Fall Creek Falls .... where to start.
I'll just get right to the point - fantastic!
It isn't just the 256 foot vertical plunge, but the fact that the nearby area within Fall Creek Falls State Park has another five waterfalls, all unique and of those five a couple more that are really impressive, Cane Creek Falls and Rockhouse Falls. Yes, I hope to visit again.
So to just focus on one waterfall is difficult, and certainly in the case of Fall Creek Falls one also has the nearby Coon Creek Falls to also consider - at least briefly. Coon Creek Falls is obviously dwarfed by its neighbor and doesn't get much attention. In its own right it would be impressive, at least in the wet season when it flows, lol.
One also has to consider the state park. This is a great state park - one of the gems of Tennessee. There's camping, both primitive and of the "luxury" variety, a hotel, lake, trails for day hikes or for extended overnight backpacking trips, and a nature center. And I've not even mentioned the swimming pool, playgrounds, or picnic areas. Yes, this place has it all.
There really are no excuses not to visit.
For those with GPS units in their vehicles, here are a couple of key addresses:
As there are a minimum of two different roads into the park, I recommend you use the following link to customize your own directions to Fall Creek Falls.
The hike is for going to the base of the falls and is obviously optional. The best view is certainly at the top. I've tried a few different views at the base with little success from a photography standpoint. When you get out of the "mist zone" the trees obstruct the view.
Having said that I still love going to the base. You cannot truly appreciate the height and power of the water free falling for 256 feet until you visit the base.
So the round trip distance is about 0.8 miles, not too far. However, keep in mind that you're going down almost 300 feet total so the climb out will take a little effort.
There is also the Woodland trail from the nature center over to the top of Fall Creek Falls. See the trail map. The distance is 0.8 miles one way. This trail is a definite option for early photography as the access road to the falls is closed at night and reopens at dawn.
The problem with Fall Creek Falls State Park is that you have to decide which waterfall(s) to photograph on a given morning. For optimum lighting there is no way to cover everything. So you need to plan carefully unless you have a full week.
For Fall Cr. Falls your best option is probably to do your photo shoot late in the day. Go ahead and hike to the base in the afternoon and do your overlook photos on the way out. Keep in mind that the access road is gated from dusk to dawn so if you want to spend some quality time with this baby then hike in from the nature center as I mentioned in the hiking section above.
The photos here were all taken on a cloudy day. Strike that. It was a pea soup kind of day - visibility was not great and some of the photos suffer as a result. Still, that's probably better than a sunny day. Oh, to find perfect conditions for a change ...
Assuming you are using a good tripod, try taking multiple photos and stitching them together later. Find a good exposure setting from metering on the waterfall and using manual mode set your camera to these settings. This is so the photos will stitch together better. Then all you have to do is level up your tripod and pan it, taking pictures as your go. Try to overlap each photo by about 30% or so. You can see some of my results to the left and on the left side of the page. You can see high resolution versions here.
As always I recommend the use of a polarizer to cut down on reflections. I color corrected the photos with Photoshop when I got home.
Composition - Shoot a lot of photos. Change shutter speeds. Vary between portrait and landscape. For the most part the waterfall lends itself to portrait compositions but the landscape orientation also shows more of the gorge and amphitheater. Try to find something in the foreground to give your pictures some depth. This can be a bit tricky as the railing really gets in the way. I had to be creative with my tripod.
In general you'll need a wide-to-normal zoom lens here in the 18-55 mm range.
Here you go.
Waterfall-Picture-Guide › Tennessee Waterfalls › Fall Creek Falls