Rocky Mountain Waterfalls

We have recently returned from a long camping trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Ahh! What a relief from the heat. (Some might argue, too much of a relief! Brr!) Perhaps the highlight of the trip was visiting different waterfalls around the state, some famous and some not so famous. For your viewing pleasure (or so I hope), here is a sample of those waterfalls.

If you’ve ever tried to photograph waterfalls, you know the challenge they pose. Perhaps the biggest challenge of photographing waterfalls in the mountains of Colorado in the summertime is to do so without a photobomb by other visitors to the falls. There are a lot of photos I returned with featuring random people I would rather not be peppering my photos, but that is the nature of such a venture. Of course, a lot of that can be avoided if you get up before dawn and beat the crowds, but that is not an easy feat when you’re traveling and don’t always have control over when you arrive at a location.

Nonetheless, I love the challenge of waterfalls. Sometimes you have to go barefoot up freezing creeks, sometimes you have to scramble up rocks to get the right vantage point. It’s almost always difficult to properly expose a waterfall, as the raging waters are usually much brighter than the surrounding landscape. If you’re like me, you also like to take longer exposures, creating the feathery smooth effect of the water as it tumbles down its steep cliff face. This almost always requires a tripod, and a polarizing filter comes in handy as well. I’m definitely no expert, but these photos are among my favorite of those I took on the trip, and definitely required the most work to capture.

Edited in Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.

Fish Creek Falls, lower falls. Near Steamboat Springs. Gorgeous waterfall; the highest drop of any of the falls we saw.

Fish Creek Falls, lower falls. Near Steamboat Springs. Gorgeous waterfall; the highest drop of any of the falls we saw.

Fish Creek Falls, upper falls. About 2.5 miles up a steep trail from the lower falls. Not as tall, but still lovely. You appreciate it more after the work to get up there!

Fish Creek Falls, upper falls. About 2.5 miles up a steep trail from the lower falls. Not as tall, but still lovely. You appreciate it more after the work to get up there!

Horseshoe Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park. Nice set of falls you can walk around in. But very crowded, and hard to get a good photo of without people moving into the image!

Horseshoe Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park. Nice set of falls you can walk around in. But very crowded, and hard to get a good photo of without people moving into the image!

Not sure if these falls have a name, but they're along a trail to Gold Creek Lake, so Gold Creek Falls seems appropriate. Definitely the most remote of all the trails we hiked to, and the easiest to set up a tripod to capture without having to worry about dozens of other visitors getting in the way. Not far from Steamboat Springs.

Not sure if these falls have a name, but they’re along a trail to Gold Creek Lake, so Gold Creek Falls seems appropriate. Definitely the most remote of all the trails we hiked to, and the easiest to set up a tripod to capture without having to worry about dozens of other visitors getting in the way. Not far from Steamboat Springs.

Zapata Falls, near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This one was the biggest challenge: we had to shed our shoes and walk up a freezing creek to view the falls themselves, and despite lugging a tripod, there was no place to set one up. So I had to quick shoot a few shaky (did I mention I was cold?) handheld shots before letting the next person in to view the hidden falls.

Zapata Falls, near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This one was the biggest challenge: we had to shed our shoes and walk up a freezing creek to view the falls themselves, and despite lugging a tripod, there was no place to set one up. So I had to quick shoot a few shaky (did I mention I was cold?) handheld shots before letting the next person in to view the hidden falls.

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6 thoughts on “Rocky Mountain Waterfalls

  1. Everyone is telling me that there is more water this year than usual. I will have to get out of Denver and see what it is all about this year. It looks good to me. Fall should be extremely nice for the colors if this is true.
    Glad you enjoyed it.
    “The fun of it all!”

  2. I absolutely love your photography. Your sense of composition, color, light and feeling is exquisite. I am a professional artist in Colorado and have wanted to do a painting of Fish Creek Falls for a while, but I lost the photos that I have taken from the area. I was wondering if I could have permission to use one of your photos as loose inspiration for a painting. If I do use it, I would be glad to send you a print of the painting when it is finished. Please let me know if this is OK. You can check out my work at http://www.waldenwatercolors.com. Thank you for sharing your work on this webpage.

    • Thank you so much for your compliments! Your work looks amazing. I’d be honored for you to use my photography as reference for your work. (And thank you immensely for asking first!) I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

      I also have some other views of the falls if you’re interested. They’re not yet edited, but they might be helpful. Let me know.

      • I did end up coming up with a watercolor waterfall inspired by my trip to Fish Creek and by your photographs. I would love to send you a print. What address should I send it too? I was thinking something matted to a 16 X 20, but if you would like something bigger or smaller just let me know. You can see the painting on the recent works page of my website: http://waldenwatercolors.com. Thanks you SO much for the help. This ended up being one of the most complicated paintings that I’ve ever completed. I hope you like it! Carmel

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