You’d better pack some lens wipes, we’re gonna get moist with this one. Panther Creek Falls in Washington State is one of my all time favourite waterfalls. Not only does it offer a spectacular cascade at it’s widest point but there are several miniature falls to the right of the main cascade which offer endless compositional photo ops. Here are my Panther Creek Falls Photo Tips.
When to Go
It depends on the type of shot you want. As you’ll see in the autumn shot above there’s a small waterfall in the right of the frame. If you visit during a heavier flow you can expect to see the gap between the main cascade and the small falls on the right filled with yet more beautiful mini falls.
Spring time is a good time to see lots of water volume and maximum greenery but autumn offers slightly warmer colours. For a totally epic winter shot, visit the falls during a big winter freeze and you’ll be rewarded with a partially frozen cascade featuring gorgeous icicles.
Visiting in the summer will give you the least amount of flow with the small falls on the right possibly not even making an appearance. That’s why I decided to wait till fall for my shoot.
Best time of Day
It depends what time of year you visit but if you like overcast light then it really doesn’t matter what time of day you choose. If however, you’d like to get a soft glow of sun light in the canyon, you might want to aim for 10am-12pm because the sun creeps in a little and lights up the top of the larger cascade.
Top Photo Tips
- Expect to have your lens/filter pretty much constantly soaked. Use as big a lens hood as you can find and have plenty of lens wipes on hand for drying out the lens before every shot. You’ll get just enough time before it becomes too wet and needs to be wiped dry again.
- A polarizing filter is essential to slow down the shutter and make those colours rich and vibrant.
- Obviously a tripod is essential for long exposures but also bring one of those mini tripods for getting really low to the ground.
- Bring a rain cover if your camera is not weather sealed.
- Bring some boots or waders if you plan on getting in the water. It’s not recommended for safety reasons and you’ll also suffer more lens spray the closer you get to the water.
- If you want lots of ‘depth of field’, pick a narrow aperture like f/11 or f/16 and focus carefully.
- Keep noise levels low with ISO 100. If you’re on a tripod this won’t be a problem.
- Watch your footing. I must have tripped several times as I walked and gawked. There are countless roots and stumps waiting to trip you up while picking your spot and not watching your footing.
- No HDR needed. If you shoot RAW in overcast or dim light you should be able to get sufficient dynamic range from your RAW files if your camera has a decent sensor.
- Try some abstract close ups of the falls. Don’t worry too much about capturing the entire scene. If you don’t have a full frame camera with wide angle lens you can get some beautiful close ups of interesting shapes in the cascade. The possibilities are endless.
How to Get There
I used my android phones Sat Nav to get me to the falls which was easy until I got there. There is zero signage for the falls at the time of writing. My Sat nav told me I was there about 60ft from an excavated area on the right which serves as a car park.
You can either park here and hit the trail which is just visible on the other side of the road or turn around and park on the pullout that you passed about 100 meters away. That would be on your right and there’s another trail that leads down to the falls.
Both trails are a little sketchy and if there is heavy rain you might want to bring some ropes. It’s not too bad in dry weather but if it’s pouring be careful.
The trail to the main falls overlook as about 50 ft south of the ‘car park’ on the opposite side of the road which overlooks Panther Creek. You’ll have to look for it as there is not one sign.
From Carson, Washington travel North West on Wind River Road then take a right onto Old State Road followed by a left turn on to Panther Creek Road. Stay on Panther Creek Road (which becomes NF-65) for around 15 minutes until you see the rough carp park on the right. Pass all other camping locations and bridges. The car park you want is just before a very sharp left turn which takes you further up the hill.
While You’re There
I highly recommend a visit to the Columbia River Gorge region just South of Carson. The fall colours are truly spectacular and the waterfalls in the Gorge are virtually guaranteed to give you amazing photos.