There is something special about visiting and photographing a waterfall. Rather, I should say, there are a lot of special things about visiting and photographing waterfalls. Nowhere else in nature will you find such peace and serenity. The sight and sound of falling water, the trees, leaves, and grasses waving in the breeze. In the autumn, you’ll glimpse colorful leaves falling on the water and drifting away in the river’s current. It’s just a complete sensory experience — and it’s a wonderful opportunity to come away with beautiful photographs.
And there are so many ways to photograph a waterfall. I love to experiment with composition. Of course, there is value to be had in taking those traditional waterfall photos, but if you’re spending the day at a waterfall, why not try some unique things, too? For this reason, I generally pack a long lens so that I can experiment in different ways. And, I also take my wide-angle because that iconic waterfall photo that everyone takes is worth it, if nothing else, for my own enjoyment.
But enough about me and waterfalls! I could go on all day about the joys of these amazing natural features, but that isn’t the intent of this particular post. Instead, I’d like to highlight the work of Randall Sanger. Randy has recently published the second edition of his book, Waterfalls of Virginia & West Virginia, and I think that for anyone with even a passing interest in the outdoors, this book is well worth a look. As you flip through the pages, you’ll see that Waterfalls is part travel guide, part art book — photos so tempting that you’ll want to design many outings around the listed locations. I know there are many, many spots that Randy has listed that are on my own personal photographic bucket list.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the specifics of this book and all of the things you’ll gain from it!
Waterfalls of Virginia & West Virginia: A Guided Tour
In this book, you will find a variety of things. To start, there are more than 150 waterfalls listed in both states. On page nine of Waterfalls, Randy says it best:
“If you visit every waterfall in this book, you will hike close to 200 miles, drive on three scenic highways, hike on the famed Appalachian Trail, walk on three historic rail-trails, visit national parks and forests, state parks, forests and wildlife management areas, and county and city parks, see historic grist mills, and you might even ride a scenic-excursion train.”
In other words, this is not a guidebook that you’ll complete in an afternoon. Even a week-long road trip through both states won’t be enough to see all the things that Randy has compiled!
The best part is that Waterfalls is a very approachable guide. The book is structured to be user-friendly. Virginia and West Virginia each have their own sections, and the state sections are further organized into regions, with each region featuring Top 10, Must-See and More Waterfalls. Randy has gone ahead and classified these waterfalls according to beauty and also consistency. What this means is that you can visit one of the Top 10 waterfalls during any season and come away with beautiful photographs — no disappointment should you happen to visit during a time of the year when the water isn’t flowing.
Past that, there is also a numbered map for each state. If you’d like to plan a day trip or even a week-long outing, these will be invaluable for planning your itinerary. What’s more, every waterfall in this book is accessible, situated either public or private lands. You’ll be able to hike right up to many of these falls while others have roadside viewing areas. Where permission is needed, according to Randy, landowners allow public access.
You’ll find information on accessibility within the descriptions of each individual waterfall. No matter which you choose to visit, Randy has laid out everything from parking to hiking difficulty, the height of the waterfalls, the nearest towns, directions to the falls and more. This book is less a travel guide, and more a guided adventure — the wealth of information means that you’ll be able to plan for everything as you organize your outing. The author has even compiled a list of recommended gear, so if you’re new to photographing waterfalls, you’ll know exactly what to pack in order to come home with beautiful shots. There are also tips and tricks for beginner to intermediate photographers, tips specific to each waterfall and trip reports for each waterfall. In the writing of this book, Randy has ensured that anyone wanting to visit any of these falls will enjoy their trip and bring home lots of beautiful photographs. If you’re a completionist, the back pages of Waterfalls even provides you with a handy checklist so that you can mark each waterfall off as you’ve visited it.
The Art of Randy Sanger
As I said in the beginning, this book is not only a travel guide but an art book, too. Randy has personally visited and photographed each of the falls in this book, and each listing is accompanied by a beautiful color photograph depicting the entirety of the waterfall. Many of these images are large, two-page spreads while others are smaller. Each image is rich and full of detail. This is a book not only for photographers and waterfall lovers but for art enthusiasts, too.
Randy’s images are all long exposures, so in each, the falling water has a smooth, creamy look that often contrasts sharply with the rugged landscape surrounding the falls. In many of his images, you’ll find beautiful swirls of color created by unusual currents or leaves floating on the surface of the water. One great example of Randy’s unique style can be found in a photograph of Elakala Falls in West Virginia.
The photographs span the seasons, too. As you turn the pages, you’ll see the green of spring and summer, you’ll find autumn leaves, and there are even some wintery images that mix the beauty of snow and ice with falling water. Waterfalls is truly a stunning and diverse visual experience.
About the Author
Based in West Virginia, Randy has spent the past twenty years photographing the scenery around him. Not only is he the author of Waterfalls of Virginia & West Virginia, but he also co-authored the award-winning title, West Virginia Waterfalls: The New River Gorge. Most of Randy’s time is spent exploring the world around him — and photographs from his adventures are featured everywhere, from private collections to corporate settings.
When Randy isn’t out photographing nature, he can be found working on one of several book projects. He was also selected as the Photographer in Residence at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge for 2010. Among other accomplishments, he’s a Juried Fine Arts Photographer with Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia. His work also appears in print publications, online and at the Buxton and Landstreet Gallery, which is located in Thomas, West Virginia.
In addition to all of this, Randy also hosts several workshops throughout the year. On his website, RandallSanger.com, there are seven workshops listed for 2018. While some are already over, there are four sessions coming up in October, one of which will be at the Potomac Highlands, the rest, at the New River Gorge. Lastly, interested persons can arrange for private workshops and other events with Randy — you’ll need to visit his website for further information.
You can order sign copies directly from Randy’s website — once you have your own copy, I’m confident you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for all the beautiful waterfalls of the Virginias!