Jess and I have spent a few weeks road tripping around the US state of Ohio, and have visited many of the highlights of this state. It’s also Jess’s home state, so we often visit to see her family.
One of the tasks I set for myself on these trips was to find the most photogenic waterfalls around the state, and after a fair bit of driving and picture taking, I’m pleased to present my guide to the best waterfalls in Ohio, at least, from a photography point of view!
For all the waterfall shots in this post I used my Vanguard tripods, specifically the lightweight travel focused VEO tripod range. A tripod is essential for photography in my opinion, as it lets you get those lovely long exposure shots that you can’t achieve handheld.
On our most recent visit to Ohio, I used the VEO 2 265CB, which I’ve been testing since it launched in mid-2017. I’m proud to be a Vanguard Ambassador, and love their gear, which includes bags, tripod and other photography accessories.
If you’re interested, you can read all about the camera gear we use here, and I have some more tips and reading for you at the end of the post to help you take great waterfall pictures. At the end of the post I’ll also give you some tips on how to get great waterfall photos. First though, let’s take a look at my favourite waterfalls in Ohio!
Waterfalls in Ohio
1. Lower Falls, Hocking Hills State Park
We’re going to start our tour of the waterfalls of Ohio in the beautiful Hocking Hills State Park, which is a gorgeous area filled with nature in the south east of Ohio. If you’re chasing waterfalls, this park has to be on your list, as there are quite a few here, starting with our first waterfall: Lower Falls.
This can be found as part of the Old Man’s Cave section of the park, which features a half-mile long well marked walking trail that follows Old Man’s Creek between two waterfalls, the happily named Upper Falls and Lower Falls.
The falls in this shot are Lower Falls, which feature a 25 foot drop into a large pool. We visited in summer, but imagine that the fall foliage here would be spectacular.
Here’s a behind the scenes of this location with my camera set up. In this instance, as for pretty much all the shots in this post, I was shooting with my Canon EOS 6D and 17-40mm f/4 lens, to which I have attached a 10-stop Haida neutral density filter.
This system is sitting on my Vanguard VEO 2 265CB tripod, which is lightweight and portable for travel & hiking needs, but perfectly sturdy with my setup.
For the shot of Lower Falls, I used a 15 second exposure at f/11 and ISO 100, with the long exposure letting me achieve that soft water look that I love.
2. Upper Falls, Hocking Hills State Park
At the other end of the Old Man’s Cave trail are Upper Falls, and whilst at 15ft they don’t drop quite as far as lower falls, they do have a beautiful bridge that allows you to frame your shot. So definitely worth checking out both of these falls and enjoying the hike between them.
This was shot with an 8 second exposure at f/13 and ISO 100, using a six stop neutral density filter.
3. Cedar Falls, Hocking Hills State Park
Depending on how you are feeling after visiting the above falls, you might want to continue your hike down to Cedar Falls. There’s a two mile trail which leads from Lower Falls on to Cedar Falls, which is a lot quieter than the popular section between Upper and Lower Falls. Alternatively, you can just drive to the Cedar Falls carpark from where it’s a relatively short (if steep!) hike to Cedar Falls.
With a 50ft length, Cedar Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Hocking Hills, and I have to admit that it is bigger in person than my photography suggests – there’s not a lot in the shot to give a good sense of scale. You do need to have been lucky with rainfall though as it can dry up.
For this shot, I did a 10 second exposure at f/16 and ISO 100, with a six stop neutral density filter.
4. Ash Cave Falls, Hocking Hills State Park
The last of the falls in Hocking Hills State Park that I’m going to be talking about are the Ash Cave Falls. You could definitely make a real day of it in terms of hiking, because these can be reached by continuing your hike from Cedar Falls above for an additional three miles you will come to these falls.
If you do so, you’re definitely going to want to be packing a lightweight tripod like the Vanguard VEO 2, because who wants to lug heavy equipment that far? You’ll also want a decent bag for your gear – I personally love my Vanguard Alta Sky 49 which is, in my opinion, one of the best day bags for the hiking photographer.
Back to the falls. As you can see from my photo, these tumble over a rock cliff and into a pool, and you can actually stand behind them to get the shot, which is pretty cool. Be aware that it can be relatively busy here, so you might want to take a few photos and then use something like Photoshop to layer the shots together and remove them.
Due to shooting from under a dark cave overhang and into the light, for my shot of Ash Cave I took three shots at different exposures, and blended them together to get a more correctly exposed image. Another reason you need a tripod for travel photography – even if not shooting super long exposures, if you want to blend shots together you won’t be able to hold your camera still enough to get all the shots you need.
Settings for my three shots were:
Shot 1: 6 second exposure, f/16, ISO 100, 6 stop ND filter
Shot 2: 4 second exposure, f/16, ISO 100, 6 stop ND filter
Shot 3: 1 second exposure, f/16, ISO 100, 6 stop ND filter.
5. Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Moving on now to Ohio’s only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley. This is just a short drive south from Cleveland, and has hiking trails, some fascinating history on the Ohio & Erie Canal, as well as a scenic train ride you can do.
But we’re here to discuss the waterfalls, of which the park has three main ones that I am going to talk about in this post. The most impressive in terms of flow in my opinion is the first one featured here – Brandywine Falls. These 60ft falls are easy to get to, with just a short walk from the car park, and the viewing area offers excellent views.
This shot was taken with a 5 second exposure at f/9, ISO 100, with a six stop ND filter.
6. Blue Hen Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
My next favourite waterfall in Cuyahoga Valley was Blue Hen Falls, which is quite a small waterfalls over a pretty rock ledge into a small pool. As you can see from the shot, there was not so much water on the day we visited, but it was in Autumn, so the colors were fantastic.
Due to the difference between the darkest and lightest parts of this shot, it was a blend of four images which I merged together afterwards to get a more balanced image. The shot settings were:
First image: 1/5th second, f/14, ISO 100
Second image: 1/30th second, f/14, ISO 100
Third image: 1/13th second, f/14, ISO 100
Fourth image: 0.5 seconds, f/14, ISO 100.
If you wish to explore a little further downstream, the path from Blue Hen falls continues downstream to the Buttermilk Falls. We did make the hike here, and whilst it’s a beautiful walk, there was very little water in the falls when we visited, so we didn’t get a shot that would do it justice for the post. Definitely one to keep in mind though if there’s more water in the river!
7. Great Falls of Tinkers Creek, Viaduct Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Last on my list of waterfalls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park are the Great Falls of Tinkers Creek, which can be found in Viaduct Park. These are a very wide and impressive set of falls and definitely worth checking out.
This shot was taken with a 30 second exposure at f/8, ISO 100, with a 10 stop neutral density filter.
There is another waterfall near Cuyahoga Valley, Bridal Veil falls, which can be found in Bedford Reservations Cleveland Metropark. This is worth checking out if there has been recent rainfall. When we visited there was hardly any water in the falls at all, but I could imagine that after good rainfall it would make for a nice shot.
8. Clifton Mill, Clifton
Moving on from Cuyahoga Valley, and we’re going to journey now around some of the other wonderful waterfalls in Ohio. This one for example is at Clifton Mill, found in the small and picturesque town of Clifton in western Ohio.
The waterfall is man made, having been created for the mill which dates to the 19th century. The mill, which you can visit when open, is the only surviving mill of five which once stood along this stretch of the Little Miami river, and the area is well worth a bit of time exploring.
In my opinion, the best view of Clifton Mill is to be had from the nearby covered bridge. We’re big fans of covered bridges (stay tuned for a blog post on that subject soon!), and the 90ft covered bridge at Clifton Mill is a lovely example. Conveniently, this bridge has windows, so you can get good views of the mill, and wide window ledges so you can set up a tripod, as in the shot below.
You can see that you have to shoot between the slats, so you’ll have to play around with your camera and tripod setup to get it just right – no problem with the VEO 2 of course!
Finally, those camera settings. This was a 1.6 second exposure at f/16 at ISO 100 and a six stop ND filter.
9. Charleston Falls, West Charleston
Charleston Falls, in the Charleston Falls Preserve near West Charleston, are an easy drive from Dayton, Ohio, and worth adding to your itinerary if you’re in this part of Ohio.
The falls cascade over a 37 foot drop, and the volume is very dependent on rainfall. I was quite lucky to have two distinct falls, as other shots I’ve seen of these falls show very thin streams of water. Still, with all the foliage around these are definitely very pretty, and with a lot of water flow I suspect would be even more impressive.
There are a lot of different photography angles that you can take on these falls, which are a fairly short walk over even terrain from the nearby car park.
As you can see from my setup above, I liked shooting the falls from the lower viewing platform looking straight on. My tripod got me over the wooden fence to get a nice shot incorporating a good amount of the tree foliage, and I’d love to come back here in the Fall for those vibrant colours.
As it was, I was still happy with my results, which I shot with a 4 second exposure at f/8 and ISO 100, with a six stop neutral density filter.
10. West Falls, Cascade Park, Elyria
Found in northern Ohio in the town of Elyria (not far from Cleveland), the West Falls on the Black River are a highlight of Cascade Park. It’s a fairly easy walk to the falls, either from the residential streets near the falls, or from the parks main parking lot.
As you can see from the photo, the falls are definitely impressive, with multiple streams of water flowing over the 35ft drop, and these are definitely one of the larger falls on this list. For scale, you can see two people in the lower left corner of the shot under the underhang. I wasn’t brave enough to figure out how they got down there!
I definitely visited here at a poor time of day, shooting into the sun in the middle of the day, but I was still happy with the overall result, which was again a blend of three images due to the difficult light. These were shot at:
Image one: 15 seconds, f/8, ISO 100, 10 stop ND filter
Image two: 4 seconds, f/8, ISO 100, 10 stop ND filter
Image three: 30 seconds, f/8, ISO 100, 10 stop ND filter.
11. Lanternman’s Falls, Youngstown
The falls at Lanterman’s Mill near Youngstown are definitely one of the more photogenic falls in Ohio, largely because of the beautiful old mill that sits by the falls. The mill can be visited when open for a small fee. The falls themselves, at 15ft, are not huge, but there is usually a good flow of water over the falls.
The falls can be viewed from multiple angles, but I think the best view is from the US 62 highway bridge over the river, which has a wide pedestrian area that is safe for photography and setting up a tripod. There’s a free parking area just off the highway, and it’s a very short walk from here up to the bridge.
This shot was a six second exposure at f/10, with an ISO of 100 and a ten stop Neutral Density filter.
12. Indian Run Falls, Columbus
The last two falls on my list are right next to Ohio’s capital city, Columbus. First is Indian Run Falls to the north west of the city just off I-71. There are actually two falls here – a pretty little cascade, as found above, and then a more traditional drop fall.
I couldn’t find a good angle to photograph the latter, so I made do with standing in the middle of the water with my tripod for the upper cascade, which I thought was very pretty, if not overly dramatic. Do note that this is a very popular urban waterfall, and there are often people splashing around, so you might have to time your visit or your photographs to exclude them (or do a long exposure which will generally fade them out).
The above image was shot atop my Vanguard VEO 2 which has no problem standing in water, although of course, as with all equipment, you’ll want to dry your tripod off after leaving the water. Settings were as follows:
Thirty second exposure, f/9, ISO 400, 6 stop ND filter.
13. Hayden Falls, Columbus
Last, but definitely not least, in my list of the best waterfalls to photograph in Ohio are Hayden Falls, which are also just outside Columbus, a little to the west of the city. As you can see from the photo, these are a really pretty set of falls that you can get nice and close to, plus there’s a lot of water going of them in this shot which made for a great scene.
These were easily some of my favourite falls in Ohio, and they’re so close to Columbus that you should definitely check them out. As you can see from the shot above, I even snuck myself into the photo – another great reason to use a tripod when travelling – you can achieve rather more impressive selfie’s than with a selfie stick! Here’s a behind the scene shot of that setup before I ran round the camera into the shot and tried to stand still for six seconds:
I thought I managed it pretty well! Speaking of time, that shot was a six second exposure at f/6.3 and ISO 1600 and a six stop filter. To be honest, I should have stepped the ISO down and used a lower ND filter, but I had the camera all set up and I was feeling a bit lazy, plus the noise at ISO 1600 on a Canon 6D is very manageable.
Ohio Waterfalls Map
That sums up some of my favourite spots in Ohio for waterfall photography! Here’s a quick map to help you locate them, which you can also see here on Google Maps.
Now, let me share some general:
Tips and Gear for Photographing Waterfalls in Ohio
Waterfalls are definitely one of my favourite subjects to photograph. I love the possibility that moving water offers, and the creative opportunities that waterfall photography allows for. Here are a few tips to help you get better waterfall photos, along with ideas on the photography gear you need for waterfall photography.
1. Neutral Density Filters
As you’ll have seen from my images above, nearly all the shots were taken with a neutral density filter. These block out a lot of the light coming into the camera, allowing you to take photos at much longer exposures, which lead to those beautiful fluffy water effects. Neutral density filters come in various shapes, sizes and prices – check out my definitive guide to neutral density filters so you know what to look for!
2. A Tripod
Whilst a tripod is handy for all sorts of photography, I’d argue it’s a must for waterfall photography. You won’t be able to get away with long exposures without a tripod, and exposure bracketing shots without a tripod is also quite tricky.
As I said at the start of the post, I’m am ambassador for Vanguard, and for travel and hiking especially, I love their VEO range. I’ve used both iterations of the VEO tripod, and love them both. You can read my full review of the original VEO here, and I’m pleased to say the new model is even better. As a bonus, the box artwork features one of my photos. Ok, so you might not think that’s a bonus. I think it’s pretty cool though.
Still not convinced you need a tripod? Read my post of reasons you need a tripod for photography, and see if that sways you! Then, take advantage of my 20% discount code in the Vanguard US store to get yourself set up – just use code FindingTheUniverse (FindingTheUniverseUK in the Vanguard UK store) at checkout!
Photographing waterfalls is certainly no different to other kinds of photography, and you need to consider your composition carefully. The rule of thirds, use of color, reflections, and consideration of your foreground, midground and background elements are all key to getting great waterfall photos. Getting your composition right is a whole post of itself, and is in fact one that I’ve already written – you can check it out here.
4. Time of Day
Last but not least, shooting at the right time of day will make all the difference to your waterfall photos. I admit to not strictly following this rule in all the above photos, largely due to time constraints on our trip, but if you are able to shoot waterfalls with the sun behind you rather than behind the waterfall, and ideally at a time of day when it is closer to sunrise or sunset, you will definitely get better overall results.
That’s everything I have to share with you regarding some of my favourite waterfalls to photography in Ohio! Before you go though, here are a few resources you might find useful, both for general photography purposes, and for waterfalls too!
- Want to see more of Ohio? Check out our guide to Sandusky Ohio, as well as our guide to Amish Country, Ohio, our experience visiting The Wilds African Safari Park in Ohio and our guide to things to do in Caldwell Ohio.
- If you enjoyed this post, I have an ever expanding series of photography location guides, which includes guides to Iceland, Paris, London, Yosemite and more!
- Looking for more epic waterfalls to photograph in the USA and abroad? See my guide to the Havasu Falls hike as well as some of my favourite waterfalls in Iceland for more inspiration.
- I wrote a guide to travel photography over on Jess’s blog
- I also have a series of photography tips to help you out with your photography, which you can see here
- Finally, if you’re interested in improving your photography, take a look at my online travel photography course, which has everything you need to know to start taking awesome travel photos, from choosing a camera, to mastering the settings, to editing – and more!
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this post – if you’ve got a favourite waterfall in Ohio, do let me know about it in the comments below!
So you know: As mentioned throughout the post, I’m an ambassador for Vanguard, and they provided me with my tripod and bag for this kit as part of the VEO 2 launch campaign. I love their gear and am thrilled to be able to work with a company I love, but as always, all opinions remain our own and we of course adhere to our code of ethics for any work we accept.