Catrigg Force near Stainforth in Ribblesdale

Photographing Waterfalls in Winter

Waterfall in Grisedale Beck near Garsdale Head Yorkshire Dales
Waterfall in Grisedale Beck, near Garsdale Head, Yorkshire Dales


As the last traces of autumn colour fade away and the days shorten you may be tempted to pack the camera away for the season. Although the coming winter months can provide some spectacular days with crisp clear light which is great for landscape photography, especially with a layer of snow on the hilltops, quite often we’re faced with a rather bleak and dreary overcast day when it barely seems to get properly light. On these occasions, with no colourful foliage to photograph, the best idea is to head to your nearest waterfall or fast-flowing river…

Clough Force
Clough Force, Detail


Fortunately we’ve no shortage of waterfalls to seek out in the Yorkshire Dales.  I’ve photographed most of the more well-known ones quite a few times, but there are hundreds of smaller cascades dotted around which can be worth a visit.  Last winter I had a look at some of the falls in Garsdale around Garsdale Head (in the Cumbrian part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park).  Clough Force on Grisedale Beck is quite a large cascade and easy to get to on the left bank the beck.  Photographing the whole thing was OK, but the yellow winter grass either side of it just looked drab, so getting in closer seemed to be the order of the day.

Mossy Rock and Waterfall on Grisedale Beck
Mossy Rock and Waterfall on Grisedale Beck


There were nicer shapes in the smaller falls downstream just below Clough Force (top image) and  lower down the beck a larger cascade was enhanced by a mossy rock adding some welcome colour, lacking from the yellowed grasses along the banks of the stream.

Waterfall in the Clough River Garsdale
Waterfall in the Clough River, Garsdale


Down at the Clough River along Garsdale itself  a few breaks in the cloud appeared, revealing some patches of blue sky which offer great colour to the reflections off the surface of the river, but because there was no direct light falling on the water there are still no problems with burning out the areas of white water (as long as careful attention is paid to the histogram!)

Catrigg Force near Stainforth in Ribblesdale
Catrigg Force near Stainforth in Ribblesdale


A slightly better know location is Catrigg Force in Ribblesdale.  The falls themselves looked a bit bland on my winter visit, between the dark rocks, so taking a wider view and setting the falls in context with the streambed below seemed to work best on this occasion.  Again, moss on the rocks and fallen trees add colour in the flat winter light, along with a tree which seemed to have forgotten to drop its leaves!

Peaty Water in Stainforth Force on the River Ribble
Stainforth Force on the River Ribble


At nearby Stainforth Force, the stepped waterfall in the River Ribble is easy to get to and photograph, just a short walk along the footpath from the lane.  Photographing the whole series of steps below the lovely old stone bridge was a non-starter in the overcast conditions so, again, getting in close worked best, especially with the lovely peaty colours in the fast-flowing water.  The lighting conditions naturally produce quite long exposures, so capturing movement in the water is easy without the use of filters.

Peaty Water in Stainforth Force
Peaty Water in Stainforth Force


Where the peaty water produces some interesting stripes in the falls, it’s also worth getting out a longer lens to get in even closer and produce some completely abstract images.  So, bring on those bleak winter days – I can’t wait to get some new waterfall images!

Related Workshops

If you’d like to join us for a bit of waterfall photography we’ll be back at Aysgarth and West Burton in March 2015.


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