with tips on how to photograph them and detailed information on twenty-one picturesque Ohio waterfalls. A Photographer’s Guide to Ohio – Volume 2 includes information on another half-dozen Ohio waterfalls. There are numerous waterfalls in northeast Ohio, notably in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Cleveland Metroparks, and metroparks in Summit, Lake, and Lorain counties. On the other hand, I know of no significant waterfalls in northwest Ohio, and there are only a few in central Ohio. The most dramatic waterfall in the Columbus area is Hayden Run Falls, near Dublin, and Honey Run Falls in Knox County is also well worth a visit. There are several attractive waterfalls along some of the tributaries of the Stillwater River in western Ohio, north of Dayton, and more in the hills surrounding Cincinnati. Southeast Ohio has one of the state’s largest concentrations of waterfalls, all located in the Hocking Hills.

Many of the states adjacent to Ohio also offer great waterfalls to visit and photograph. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has around 200 waterfalls, though there are virtually none in Lower Michigan. The Ohiopyle area in the Laurel Highlands of southwest Pensylvania has numerous waterfalls, on or near the Youghiogheny River, and there are more waterfalls in Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands and Swallow Falls State Park near Oakland, Maryland.

Base of Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
Base of Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Waterfalls can be challenging places to visit at any time of year, and winter adds the danger of slick snow and slippery sheets of ice on trails and the area surrounding waterfalls. Be sure to wear Yaktrax or similar devices on the bottom of your boots, and you may wish to take along knee-length rubber boots if any wading in creeks or streams is likely to be needed. In particular, some of the trails at Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and other locations in the Hocking Hills can be as slippery as a skating rink at times, so make sure that your footwear is adequate.

Tinker's Creek in Viaduct Park, Bedford, Ohio
Tinker’s Creek in Viaduct Park, Bedford, Ohio

I recommend using a sturdy tripod for all your serious waterfall photography. Not only does a tripod eliminate camera movement, which makes for sharper images, but it allows you to use slow shutter speeds, up to several seconds if you wish, when photographing waterfalls. If your camera provides a mirror lockup setting, use this feature, in conjunction with an electronic cable release, to further reduce any camera vibration.  A polarizing filter is a very useful accessory for waterfall photography, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds and reducing or eliminating specular highlights. There is no “correct” shutter speed when photographing a waterfall. How do you want the water to appear in your photograph? Bracket your shutter speeds, and pick the image that you like the most.

In general, I prefer diffuse (i.e. cloudy) lighting when photographing waterfalls. Avoid bright sunlight, which creates harsh shadows and blown highlights, resulting in a tonal range that may be too great for most digital cameras. Bright sunlight also increases the visual complexity of a waterfall composition.

American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, from Niagara, Canada
American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, from Niagara, Canada
North Edge of Horseshoe Falls from Niagara Parkway, Ontario
North Edge of Horseshoe Falls from Niagara Parkway, Ontario

New York State is blessed with many great waterfalls, but none can compare with the spectacular cascades of Niagara Falls, the largest waterfall in North America. I visited this monumental waterfall in February, 2014 and wrote a blog article – here’s a link. 

Spring may be just a few weeks away, but in the meantime enjoy your visits to our wonderful winter waterfalls. And please watch your footing on those icy trails.

 

More Waterfall Photographs


Find out where one of my favorite winter waterfalls is located

View the Waterfall Gallery

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