Photographing Blackwater Falls, West Virginia
The instant I saw Blackwater Falls I understood what all the fuss was about. Cascading 57 feet over the mountain's edge, it's the tallest waterfall in West Virginia. Like most popular destinations, it's complete with tour-bus parking and an overflow lot. On this particular day however, threatening storm clouds kept the crowds away. This offered an ideal opportunity to capture the landscape's natural beauty through my lens.
People are often surprised when I share my simple tips for waterfall photography. Undoubtedly, a slow shutter speed is helpful, as is a tripod. Yet, the single most important factor is working in soft, even light. This means planning your shoot for a cloudy day. By doing so it's possible to properly expose both the shadow and highlights areas.
Anytime you mix inexperienced hikers with treacherous conditions, the likelihood of an accident skyrockets. To prevent people from falling on slippery rocks, the parks department installed a series of boardwalks. While this does limit one's ability to explore, they were well designed with optimal viewing points in mind. The trail gradually descends before you come to the final, and most dramatic platform. I used my 17-40mm lens to try a variety of compositions.
When visiting heavily photographed sites, it's challenging to put your own twist on the scene. How can you do it better or different than everyone else? I start by capturing the classic compositions first. This gives me a chance to take it all in and get a feel for the location. Once I have these shots, I work towards a more unique perspective. Rather than eliminating the surrounding woods, I used them to introduce a sense of scale. Sure the waterfall is beautiful, but it's just one part of the ecosystem in which everything is of equal importance.