I had the chance to visit Cloudland Canyon State Park at the very beginning of the 2014 winter season. The foliage was light but there were still plenty of photo opportunities… it just took a bit of extra exploration and creativity.

The walk to the first part of the falls was relatively easy. The approach was quite beautiful, even with the lighter foliage. As you leave the man-made stairs and get on the natural trail you look through a series of trees towards the falls – a view that feels like something out of a fairy-tale.

In addition to trees there are plenty of rocks and “mini-falls” in the creek that flow from the falls to provide foreground interest for shooting the waterfall itself.

At the time I visited, the canyon walls were draped in tons of icicles slowly melting away. I had thought these might provide an interesting foreground bokeh effect for the falls but unfortunately was not able to get to an angle that would include the icicles and the falls. Still, it was a nice surprise and quite beautiful the way the light was hitting them as they melted. I’d love to visit again after a fresh snow fall.

After shooting this it was time to head down to a part of the falls that was much more difficult to reach. I was warned about the climb down and subsequently back up. The climb down provided some of my favorite shots of the hike however. When shooting landscapes people like to use an ultra wide lens to get it all in, but from some of the high up vantage points on the trail to the creek below I was able to get some great shots with my Nikon 70-200 2.8. Taking the time to look for these shots as I went down was well worth it.

I arrived at the bottom falls with about 30 minutes till official sunset. I quickly climbed down the hill. This area is my favorite part of all the falls. There is a wonderful larger fall on the right along with a smaller trickling-type fall to its left.th it.

There are some huge boulders behind the pool that are quite something to see. Not wanting to make the trek back up with no light, I skipped shooting the 4th fall leaving it for another day and started my climb back up. It certainly proved to be quite a challenge. I chugged through almost my entire canteen on the way back and my legs were burning. As I arrived at the top, one final view of the canyon awaited me:

I didn’t expect to see a lot of people there on a Friday at this time of year. I also wasn’t expecting to not see a single person the entire time. It was kind of cool to be so secluded and able to fully take in the scenery.

If you haven’t had a chance to visit I highly recommend it but you may want to work on those leg muscles to visit the very bottom of falls – I know I will be for next time! Cloudland Canyon will definitely be on my revisit list in the future.