Last weekend I spent two days at Olympic National park for my first non-local photography trip since the COVID pandemic lockdown. Photographing Sol Duc Falls, the poster child waterfall in the park, was one of my favorite activities of the weekend.
Sol Duc Falls is an easy .8 mile hike from the trail head which starts from a convenient parking area. The photo above was taken from a wooden bridge that crosses the river in front of the falls. This is the best location for photographing Sol Duc Falls and provides a steady platform for a tripod. A tripod (rather than hand holding) is a must if you want to experiment with long exposures to give the water an interesting silky look.
A polarizing filter is also a must. The filter cuts down the glare on the water and the foliage surrounding the waterfall. It also helps increase your exposure time. Another tool to help increase exposure time would be a 3-stop or 6-stop ND filter. I didn’t use my ND filter as I had a limited amount of time at the falls but plan to experiment with it next time.
You will also want a wide angle lens. This will let you get all of the falls and surrounding foliage in your photos, especially for vertical shots.
I recommend arriving early in the morning to photograph the falls. Sol Duc Falls are one of the main attractions in the park and there can be quite a few people there later in the day. There is also a viewing platform to the right of the falls (see photo above) and unless you want your photo to include people on the platform you will want to get there before the cowds.
Another advantage of being early is that the sun won’t be high in the sky yet. This eliminates problems with glare on the water and foliage that occur later in the day on sunny days. Sol Duc falls is a great subject for cloudy days as that also eliminate potential glare problems.
Be sure to bring some towels to wipe off your gear. While photographing from the bridge you can’t avoid getting some spray from the falls on your camera and lens.