2 Nov

Rainbow Falls, Adirondack State Park, New York

Rainbow Falls is a beautiful waterfall located in the Adirondack Mountain Reserve, a private tract of land owned by the Ausable Club. The state of New York has a permanent easement so that hikers may access the Reserve and its many scenic wonders. Dozens of streams and waterfalls flow into this scenic valley, making it an excellent photo or hiking destination. I’ve photographed Rainbow Falls several times, but have never before come away with an image that I think was worth a damn. Water levels were too low, or too high, or for some other reason I could never seem to get it right. Perhaps the place is infested with photo gremlins, who knows. 

"Rainbow Falls" - Adirondack State Park

"Rainbow Falls" - Adirondack State Park

My most recent trip to Rainbow Falls was a bit more fruitful. Maybe conditions were finally right, or maybe my previous failed trips allowed me to finally figure out the best angle and composition. Or maybe the gremlins were hiding in their caves because of all the rain. For whatever reason, I finally got a shot I am happy with. Not without some effort, however! 

To start with is the long hike into the falls, almost five miles if you don’t take any scenic detours, considerably more if you do. Next, the slippery approach over wet rocks to get to the base of the falls. Then, battling the pernicious spray that is always present, made all the more intense by several days of steady rain. I put on my chest waders and got into a plunge pool below the falls, setting up in waist deep water below a large rapid which I used as my foreground element. Actually, more of a middle-ground, as the flow of water coming from the rapid ended up being my foreground. I took about ten different shots before I got one that was more or less free of spray, water droplets, and mist. But, in my opinion, worth the effort! 

I’ll be back to photograph Rainbow again. Now that I’ve got the “rainy weather” shot, I need to see if I can make something work on a sunny day. With a name like Rainbow Falls, I can only imagine what it looks like with sun striking the falls at just the right angle. I’ve been there once before on a sunny day, and photographed the falls with sunlight streaking through the mist at the top of the falls, but the image was not entirely to my liking. So, in the immortal words of the Terminator, I’ll be back! 

Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 17-40mm lens (@17mm), polarizer filter to remove glare, ISO 100, f/16, 0.3 seconds.

Ian PlantAbout Ian Plant (414 Posts)

World-renowned professional photographer, writer, and adventurer Ian Plant is a frequent contributor to and blogger for Outdoor Photographer Magazine, a Contributing Editor to Popular Photography Magazine, a monthly columnist for Landscape Photography Magazine, and a Tamron Image Master. Ian is also the author of numerous books and instructional videos. Ian leads photography workshops and tours around the world to help beginner and advanced photographers explore and expand their personal vision.


  • All your photographs are stunning, but this one is simply breathtaking! Definitely worth the effort. :) Thanks for sharing this, Ian.

  • The explosion of movement in the foreground is worth the waders! I especially like how you voice your frustrations with yourself. It’s much easier to relate to the photo that way.

  • How do you carry the chest waders with you on your hikes? I struggle sometimes just with my backpack and tripod. Big fan of your work (I’m in NoVA too).

  • Ian

    Thanks everyone! Jason, I strap my waders to the outside of my pack, and I bring along a pair of Teva sandals to put on my feet after the waders go on. Not a perfect system but it works reasonably well!

  • I would have to agree. That is a shot worth being happy about. I may have to strap my waders on my pack for my next excursion :-)

  • That is an amazing shot, very beautiful! Absolutely worth the effort, I know that feeling :) Composition and shutter time is spot on I think. I’ve been shooting a lot of waterfalls myself this fall, cool to see you came across the same challenges as myself :) Visit me at http://oyvindbuljo.blogspot.com/search/label/foss to see my waterfall photos. “Foss” means waterfall in norwegian :)

    Best regards,