Waterfall hunting on a cloudy day. Metlako Falls

Overcast days make for great waterfall photography

Photography in the Pacific Northwest can often mean cloudy skies and less than ‘ideal’ conditions… and that is just fine with me. In fact when it comes to waterfalls I prefer it. Case in point was my trip up to Punchbowl and Metlako falls this last week. Heavy clouds… light as flat as it could possibly be. Perfect waterfall hunting weather!

Metlako Falls along the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia Gorge. Photography by Dominic Urbano

It is easy to yearn for conditions that you don’t have on any given day. Especially if you have traveled some distance to work up some images in a special location. Well since you can’t change the weather, it is best to change your attitude. Buck up and be a photographer. Look, study, think, experience,… make some pictures. Weather be damned.

Overcast skies serve two really helpful functions when photographing waterfalls. First, clouds act like giant soft boxes. Really… how cool is it that you have the entire forest being lit by the worlds finest soft box. Lovely soft light illuminating your entire scene. Sure, I like dramatic shafts of brilliant light just as much as the next guy, but I’m out hunting waterfalls not laser beams or rainbows. The subject is the waterfall. Add too many dramatic light beams and rainbows and the scene gets too busy really quick. Some people make the mistake of claiming that there isn’t any ‘good’ light on an overcast day. Wrong! Perfect light for hunting waterfalls.

Second helpful function of overcast skies when photographing waterfalls. Overcast skies act like neutral density filters. Optically perfect ND filters… for free! Now I’ll confess that I can’t claim wealth of ND filter expertise since I don’t use them in the first place. (No particular reason… I’m just lazy) I do know however that moving water equals at least some long exposure shots. Gotta create that lovely sense of motion. Me, my camera, tripod, and a lens at F22 are going to get some work done here. Thank you overcast skies.

I offer up the above photo of Metlako Falls. Yup… bagged me another waterfall! Yum.

Some camera info. (because I know some people like that stuff)

  • Camera – Nikon d800
  • Lens – AFS Nikor 70-200 at 98mm
  • Exposure – 1/5th at f/13 ISO 100 RAW

Workflow = Lightroom import/export and to pull the greens up a bit.- Photoshop for a burn here and a dodge there. A bit of localized sharpening… high pass filter to finish it off… and done.



One response to “Waterfall hunting on a cloudy day. Metlako Falls”

  1. […] You may also want to read about photographing waterfalls. […]

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