Chasing the perfect waterfall shot

  • The Basin in Franconia Notch Ron Bowman / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 5/8/2021 1:00:07 PM

Have you ever wondered how photographers create the flowing water (straw or wheat) effect, seen in their waterfall photos and where to find the best New Hampshire waterfalls?

This month, I will explore the techniques photographers use to capture and create the most beautiful-looking waterfalls, along with some of my favorite waterfalls.

Technique: The straw/wheat flowing water effect you see in the waterfall photograph, taken at the Basin in Franconia Notch, was created by shooting at a shutter speed of ½ second. For those of you who own a digital camera, all you need to do is to set the camera shutter speed to somewhere between 1/15 second and 2 seconds.

Most of the waterfalls can be captured using an 18mm-55mm zoom lens. The longer the exposure, the softer the water flow effect.

Due to the long exposure, you will need to place the camera on a tripod. Some of the more advanced smartphones also allow you to change the shutter speed, but you will also need to mount your camera phone to a tripod due to the long exposure, otherwise, the photo will probably come out blurry due to camera shake.

The best time to photograph waterfalls is anytime from May through October. In late spring, there will be more water flowing than in October, but in the fall, you might also be able to include colorful leaves. My preference, since I enjoy photographing nature without lots of other people hanging around, is right after sunrise and on a cloudy day if possible. Cloudy, overcast days provide more diffused lighting, without the harsh shadows found on a sunny day.

New Hampshire waterfalls: My recommendations may differ from yours, or those listed in various publications, like New England Waterfalls and Trip Advisor. I was focused primarily on the more accessible waterfalls, with an easy hike to the falls of about a half-mile or less.

The Basin in Franconia Notch: This is my personal favorite location because it is easy to get to, within minutes from the parking lots on both sides of Interstate 93, and it offers at least three or four different waterfall scenes. Note, it is also handicapped accessible.

Sabbaday Falls on the Kancamagus Highway: The two falls are located about 1/3 mile off the Kancamagus Highway and you will find the trail to be an easy hike.

Flume Gorge: This is one of the most popular tourist destinations and is an easy 2-mile loop trail. There are at least two waterfalls of 45 feet and 70 feet, along with a natural gorge and covered bridge.

Arethusa Falls in Bartlett: This is the largest, or second largest, waterfall in the state, with a drop of over 150 feet and one of the most popular in New Hampshire. The 1.5 mile hike to the falls is easy to moderate.

Glen Ellis Falls in Jackson: This is a popular waterfall located just off Route 16 in Jackson. The trail is about a half-mile walk down to the base of the falls and is quite steep, so those with weak knees take notice.

Crystal Cascade in Pinkham Notch: This 100 foot waterfall is located about ½ mile up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail, which leads to Mt. Washington. You will find this an easy hike and a spectacular waterfall.

Diana’s Bath in Bartlett: This is a popular destination just outside North Conway. The trail is an easy hike that will take about 25 minutes to reach the falls.

Lost River in Woodstock: This is a popular tourist destination and offers waterfalls, boulders, and caves to explore. This is about a one-mile loop trail and is easy to moderate, with a steady drop in elevation to the falls.

Rocky Gorge on the Kancamagus Highway: I listed this waterfall because it is located a short walk off the Kancamagus Highway and is handicapped accessible.

In the next column, I will discuss photographing New Hampshire Covered Bridges.

Also, I am teaching a photography class, titled, “Introduction to digital photography and how to improve your photographic skills,” starting on June 8. Classes will be held at the Lakes Region Art Association Gallery located in the Tanger Outlets in Tilton. For more information, or to register, please contact Ron Bowman at It’s not too late to sign up for my Waterfall Photography Workshop, which will be held at the Basin in Franconia Notch on May 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.

(Ron Bowman is a New Hampshire photographer, with 50+ years of experience photographing weddings, real estate, and New England landscapes. He is a member of the Lakes Region Art Association and can be reached at You can also view his work at the Lakes Region Art Gallery located in the Tanger Outlets in Tilton and on his website

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