The Waterfalls Of Ohio; Seeking Out Secluded Landscapes

This emotional rush that comes with first seeing a waterfall—and then the incurable urge to find as many vantage points as possible around it—compelled me to begin documenting these secluded, sibilant landscapes. You see, I have always loved waterfalls. When I was younger, my parents loaded the three boys in the family station wagon, “the boat,” as we called it, pointed its hull in some cardinal direction, and asked us a very democratic question—“What do you want to see?” Early on I asked, “Are there any waterfalls nearby?” In time, I learned to read maps, dig through park brochures, and thumb through book racks, memorizing pages of trail guides. We always docked, disembarked, and hiked up rocky gorges, anxiously anticipating that recognizable roar.

Fleming Falls, Richland County, Ohio. (Nikon Coolpix 5000; 7.1mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 28mm); f/8 at 2.5 seconds; ISO 100.)
All Photos © 2009, David FitzSimmons, All Rights Reserved

Chippewa Falls, Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation, Cuyahoga County, Ohio. (Nikon D2X; Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D; 50mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 75mm); f/16 at 1 second; ISO 100; Nikon polarizing filter attached.)

Ferguson Cave Waterfall, Malabar Farm State Park, Richland County, Ohio. (Nikon D2X; Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM; 10mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 15mm); f/8 at 1⁄2 sec; ISO 100.)

Well, I’m older now, still enchanted by precipices and plunges, and eagerly writing my own guidebook—Waterfalls of Ohio—which I hope equally-excited individuals will thumb through, seeking quiet cascades and cacophonous cliffhangers. To be sure, photographing and writing a book like this is not all “rush” moments. Indeed, it takes careful research, a serious study of maps, a watchful eye on the weather, and copious kinds of compositions.

Buttermilk Falls, Georgetown, Ohio. (Nikon D2X; Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED; 18mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 27mm); f/8 at 1⁄400 sec; ISO 100; Nikon polarizing filter attached.)
White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, Salt Fork State Park, Guernsey County, Ohio. (Nikon FE2; Fuji Velvia; ISO 50, rated at 40; lens, focal length, aperture, and shutter speed unrecorded.)

If I ever earn another degree, it will be in geology. I would study what is under our feet, learn deeply about the bedrock, that which determines so much of the landscapes we experience. Indeed, understanding how the earth changes is central to documenting waterfalls. Typically, watery cataracts form where a resistant layer of rock lies above less resistant layers. Water flows over the stratified rocks, causing what geologists call “differential erosion.” The top layer is resistant and erodes slowly; the lower layers are less resistant and wash away more quickly. The process leaves a cliff above, over which water continues to run. Of course, after a certain amount of the softer bedrock disappears from underneath, the harder rock above also breaks away, the reason why deep valleys or gorges lie below most waterfalls. Thus, researching the formation of waterfalls helps in telling unique, geological stories.

Silver Bell Falls, Warren County, Ohio. (Nikon D2X; Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM; 11mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 16mm); f/22 at 1⁄10 sec; ISO 100.)

Overlook Falls, West Milton, Ohio. (Nikon D2X; Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM; 18mm focal length (35mm equivalent: 27mm); f/16 at 1⁄2 sec; ISO 100; Nikon polarizing filter attached.)