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Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfall Photography

photography magazine extra eyes photo tours pam goodyer

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT go here without your Neutral Density Filters and Circular Polarizing Filter.

We highly suggest buying Promaster Circular Polarizing Filters and Neutral Density Filters. It’s what we use on all of our images here in the magazine.  The link to purchase is under construction.  Check out lessons and workshops by Extra Eyes Photo Tours.

Read all about Neutral Density Filters, which one to chose and why you need them.

Park Information:

Waterfall Route is on Falls Trail: 7.2 miles, most difficult hiking
Lake Rose Parking Lot is the closest access to Falls Trail.  The full loop of this trail is 7.2 miles if hiking both the upper and lower sections. The partial trail is a 3.2-mile loop and can be taken by going on Highland Trail and the Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen sides of the trail. We took the 3.2-mile circuit, and it took 9 hours to photograph correctly.  If you are more about hiking than shooting and doing it just right from multiple angles, you can do the full route.

Precautions to take:

To do this waterfall day, you must be in good physical condition. There are several precautions you must take.

  • Always wear proper hiking boots. If you want to bring along water shoes to stand in the water to do your shots be prepared to take them back off and put your hiking boots back on. Sandals and water shoes will cause a fall on these slippery rocks you will encounter.
  • Bring water or a survival water pump and food. You will be out all day. Eat right before you go.
  • Check the weather before you go and make sure you plan to get out before dark.
  • Let someone know where you are hiking and when you should return. I asked the Park Ranger. They are not allowed to leave at the end of the day if there is a car in the parking lot and a person unaccounted for.


Be sure to stop by the office and get a map or print one to bring with you. We needed it. We actually, at one point, went the wrong way—good thing I had my map.

Ricketts Glen State Park Map
Glens Natural Area Enlargement Map


Winter Photography at Ricketts Glen State Park

Photography Information:

The gear for this hike is more than just camera gear. It would be an all-day event if you chose to do it this way, so be prepared.

Gear:  Bring your widest angle lens. The most important thing to bring is your set of Neutral Density Filters. If you don’t have them, don’t go. Buy them first.  Here is the link to purchase our favorite filters and the ones we used with our pictures above.  A good tripod that is sturdy but light enough to carry all day is a must. We recommend a VANGUARD Alta+ 203AP tripod.  Bring extra batteries. We recommend that you have three camera batteries in total if you are doing the 3.2-mile loop or the full loop.  You will be shooting in live view mode all day, and nothing drains the battery as fast as live view. Do not run out of memory cards. Shoot this raw so you can remove blaring white highlights if the sun pops out.  Raw takes up way more room to bring extra cards. Bring them in a waterproof carrying case just in case.

Bring water and food. A light backpack is good to have on. Thank you to my new friend for saving the day. We were out of snacks and starving when we met fellow photographer Brian Kerr and voila. He offered us power bars, which got us through to 4:45.  The moral of the story – Don’t forget your power bars!! A super cool guy who saved the day! My assistant is now fired. She was in charge of the snacks.

When to go:  This is the most important thing to remember. Bright sunshine is not our friend when doing waterfall photography, but even the slightest drizzle will make the rocks slippery as can be hereTiming. I got it just right — cloudy skies with only an occasional pop of sunshine and zero precipitation. I watched the weather and left the night before I saw perfect conditions. The park is closed for the winter except for those who have the proper ice shoes. Be sure to check the exact details with the park on that. Do not do this on a holiday weekend if you can do it in the middle of the week that is the best time. I think Brian and I were the only ones there at 7 a.m. There was one other car in the parking lot when I arrived.

Setting up your Shot:

Step 1: You will need to put your camera on a tripod. You will also want to use a remote shutter release to expose the image. If you don’t have one, you can also use the camera’s 2-second self-timer. This will not work unless you are using a tripod so if you are new to this please know, a tripod an absolute must.

Step 2: You can use the live view mode, which is what we suggest for this location. When using this mode, the mirror automatically locks up, and you don’t need to set it manually. Shooting from a lower angle does make more dynamic images.

Step 3: Put your neutral density filter on your camera. Even on a cloudy day, you will want to use a Neutral Density Filter. It’s like sunglasses for your camera. You can do a more prolonged exposure, which is what makes the milky effect of the water movement. The darker the ND Filter, the longer you can expose. See how to use a neutral density filter and which ones we suggest. 

Step 4:  Camera Settings – Set your camera to Manual mode, and then set the aperture to the smallest one (most will be f/22, some f/29). Set your ISO to 100 or the lowest it will go on your camera. Looking through the camera roll the shutter speed, so the exposure level indicator goes to ‘0’ on the exposure scale. Without a filter, on a sunny day, you may not get lower than 1/15th sec. or even that low.   This is why a neutral density filter is so important. We have a 3.0 filter. We can do a 30-second exposure at noon in bright sunshine with that bad boy.

Step 5: Set your Camera on a 2-second timer or use your shutter release to expose the image.  Evaluate the image. If your image has hot spots (areas of overexposed white spots), slow your shutter speed down a stop and test again until it is just right. Remember, the darker the filter, the longer the exposure.

Where to Eat and Stay

Ricketts Glen Waterfall


Ricketts Glen State Park –  Visit website here.

Red Rock Mountain Campground Just down the street from the State Park

Waterfall Photography Map

Ricketts Glen State Park Waterfalls Base Map Labels

New Freinds at Ricketts State Park

Here are our new friends we made on the trail, Chris & Melissa McGonigle. We had them hold their breath since they mentioned getting the water to blur in the background and we did a two-second exposure.  The sun was not our friend here but I didn’t want to make them wait for a cloud. Thanks for letting us take your picture, Chris and Melissa. We hope you had a great hike too!

Ricketts Gleann State Park Pa.
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