Ricketts Glen: A Decade of Dazzling Waterfall Photos


UPDATED ON:  June 13 , 2024

Traveling Photographer + WaterfallThe Author
At Ricketts Glen

Looking back at over 10 years of photographing the stunning waterfalls at Rickett's Glen, I' find it difficult to pick a personal favorite. I'm asking for your help. There are literally dozens of various cascades and waterfalls that you can photograph if you hike the entire trail, with 24 of the larger waterfalls being officially named.

Can you help me decide which are the best ones Just pick your 3 favorites.  I included a simple poll at the end of this post  with the opportunity to cast your vote on the top 3 photos of Ricketts Glen.  Whether you vote or not, I'm sure you'll enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Especially when you're shooting with an extremely wide angle lens, the slightest change in the position of your camera can have a big impact on your photo.  Compare the next two photos. Both include the interesting circular blur of the leaves in the foreground and the triple-channel cascade of water.

Ricketts Glen 2015 eddy#1
Ricketts Glen Eddy

In the composition above I lowered my tripod and chose a vantage point that would created a visual diagonal from the eddy to the cascades to the distant autumn trees in the background.

In the photo below, I raised and moved my tripod to the left. This eliminates the distant background and puts added attention to the details in the cascading water. Which one do you like better?

Ricketts Glen in 2015#2
Ricketts Glen Eddy

With both of the two "Ricketts Glen Eddy" photos above, I used a super slow shutter speed ( a little over 1 second) to create motion blur and a small aperture ( f/22) to make sure everything was in sharp focus.

Rather than taking the traditional, camera-held-at-eye-level snapshots of the big waterfalls I find it more enjoyable to practice my compositional skills and look for interesting ways to capture the smaller details in the numerous cascades.

The photo below is another example of a middle distance composition where I picked a perspective that would intentional use a foreground element to lead your eye into the image and give you a visual path to something interesting in the backgroun.

April 2021 Ricketts Glen Cascade#3
April 2021
"Ricketts Glen Cascade"

I always shoot my waterfalls photos is color in the RAW format, so that I can process the image files in a variety of ways. That includes occasionally as black and white renditions.

It wasn't until 3 years later when I wrote this post on Ricketts Glen waterfall photography that I thought the image above would translate nicely to black and white. I was pleased with the result I got below. Do you prefer the color version or the black and white?

Ricketts Glen Cascade in black and white#4
"Ricketts Glen Cascade in black and white"

The black and white version of this scene really brings out the textures in the rocks.

In photo #5 below, the water was flowing at a high rate and a shutter speed of 0.6 second game me the look I wanted in the photo of the Sheldon Reynolds waterfall.

Waterfall at Ricketts Glen#5
October 2016
"Sheldon Reynolds Waterfall at Ricketts Glen"

The Sheldon Reynolds is the first attractive-to-photograph waterfall that you'll encounter if you start your hike from the spacious new parking lot on Route 118.

The #6 photo below was taken using a 4-stop ND filter with an 8 second exposure.

Ricketts Glen in 2017#6
"Smooth as Silk"

While you're there, don't forget to look around for photo ops other than the falls and cascading water. I was inspired by this tapestry of fall colors in the trees. The strong backlighting penetrating through the leaves gave this scene the feeling of an impressionistic painting in photo #7 below.

Ricketts Glen Fall Foliage#7
"Ricketts Glen Fall Foliage"

I zoomed in to my maximum telephoto lens setting to "flatten" the perspective and it made this image more of an abstract. 

In photo #8 below I love the tonalites of the different areas of the image, especially the contrast between the yellowish and bluish colors in the top center of the composition.

Hidden face at Ricketts Glen#8
"Skeleton Face"

Photo #9 below was a rainy day photograph. The lighting was a bit too flat for making a dynamic high-impact photo, but it does capture the tranquility I felt as I was the only one on the Falls Trail in this section of the Glen Leigh side.

Glen Leigh Bridge#9
"Glen Leigh Bridge"

Photo #10 below made it into this post because of the composition. I, along with many other photo enthusiasts, shoot most of my landscape and nature photos as horizontals, rather than verticals. When I came to this spot, I was intrigued my the zig-zag path that this stream had carved into the landscape and thought it would best be framed in as a vertical.

Ricketts Glen Vertical Cascade#10
"Ricketts Glen Vertical Cascade"

There are several waterfalls that make for a great location for family portrait photography. In addition to having a great background a successful waterfall portrait is dependent on good lighting, good posing, and choosing the right vantage point when composing your photo.

Family portrait at Ricketts GlenFamily portrait at Ricketts Glen

 Ricketts Glen FAQ

Got any questions about visiting and photographing Ricketts Glen? See the section below to get answers to frequently asked questions. Click on a question to reveal the answer.

What is the best time to photograph Ricketts Glen?

The best time to hike the Falls Trail in Ricketts Glen is early morning, during the workweek, when school is still in session. Due to dangerous slippery conditions, the upper parts of the trail are closed during the winter months due to ice.  If you visit when school is out, or during a weekend, the trail can get congested and the photography becomes more challenging.

What camera setting should be used to get that creamy looking water in waterfall photos?

To get the intentional  creamy blur effect of the cascading water you need to set your shutter speed at 1/2 second or slower. It depends on how fast the water is moving, our distance to the water as well as the focal length setting of the lens that you are using. You must use a tripod and you may need an ND (neutral density) filter

What kind of lighting is best for photographing the waterfalls at Ricketts Glen State Park?

Early morning light, before the direct sun beams create harsh contrasty shadows, is more forgiving. Softer diffused light is easier to deal with and usually gives you better results. Cloudy and foggy days-I've shot in light rain too-prevent over-exposed highlight in the water reflections.

Should I use any lens filters when photographing Ricketts Glen?

There are two lens filters that come in handy when you're taking photos at Ricketts Glen State Park. An ND (Neutral Density) filter will enable you to take creative water blur long exposure photos. A circular polarizing filter (CPF) will help reduce reflections and improve saturation in color.

See the with and without a polarizer comparison below.

Without And With A Polarizing Filter

Look at the dramatic difference a polarizing filter can make by moving your cursor on and off the photo below. Not only does the filter remove  much of the reflections on the water, but pay attention to what happens to the colors in the trees when you hold the cursor over the photo.

Without Polarizing Filter
Move your mouse cursor on and off the image.

Pay close attention to the small reflections on the leaves on the wet rocks in the foreground and the fallen tree as you move your cursor on and off.

With the polarizing filter in place and reduced reflections, details on the stream bed are revealed and colors become more vibrant. Using a CPF will also allow you to use slower shutter speeds because of the 1 or 2-stop reduction in light reaching your sensor.

Ricketts Glen video

While you're here on my website, enjoy a peaceful moment of tranquility with this 30-second video of one of the smaller cascades at Ricketts Glen.

If you enjoyed the video above, you may be interested in a longer, even more relaxing, compilation of video clips of the larger waterfalls at Ricketts Glen on my You tube channel here.

Select Your Favorite:


Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please complete the challenge that you see below.


Map Of Ricketts Glen Falls Trail

On the map below-I took this photo at the beginning of the Falls Trail at the south end-the red line is the walking trail and the blue line is the stream.

Map of Ricketts Glen Falls TrailMap of Ricketts Glen Falls Trail

On the map above of Ricketts Glen and its waterfalls, what isn't shown is the substantial elevation gain involved in the trail as you head upward from the bottom, from south to north.

I hope that you enjoyed this short, but unique, photo tour of Ricketts Glen and that I've inspired you to visit and photograph it as well.

Bruce Lovelace portrait

Bruce Lovelace is the publisher of TravelingPhotographer.com. Bruce shot portraits full time for over 35 years. Now he shoots more travel photography.  Read more about him on the About Page. He also publishes how to articles and camera gear reviews at the  Photography Tips and Canon Geek websites.

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