Focus On


Equipment and Settings
Nikon D200
Nikon 18-70mm
Manfrotto 055XPROB
Tripod Head:
Giottos MH1300
Cable Release:
Phottix Wireless Release
Shutter Speed:
0.4 seconds
Focal Length:
18.0 mm
ISO Speed:

This is Scaleber Force and is located only a few miles to the south west of the impressive limestone amphitheatre of Malham Cove, on the B road between Airton and Settle   (location on Streetmap)

There is limited parking at the side of the road, but the few times that I have visited this location, I have had no trouble getting parked up.

Scaleber is located right next to the road, so there are no major hikes involved in reaching the location. Access is via a steepish but quite manageable descent into the ravine - sturdy shoes should be worn (care must be taken as the rocks can be quite slippy at the bottom)

The falls are pretty much south facing and flanked by steep ravine sides to the west and east. Due to its aspect, lighting can be a little tricky so the best time of day to take photos is probably around midday when the sun is behind you. This should maximise the light entering the ravine and give you more scope for photo opportunities.

The location is quite intimate so anything other than a wide angle lens will not pull much into the shot (unless of course you want to focus on a particular detail as your subject).

As always, I find the best thing to do when I reach a location, is to wander around for a while with camera in hand. Try different angles, heights and focal lengths to see what possibilities there are. Firing off a few hand held test shots is also a good idea to allow you to assess light levels and also obtain a few visual reference points. Taking a few 'snaps' allows you to review your creative thoughts and then narrow down and focus on the ones that you think will work best for your compositions.

Once your perspective on the location has been decided, the next thing to do is mount your camera on a good sturdy tripod and set up for the final shots. An on-camera spirit level will help you ensure that you camera is kept level at all times (we don't want a wonky horizon !!).

Try to think outside the box a little if you can - is there a twist I can put on this shot that will make it stand out from other photos of similar subjects? After half an hour, a few test shots, and acquiring mildy soggy feet, I decided that I wanted to include the lower falls in the shot as well as the main falls in the background, this would give good foreground interest that would help 'pull' the viewers' eye into the photo and provide a good depth to the shot. I also decided that a longer exposure would be a great way to show this waterfall off to its best (tripod definately required for this). A longer exposure accentuates the motion of the water and will give the shot dynamism and depth. If I had taken this image at a faster shutter speed, I can't help thinking that it would have looked a bit lifeless and flat. One thing to bear in mind when photographing waterfalls using long exposures, is that you don't want a huge amount of water tumbling over the rocks as it will end up showing as a mass of white with no definition or texture. Less is more in this case and checking the weather a few days before your visit should help you ascertain the kind of water levels that you may encounter.

Once the shot was set up, I used a remote cable release to minimise camera shake and then tried a number of different exposures to compare results - I settled for 0.4 seconds as this speed gives the water motion, but still retained some definition in the movement. This is the beauty of digital - there are no film costs, so you can take as many shots as you like until you are happy with the result.

What to watch out for:

  • Slippery rocks - take care when moving around as a tumble could be costly.
  • Exposure - If you want to include more of the top of the waterfall in your shot, a graduated ND filter may come in handy to balance out the exposure for the bright sky and the darker falls. Low light levels due to the locations aspect and surroundings can also prove to be a challenge - try to visit on a bright day to give more opportunities.
  • Spray - One issue that I encountered when working nearer the falls was the perpetual spray from the water bouncing off the rocks and the plunge pool - regular wipes with a soft cloth sorted this, but I had to move quickly to take the next shot before the lens 'misted' up again.

What would I have done differently? Overall I am quite happy with this shot, however, the one thing that urks me somewhat is that the lower falls are a little truncated on the right of the image. I would like to have pulled back a fraction further to give more breathing space, but unfortunately, I was at my widest setting on the Nikon 18-70 lens and could not move any further backwards due to location constraints (an ultra wide angle lens would have helped here). As the main falls were the focal point, and I wanted to ensure that they were correctly framed and had enough 'breathing' space in the frame, I decided to accept this minor irritation.

This shot can be purchased via our online store and is available in various formats and sizes (all delivered free).

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