Burney Falls

Burney Falls drops across a wide cliff into a pool below, creating a tree-lined grotto.
Burney Falls drops across a wide cliff into a pool below, creating a tree-lined grotto.
Burney Falls drops across a wide cliff into a pool below, creating a tree-lined grotto.

Burney Falls is located in Northern California in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. It is a beautifully wide waterfall, dropping 129 feet into a tree-lined grotto below. Even in the summer months, when most other creeks in the area have withered or dried up to nothing, this falls keeps up its steady flow rate. This is because the water originates from an underground spring not far upstream from the falls itself.

Burney Falls drops across a wide cliff into a pool below, creating a tree-lined grotto.
Burney Falls drops across a wide cliff into a pool below, creating a tree-lined grotto.

There are many ways to photograph the falls, from the grand view taken above the falls, to more intimate closeups of rivulets running over bright green moss. It is important to shoot waterfalls with a tripod – that way you can use longer exposures and blur the water into a glossy silk texture. Down in the grotto, it was dark enough to let the exposure run over a second, giving me the desired look.

Burney Falls drops across a wide cliff into a pool below, creating a tree-lined grotto.
Burney Falls drops across a wide cliff into a pool below, creating a tree-lined grotto.

One challenge was to balance bright hot spots of light reflecting off the water with the dark shadows within the rocks. Luckily a quick check of the histogram on the back of my camera told me that I was able to capture the entire dynamic range of the scene in a single shot, and so I exposed to the right, getting as bright an exposure as possible without blowing out the highlights. This was corrected in post processing, giving me an amazing amount of detail in the shadows.

I’d love to go back and shoot this scene in early, pre-dawn light, which would give me soft even lighting across the entire scene. The quick visit left me thinking of many other compositions I could use to better cover the variety seen in this beautiful falls.

2015 Round-up – Top 40 Photos Of The Year

The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon

I recently finished compiling my top 40 picks from the last 12 months. The gallery is an assortment of my various trips and outings, including trips to India, Mexico and Canada. As always, there is a mixture of bird, wildlife and landscape, including some previously unpublished.

Please enjoy the gallery below. For best viewing (especially if viewing on a mobile device), please click on the following photo:

The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon
The sun sets behind the western horizon, casting the offshore sea stacks into shadow, Bandon, Oregon

To view the gallery, click here to see individual photos.


If you are interested in compilations from previous years, please see the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 lists.

Recent Publication – Bay Nature

Berry Creek Falls can be seen through the lush redwood forest, Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Berry Creek Falls can be seen through the lush redwood forest, Big Basin Redwoods State Park

If you are lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can see one of my images in the July-August issue of Bay Nature, a regional magazine. This photo is of Berry Creek Falls in the heart of Big Basin State Park, one of California’s beautiful displays of coastal redwoods. As is typical in a dark forest, this was shot on a tripod at slow shutter speed. I’ve blown this up to 20 x 30 inches and it looks fantastic, even with your nose pressed against the photo.

The day brought perfect conditions for waterfall photography – bright overcast skies and the high water flow of spring. It serves as a great reminder of our state when it is not in the midst of a drought crisis (in other words, I didn’t shoot it this year)!

Oregon Coast Sunset

The tide washes through a sea arch, allowing a view to the ocean beyond, Harris State Beach
The tide washes through a sea arch, allowing a view to the ocean beyond, Harris State Beach

On my recent trip up the California coast to the redwoods, I had an opportunity to pop up into Oregon to visit Harris State Beach, home of a very interesting sea arch. The arch is carved into a rock wall just offshore, with plenty of interesting boulders along the beach, giving enterprising photographers many options for compositions. As the sun was setting, I settled for a more centered approach to my composition, centering the arch directly above a centered rock. Usually I avoid such centering, choosing instead to lead the viewer’s eye out of one of the lower corners, but in this case I think it works. Simple, yet strong.

The sun sets behind offshore sea stacks, Harris Beach State Park
The sun sets behind offshore sea stacks, Harris Beach State Park

After settling on a composition I was happy with, I had a few minutes to run north in order to catch the sun as it set behind a large sea stack. In order to get into a position where the sun would set behind the rock, I scrambled up onto another rock and perched precariously at the top, while trying to give my tripod enough room. Let’s just say that I was relieved when I got the shot and could climb back down, by body and camera gear still in tact.

Large flat rocks lead through the rising tide to a dark sea arch in a rock wall, Harris State Beach
Large flat rocks lead through the rising tide to a dark sea arch in a rock wall, Harris State Beach

After the sun dropped below the horizon, I went back to the sea arch and really explored the foreground rocks. I fell in love with these ones, but from their vantage point, you could not see all the way through the arch. In this case, I chose to crop the top of the photo, as the rock wall really wasn’t that interesting and instead focus the photo on the foreground rocks themselves. The low light allowed for a slow shutter speed, turning the rushing waves into a calm mist.

The sun sets behind a bank of offshore clouds, silhouetting the sea stacks at Harris State Beach, Oregon
The sun sets behind a bank of offshore clouds, silhouetting the sea stacks at Harris State Beach, Oregon

The parking area at Harris Beach offers commanding views down onto the beach below, and just before I left, I spent some time with the very last of the sunset light. Here there was a nice stream forming an s-curve into the photo. Overall I found this a pretty photogenic beach, and I know I’ll be back in the future, especially to shoot that arch in different types of light.