We’re quite spoiled here in the Northwest when it comes to waterfalls.
To be honest, when I first moved here, I wasn’t all that excited about waterfalls. They were all photographed the same, and they all looked the same to me. The hikes were pleasant, but I just couldn’t understand how the group would then park their tripods at the waterfall at the end and shoot for what felt like forever. I was used to a quick shot, and I was done.
How many pictures of the same scene can one take?
I grew up hiking in Colorado, where the main attractions were faraway views. Set out early, hike straight up a mountain, inhale a smooshed sandwich at the top while marveling at the endless landscape below, then race down to the valley before the thunderstorms hit.
And when we came across a waterfall, it was usually part of a rocky creek surrounded by shrubs or more rocks. They were seldom large, and they weren’t often all that impressive. They were beautiful, sure, but I didn’t feel all that compelled to photograph them for any length of time (it probably also didn’t help that we’d usually reach them midday, and desert lighting is harsh).
But then I moved here and I fell under their spell. After many hikes in the area, I’ve seen so many different waterfalls. Some are gentle sprinkles; others are massive torrents. Some cascade in steps, pooling at intervals; others plummet from impossible heights. And they change throughout the year, from single curtains in the middle of a dry summer to an entire network of showers just after a rainfall.
The hikes are likewise variant. You can hike up to them; you can clamber down to them. They’re the main destinations, and they’re casual side trips. Some are right off the main path; others are hidden. You can walk behind some; others you view from above. A few are accessible only by splashing through the creek into which they fall.
And they’re all flanked by lush green vegetation – ivies and ferns, mossy trees and rocks. Color abounds, and it’s difficult to not be awed my nature’s splendor. And with so many residing in narrow canyons and small valleys, lighting remains ideal for much longer (especially on a much-more-common partly cloudy day).
Of course, it also helps that I now regularly hang out with waterfall enthusiasts. Their affinity for waterfalls is contagious, and they taught me how to shoot them properly (ND/polarizer filters, tripods, long exposures, etc.).
Needless to say, I can now waste an hour or more shooting an effervescent waterfall, basking in the natural glow of its verdant surroundings. However, I still strive to make the photos my own. I try different angles, and I experiment with wide shots and narrow details. And sometimes, I get into trouble with my attempts at something different…
Now, even when coming across waterfalls in a beautiful place like Costa Rica, I’m simply not all that impressed; we have better waterfalls here than many of the ones we saw there. I’m spoiled.
And there are still so many I have yet to discover.
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