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Project - Planning a Waterfall Trip

Waterfalls come in many variations, large, small, easy to get to, requiring an expedition, in this country, overseas. Some are seasonal, while others may only be open or available as set times.

In planning a trip to photograph a waterfall or a number of waterfalls we need to:-

  • Decide the falls to visit.

  • Check it's the right time of year.

  • Consider going on our own or someone going with you.

  • Consider if its a low budget trip or you want to live better, this will effect all costings.

  • Check we can get to them.

  • Check to see if there are any restrictions.

  • If overseas, check visa, injections or other requirements.

  • Work out how to get to them.

  • Estimate the time to reach them.

  • Estimate the time we will need at the falls.

  • Consider accommodation requirements.

  • Also food and similar requirements.

  • Consider if local guides, translators or others are required.

  • Work out what equipment we will need.

  • Work out an estimate of the costs involved. See Controlling costs for how to minimise them.

  • See if we have a gap in our diary to allow us to do this.

Next we get to the point where we need to decide if its a practical project, can we do it and also if other family members with us, who may put limitations on you, will be happy for you to do this.

Assuming we have decided to go ahead, having perhaps made a few adjustments to our original ideas, we can now make the trip arrangements, as we would with any other trip.

We may be able to better plan the photography, if we have good maps of the area, we will be able to see the direction of flow, and from this deduce what sort of lighting angle would be likely at each time of day. From tourism and photography sites we may be able to find photographs by others that will give us some idea of where we can take photographs from, compositional limitations and an idea of what to expect when you get there.

Also from this and what you know already you can decide on footwear and other clothing needs and how you are going to carry your equipment.

There are two schools of thought on equipment, one says take everything you may need, so a large bag, tripod, filters etc, after all you don't really know what possibilities there will be, whether wildlife is going to be there, or what you would wish you had brought, but its too far to go and get. The other says take the absolute minimum you can get away with, so a camera, a single stabilised zoom lens and not a lot more. In between this we have the balanced approach where you may say, given what I can see, I may need an extra lens or two, and if I want to do long exposures, beyond what I can hand hold with my stabilised lens, or use a lens that is not stabilised (i.e. Nikon VR) then a tripod will be needed. Perhaps I may also need a couple of neutral density filters. If you decide to take a lot, then consider who is going to carry it, and if its you, do you have the fitness and stamina to carry it the distance involved. Also consider the security side if taking it abroad, can you get most of it into hand luggage.

Waterfalls as well as the photography of them is affected by the weather, recent rain is likely to mean more water coming over the falls, while a long dry spell may mean that they are only a shadow of the potential available. In addition to that you probably don't want to be photographing them in the rain. From this perspective you may want to plan the waterfall trip ahead and then decide to go at short notice.

Perhaps as an example we could look at two trips/projects, one with the subject of Photographing Niagara Falls in the USA for under 400, and the second, a day trip in the UK to photograph the 8+ waterfalls on the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail in the Yorkshire Dales.

 Niagara Falls, USA  Robby Ryke

With the first of these to Niagara Falls in the US, its practical to do the research and any preparatory work necessary, like making sure we have a current passport, printing out timetables and maps, possibly getting a few dollars, and then deciding to go at two or three days notice. In this case we probably would not want to take a lot of equipment, we might even be able to take just carry on luggage. These are very large falls, no overhanging trees, or similar to allow for, and we know where we can photograph them from, so we don't really need a tripod, or excessive number of lenses, although probably three would be useful, a stabilised standard zoom, a stabilised telephoto, to allow us to close up space and perhaps take any wildlife, and a wide angle maybe. If we are expecting to go into the spray then we are going to need some waterproof protection for our camera and lens, but this could be as simple as a plastic bag with a hole cut out that can be fixed in place by the UV filter. We will also need a few memory cards. We do need clothing suitable for the season of the visit, but its predictable.  We could if we wanted work out a shooting list of shots we would like to get, and even think ahead about topics like depth of field and managing exposure. Time wise in theory we could do this in a couple of days, but allowing three nights has a lot of leeway, allowing for weather and other images to be captured as well.

With the second project, visiting the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, again we can do some research, especially now we have a route guide for the walk, location guides and galleries, you can find out quite lot. Before we went we had only the promotional site and a few photos we could find to base our plan on, we didn't have any idea really of the quality of the paths and what footwear would be ideal, how difficult it would be or the layout of the individual falls along the trail. We knew there was a wide ranging estimate of the time it took to get around. We didn't know how shaded the falls would be, if there were clear shots and where we could get to photograph them, so we had no idea as to what equipment to take. Given that the time estimates were from 2.5 to 4 hours to walk around, and that it was around a 3.5 hour drive from our home, we could see we could do this in a day, with an early start. So up at 4:30am, and off at 5am, allowing a break on the way for a cooked breakfast. We took a picnic lunch, and stopped on the way home to eat, getting back home mid evening. Between two of us we took just over 600 photos on the day, but partly because we wanted to capture each of the falls in a load of different ways, as well as having material to show how water looks at a range of speeds, and with some showing the layout of the trail. We got a little wildlife, and some scenic. This second trip was more difficult, it involved a cross country walk, unknown conditions, and a lot more equipment to be carried. I did as much planning as I could, had printouts of maps, some details from looking at others photos, and listed items to take, and more. I would like at some point to do another trip here in the summer and a third to capture autumn colours, but future ones will be easier to plan now I have seen it once. Also knowing the layout I can see a part of the walk could be done without having to do it all.

River Doe Section of the
Ingleton Waterfalls Trail


See Also: the Waterfalls Section for more articles on waterfalls and how to photograph them as well as links to listings of them by country and individual locations guides.

Other articles that you may find helpful:-

Photographing Waterfalls 

Waterfalls Defined  

Waterfalls - Their effect on us

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, Yorkshire

Ingleton Waterfall Trail - River Twiss

Ingleton Waterfall Trail - River Doe

 


By: Keith Park Section: Waterfalls Section Key:
Page Ref: project_waterfall_trip Topic: Waterfalls Last Updated: 01/2012
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