Category Archives: Waterfalls

Upper Cascades: Hanging Rock State Park

Within the boundaries of Hanging Rock State Park are 5 “advertised” waterfalls. (Rumor has it that there are other falls not found along the marked trails.) Upper Cascades is the shortest hike from the main parking lot and is certainly a pretty natural feature. For the video I used a combination of footage from my Canon 7D DSLR and my SJCam SJ 4000 action camera. All still photos were taken with the 7D.

First view of Upper Cascades in Hanging Rock State Park

Detail shot of Upper Cascades at Hanging Rock State Park

Upper Cascades at Hanging Rock State Park

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Hanging Rock State Park: Hidden Falls

Hanging Rock State Park is located near Danbury in the northwestern part of North Carolina. Nestled in the Sauratown Mountains, the park is home to several waterfalls. While not the tallest falls in the state, they are certainly pretty. Unlike so many waterfalls that require miles of hiking to reach, the well known falls of Hanging Rock State Park are all short hikes from convenient parking lots. In addition to the five publicized waterfalls, my understanding is that there are a few other falls hidden away and requiring a bit of effort and adventure to find. The following are a few photos and a video of Hidden Falls. All photos were taken with a Canon 7D. The video is a combination of footage from the 7D and from my SJCam SJ 4000 action camera.

Hidden Falls -Hanging Rock State Park

HIdden Falls - Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury NC


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Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls in the Autumn

Juney Whank falls near the Bryson City, NC
For me one of the big attractions to Western North Carolina’s mountains are the waterfalls. There’s something special about the sight and sounds these natural wonders provide. Mix in some fall foliage and you have a receipe for real photographic fun. One issue with photographing waterfalls is that in many cases there’s a long hike involved to reach them. This can eat-up time, a precious commodity when one only has a few days to visit the mountains. Of course there are some falls that are more accessible than others. The downside to the ones that are easily reached is that they’re going to get a lot images taken of them. Finding a unique angle or perspective becomes more challenging when shooting popular locations.

In general there are three approaches to photographing a waterfall. One can use a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement of the water. While this can produce some interesting images it’s not a very realistic way of representing a falls. Another method is to use a shutter speed that will allow some blurring of the water, but not too much. In this case you’re probably going to use a shutter speed somewhere between 1/30 and 1/2 second. This results in an image that closely replicates the way the eye inturprets a waterfall. The final technique, and the one most commonly used, produces an image where the water has a blurred, etheral apperance. To achieve this look use shutter speeds of 2 or more seconds. The difficult part of the last method is to avoid over-exposing the image. Typically the lens needs to be stopped-down to the smallest aperature (largest f/stop number) and a polarizing and/or neutral density filter may need to be added to the lens to restrict the amount of light entering the camera.

Here are a few shots from my recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. All of these locations are easily and quickly accessed. While I’d like to have visited a few of the less easily visited waterfalls in the area, time was an issue on this trip. Maybe I’ll use that as an excuse to return to the mountains in the spring for some more waterfall photography!

Mingo Falls is on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Western North Carolina.

Indiean Creek Falls is part of the

Soco falls is located between Cherokee and Maggie Valley in North Carolina.

Tom Branch Falls is found near Bryson City, NC.

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Smokey Mountain Waterfalls: Cherokee & Bryson City, NC

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Western North Carolina in the Smokey Mountains. Anytime I’m in that area waterfalls are at the top of my “to do list.” I set-up camp in the Deep Creek area of the Great Smokely Mountains National Park and used that as my base of operations. Located outside of Bryson City there are three waterfalls that are a short hike from the Deep Creek parking area: Tom Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls, and Juney Whank Falls. All three are well worth a visit and are easy enough to access for the entire family to enjoy. A short drive from Bryson City there are several waterfalls to be found around Cherokee, North Carolina. Two of my favorites are Mingo Falls and Soco Falls. Both are short hikes either up or down a set of steps. Soco Falls, however, doesn’t have easy access to the base of the falls. In fact one needs to either be a mountain goat or have some climbing skills to safely reach it and return to the marked trail.

There are many fine photographers that specialize in waterfalls photography. Living on the coast, I’m not one of them. The problem is to build competence one needs to be able to shoot, analyze the results, consult with other photographers and re-shoot frequently. This is an approach that allows one to grow and improve at a specific discipline. With the mountains and waterfalls being several hours away it’s just not a practical approach for me. For me I have to depend on the occassional opportunity and studying the writings and work of others to try to learn.

One of the problems with photographing waterfalls is one common with most popular landscapes and monuments; they’ve been photographed countless times before. Finding a combination of angle, lens, lighting and post processing that will be unique is nearly impossible. On this trip I wanted to emphasize wider angles than I’m used to seeing used. While this results in the falls being a smaller part of the image in many cases, it also allows incorporation of more of the surrounding environment, inclussion of foreground and background objects and use of environmental objects as leading lines and visual anchors in the composition. Where exposure is concerned there are three distinct schools of thought. 1) A fast shutter speed to freeze the action of the water. 2) A moderately slow shutter speed to allow some blurring of the falling water… a technique that argueably results in an image closely represntative of how the eye preceives falls. 3) Use of a very slow shutter speed to create a soft, eretheal look to the falling water. This seems to be the most popular approach these days.

So enough ramblings on my part. On to the photos. I hope you enjoy them.

Tom Branch Falls flows into Deep Creek near Bryson City, NC

Mingo Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in the Great Smokely Mountains

A horizontal composition of Mingo Falls, Cherokee, North Carolina

Access to Soco Falls is from a pull-out along highway 19 outside of Cherokee, NC

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