Water, Water, Water, Sol Duc Falls!

It was already raining when I donned the rain gear, strapped on the backpack and looked for the trailhead. It would be a long wet 3 mile hike to my photo destination. I had been there before. I knew it would be worth every soggy step.

The trailhead started close to our campsite. It was muddy with puddles more than a stride long. In some places there was no option. I walked straight through the muddy water. My boots sank into the mud under the weight of my 35 pound’ish camera pack.

The trail is lined with old growth majestic trees. There is no better feeling than walking among these old giants. The trees were green and tall some with trunks twice my arm wrap. Maple leaf bushes and vines, already sporting their autumn yellow added depth and contrast color. As I walked fog moved in and out of the forest creating an almost surreal atmosphere.

Sol Duc Valley is the northwest region of the Olympic National Park in Washington. The Quillayute word Sol Duc is said to mean ‘magic waters’. My photo destination was Sol Duc Falls. The falls are a product of the Sol Duc River which measures more than 78 miles in length. It is a stunning natural scene.

The falls is a popular destination even in rainy weather. A shorter easy access route (3 mile round trip) adds to the popularity. The trail happens to also double as a route to or from the Seven Lakes Basin backcountry area. This means high country hikers add to the foot traffic at the falls. It was quite ironic, almost comical to see folks in high tech gear laboring under heavy backpacks coming down the trail while others walked the path umbrellas deployed wearing gym shoes and cotton jackets! You just have to smile and say good morning to everyone.

Sol Duc Falls 191046WND850

Sol Duc Falls 191046WND850

I rounded the last corner and was on the bridge overlooking the falls. There are a number of things that make this waterfall(s) unique. First, there are actually three waterfalls all side-by-side only a short distance from each other.

Second, the water plunges some 40 to 50 feet into a deep dead end narrow canyon. The volume of water creates a sea of foam before it drops further down the canyon.

Third, and most impressive to me, is the landscape setting. The Sol Duc River forms a straight line above and below the falls. When standing on the bridge a 180 pivot provides long views in both directions.

As you would expect the bridge is the best viewpoint. This means people gather here. For photographers this can be problematic.

I wanted to create a smooth water image. This requires a longish exposure and a rock steady camera. The camera was on a tripod. However, if the ground, or in this case wooden suspension bridge beneath the camera moved even a little bit during the exposure, the final photo would be blurred (not tack sharp).

Every time someone crossed the bridge I could feel the bridge move. I couldn’t ask people to get off the bridge! So I had to time my exposure.

With my finger on the shutter cable release trigger I waited for either a lull in folks crossing, or a brief moment when everyone on the bridge was standing still. Then I got trigger happy and took a series of photos back to back.

I stood on the bridge composing and taking photographs for probably 30 minutes. A women approached and said, “You’ve been here a while, what are you waiting for?” I told her, “I am waiting for a still moment and the perfect light.” She understood!

Satisfied I had a bunch of good images I walked off the bridge and up a side trail. I was alone, completely alone. The fog moved in again. I set up shop hoping to get a quintessential deep forest photograph with old growth trees surrounded by fog.

Heavy rain started. Time to slosh 3 miles back to the campground. I walked quickly passing under umbrellas and through trail puddles other were trying to avoid.

As I approached the end of the trail I old growth tree photos.

Take Action: If you to enjoy these natural world experiences, ask yourself, what have I done today to help preserve the natural world? If we all pitch in it doesn’t individually take much. Our collective efforts are sure to make a difference. Think small, practice ‘Leave No Trace’, pick up a piece of trash along the trail, pay the required use fee at the trailhead, stay on the trail, etc. Please, do your part to help preserve the natural world. Thanks.



Steve J. Giardini

Giardini Photography, LLC

Bend, Oregon, USA