Guest post from New Hampshire photographer and waterfall enthusiast Chris Whiton of White Mountain Images. Chris is an active fan of the outdoors and a collector of lost waterfalls. When he isn’t out hiking, he is busy selling prints, cards, and calendars around the state and on his online store.
The Magic of the Autumn Season
Autumn is perhaps the perfect season in New England. Gone are the hot, humid days of summer. The swarms of winged insects so prevalent a few months back have all but faded from memory. Crisp, cool air greets the early riser, and a morning stroll brings a faint crackle and swish to every step. The unmistakable scent of fallen leaves triggers buried memories of Autumns past. And the sparkle of dewy sunlight upon the myriad display of reds, yellows, and greens cannot be adequately described.
Autumn arrives each year full of promise, and fades all too quickly only weeks from the day it began. For a photographer, whether they be professional or hobbyist, this can create quite a dilemma. How to be at the right places at the right times with the right weather to capture that beauty?
If there is one certainty of the Autumn season, it is that there will be rain. I find that the rain seems to come on the days that I have set aside for foliage photography. Fortunately, a rainy day does not have to be a missed opportunity for getting in a few good autumn shots. With the right attitude and just a small amount of extra gear, it can even surpass those crisp, clear days that you were dreaming about.
Rainy days are the perfect time to photograph waterfalls. There are many benefits of inclement weather to the aspiring waterfall photographer. First and foremost – you are unlikely to find crowds of people standing in front of your subject on a drizzly day. The rain also enhances the color saturation of the leaves and the rocks. The water flow has been given an extra boost. Cloudy skies keep the sunlight muted, preventing hot spots or harsh reflections on the water. And, the darker skies allow for longer exposures, giving flowing water a silky-smooth texture in your shots.
What to Bring?
To shoot waterfalls successfully in the rain, you really only need a few pieces of equipment. A camera capable of shooting at slower shutter speeds (no DSLR required – many inexpensive cameras have Night Scene or other slow shutter speed settings). A remote shutter release, or a self-timer on the camera (to prevent camera shake). A tripod to steady the camera. If you don’t have a tripod, a rock or backpack will do the trick…though it may limit the angles and positions you are able to obtain. An umbrella for both you and the camera (mine is attached to the tripod with a bungee cord). A soft microfiber cloth for wiping lens condensation and stray raindrops.
I could go into all the details of waterfall shooting techniques, but that lengthy topic would be the subject for another article. Experimentation is the best way to go, as no waterfall is the same. Each cascade has a different setting that works best for its particular style of flow. First, start with the lowest ISO your camera can go, dial the speed down to around a 1/2sec and give it a try. On a cloudy day, with or without rain, you can usually get away with a speed slow enough to smooth the water without having to add lens filters or other adjustments. Play around with different settings until you see the effect that you are after in your water texture.
Where to Go?
The White Mountains of New Hampshire have limitless possibilities for adventure seeking water in motion. Not only are there hundreds of named waterfalls; there are countless mountain streams and brooks in the White Mountain National Forest that can be followed for miles. Over the years, I have found many beautiful areas hidden under the forest canopy. Some places are known by many, others known by very few. Who knows what may be around the next corner of the brook?
Here is a short list of a few noteworthy autumn waterfall locations:
Pinkham Notch – Tuckerman Ravine Trail
Located less than half a mile up the popular Tuckerman Ravine trail, at the AMC lodge in Pinkham Notch. A beautiful cascade about 80 feet in height. Expect some crowds here, though less so on a drizzly day. For a more unique and less known angle, head up the embankment to the left of the viewing area. You will find a lightly beaten path to an upper ledge with an interesting view of the falls.
After checking out Crystal, head down route 16 a little ways and visit Glen Ellis Falls while you are there. This waterfall never ceases to amaze, and a rainy day might keep away the usual crowds. As an extra bonus, wander downstream a ways. The Ellis River has many hidden cascades, pools and slides along its next several miles.
Beaver Brook Cascades
Kinsman Notch – Beaver Brook Trail
A series of waterfalls and slides along the side of the Beaver Brook Trail, at the head of Kinsman Notch along route 112 about 7 miles outside of Woodstock. This is part of the Appalachian Trail, and the route to the falls climbs along some tough terrain. Slick, wet slabs and iron rungs for support are a few of the challenges you will encounter along your trek. Don’t stop too long at the first cascade, though…. the biggest and best are higher up!
As an extra bonus, check out the view across Beaver Pond, located just past the Beaver Brook Trailhead. The foliage vista from the edge of this pond is a New Hampshire classic.
Mittersill Resort – Franconia
This “forgotten” waterfall, named Noble Falls in the old “History of Franconia” tome lies along a locally maintained trail at the edge of the Mittersill resort property. To reach the trailhead, enter the Mittersill ski resort and drive around the main building. Follow Alpen Hill Road until it makes a sharp 90-degree angle to the left; there is a small parking area to the right here at the corner big enough for a couple of cars. The trail starts next to a telephone pole – follow ribboned trees as the path slabs across the slope, staying fairly level in elevation. In about 15 minutes or less you can hear the stream and the path heads down into the ravine below. Be sure to visit this cascade after some heavy rain.
As an extra bonus, little-known Plimpton Falls lies just downstream of Bridesmaid.
Jericho Mountain State Park – Berlin
Just a few miles outside of the town of Berlin, Jericho Mountain State Park is a little-known gem of Coos County and the Great North Woods Region. The view of the incredible foliage display across Jericho Lake is a scene not to miss. And, hidden within the forest is a recently uncovered treasure – Jericho Falls. A small, unassuming stream suddenly plunges some 25 feet down into a massive pothole, then over some rocks and a ledgy staircase into a pool. A new trail to the falls was cut last year, but as of my last visit was unsigned and difficult to find. Ask at the Visitor Center in the park for directions.
As an extra bonus, take a drive up and over Cates Hill road in Berlin for some beautiful mountain foliage scenery.
Little Hellgate Falls
Little Hellgate Falls Trail – Pittsburg
Getting to the Little Hellgate Falls trailhead is an adventure in itself. From route 3 in Pittsburg, take Magalloway Road (a dirt logging road) for about three miles, turning right on Buckhorn Road. Follow Buckhorn for about 4 miles – it soon becomes Cedar Stream Road.
Pass two camps and look for a wooden kiosk near a snowmobile trail on the left. Park here and follow the overgrown snowmobile trail on foot, crossing two bridges. The second bridge crosses the brook where Little Hellgate lies almost a mile upstream; look to the left after the bridge for the unsigned trailhead. A beautiful trail wanders through a fairytale forest on its way to the falls.
As an extra bonus, check out the Garfield Falls trail located many miles further down the Magalloway Road.
Beaver Brook Falls
Colebrook – Roadside
Not to be confused with Beaver Brook Cascades in Kinsman Notch, this beautiful waterfall lies roadside just outside Colebrook along Route 145. The more rain the better; this waterfall can be very sparse in the dry season. This is a popular spot at all times of the year, so expect company.
These are just a few of the many watery gems you can find while exploring New Hampshire on a cloudy day. Your adventures are limited only by your imagination and creativity!
White Mountain Images