In Search of Waterfalls by Curtis Heikkinen

In Search of Waterfalls by Curtis Heikkinen

I dare say most landscape photographers enjoy taking pictures of waterfalls. They certainly can be spectacular subjects for photography, especially the large ones. As much fun as it is photographing the big, well-known waterfalls, I must confess to a love for seeking out rarely seen or rarely photographed waterfalls where I can produce unique images. They are much smaller and occasionally difficult to access, but they are much more common than you might imagine if you know when and where to look. What follows are some of my experiences finding them and a tip or two to help you out if you have a desire to find your own special place to take pictures.

My first image was taken during the early spring on one of my favorite creeks in the Oregon Cascades. I am very fortunate to live close to rugged mountains which contain an abundance of beautiful creeks. I have found that that downed logs dot those creeks and create numerous small waterfalls which can be quite spectacular when filled with rainfall and snowmelt. They can be a bit messy with debris but I feel that is what gives them character.

My next image is one that took a lot of effort to capture. It involved a rather strenuous hike along a rugged, remote creek with no trail. It took some bushwhacking and a rather treacherous crossing of the creek to get to the secluded spot in a beautiful gorge where I could take pictures of a multi-layered waterfall. I took photos from many different angles but I am particularly fond of a low angle shot that shows the various levels of a series of small waterfalls. I suspect few if any people have even stood in, let alone photographed, the spot where I took this picture. Knowing that makes the image feel very special.

The third image is one taken in a very familiar spot on a creek I have visited many times. Even though I have photographed that location on numerous occasions, I find that new ways to take images can occur to me if I take the time to look at a location with fresh eyes. The waterfall itself is log created but the downed log in front of it can preset challenges in composition. For this image, the log made a nice leading line to the opposite side of the creek. Log waterfalls are a common occurrence along mountain creeks in the Pacific Northwest. They are often obscured, however, by branches and other logs, so it can be difficult to get clean shots. Access can also be a challenge. Though it can be challenging to photograph mountain creeks, I think you will find the effort worth it.

My fourth image is one that many would probably object to as too cluttered. Granted, there is a lot of debris by this little waterfall. Yet, I feel that the image is very representative of what one finds while hiking along a mountain creek. Spring is a great time to photograph mountain creeks which, unlike other times of the year, are filled with water, energizing rapids and waterfalls. I have had good luck finding mountain waterfalls in other areas of the country such as Vermont, where mountainous terrain and spring snowmelt and rainfall create beautiful seasonal creeks just waiting to be explored. If you live in any region with hilly or mountainous terrain be sure to head for the high country in the spring.

My fifth image was taken on one of the most scenic rivers in Oregon, the Salmon River. In addition to being a great area to hike, the Salmon provides some great photographic opportunities such as beautiful series of waterfalls in a gorgeous stretch of the river I discovered while hiking. When water levels are high, this area is a magnificent place to take pictures and experience the raw power of water. In this image, I wanted to portray that power through an up-close view of the water crashing over the rocks. It was a tricky shot to get because the area is quite rocky and very wet. Apart from my images, I have never seen photos from this area, which surprises me given its beauty. It goes to show you that there are plenty of spectacular, undiscovered places to photograph if you keep your eyes open.

My sixth image demonstrates how easy it can be to find an impressive waterfall while driving. One autumn, I was motoring between Government Camp and Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon. This waterfall, apparently a seasonal one, was right by the road. The only real difficulty in photographing it concerned the need to dodge traffic on that sometimes busy stretch of road. I’ve had good luck finding waterfalls and attractive creeks while driving back roads in the high country. I highly recommend it during seasons when rainfall or snowmelt is abundant.

The seventh image was taken on a beautiful river near the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. There are a number of beautiful waterfalls in the park but this smaller one is a gem with no name that I am aware of. Though rather difficult to photograph because of the lack of vantage points, it is nonetheless a beauty.

My final image is from Ohio no less. Ohio is not the first state you think of when contemplating waterfall locations in the US, but it does have some very nice ones, especially in the Hocking Hills in the southern part of the state. This one, however, is located in the central part of Ohio and seems to be rarely photographed. I only learned of it through my sister who lives in Ohio. She took me there one spring afternoon and I was quite delighted with what I saw. I did not have a lot of time to spend there so I had to analyze the location quickly for compositions. Perhaps I will get a chance to return.

I hope my experiences have shown that one can get compelling waterfall images from locations other than the ones frequented by most photographers. It may at times take some effort to discover a unique location but many times a beautiful, rarely photographed waterfall is surprisingly easy to find. Here’s to happy waterfall hunting!

I am an avid kayaker, bird watcher and outdoor enthusiast, who likes to travel the Pacific Northwest in search of beautiful places to photograph. Though I am strictly an amateur photographer, I hope my pictures effectively capture some of the amazing beauty that surrounds us in the Pacific Northwest. Visitors will find that my photographs generally lack the heavily processed aspects that characterize much of contemporary landscape photography. Many were taken in areas not often photographed and from uncommon vantage points. I hope you enjoy them as much I did taking them.