top of page

Beautiful but lethal! The hidden surprises of waterfalls

The dangers of beautiful watery locations and a few things to make them easier..

By Marmalade, written 4 years ago.

After spending some time this weekend playing in the most beautiful waterfalls I've seen as from my experience of it this weekend they can also be absolutely LETHAL.. and whilst there are some beautiful shots to come, it could easily have ended differently and I wanted to share this quickly as the suns out and I'm sure everyone will be playing in them soon..


I'm pretty sensible in places like this, but also a little over enthusiastic sometimes when I start bouncing in a location! On first look it was breathtaking, and appeared to be shallow around the base of the falls.. There was a spectacular shot kneeling under them on first look, and some against the rock to the side.. So the snowboard gear was stripped of, towels at the ready and I started to walk out to the rocks. Not as easy as first thought as you couldn't see the bottom, it got very deep in places very quickly, and waist depth and set a shot up stood against the rocks.. Footing by then was lethal, and there were currents under the water so luckily I was testing my footing inch by inch by then.. I hadn't however noticed the change in the water to black on the surface, which I now know is a good indication of depth. Luckily I was being cautious as I put my right foot out to look for the next foothold to find nothing under it! I reached around and very quickly realised that the ground just fell away under the fall, stopped shooting and came out to warm up and re think.. On putting a branch in after it appears it would have been chest to neck high, and there were strongish currents.. Some may think ok then, but the pressure of the falls would push you under in seconds!


1) If you can't see the bottom easily, test it first with a branch or even a piece of rope, and look to see if the water is swirling anywhere.

2) Go slowly a few inches at a time and test your footing before you put your feet down.. These places are utterly breathtaking and your natural instinct is to dive in, but  try and curb your enthusiasm enough to to be safe about it and slow down...And photographers, please be patient!

3) If you fall in even six inches of water and hit your head, you could well drown.. Especially as the photographer could be a fair way from you and may have to cross pretty nasty stuff to get to you.... I struggled here bare foot.. I'm going to solve this next time with surf boots, thin, warm and brilliant grip but still keeping the feel... Yes, they may look and feel silly, but if they're below the water who cares.. Your pose will be pretty awful if your fighting for balance and grip, and hanging on for dear life! But anything with rubber soles is better than nothing, but flip flops a big no no... They need to be properly attached to you feet....

4) Moss may look pretty but is horribly slippery when wet... If your struggling to stand up in the slightest from a sat or laid pose, don't try!!!!Stick to them...


I'm used to the cold, but having shot here in the evening after the sun went down, and the middle of the day, there was a huge difference.. In the evening the water was so cold it made you hyperventilate, and more than a minute or two at a time was impossible.. The following day presented more challenges shooting, but the sun meant we could shoot for much longer, and put some of the things right and experiment more!


1) It may pose more of a challenge to shoot during the warmest parts of the day, however you run far less risk of hypothermia, and you will ultimately achieve more from your model!

2) Towels, towelling robes, blankets,hot drinks, several spare pairs of THERMAL socks, and extremely warm clothing  (snowboard gear works for me and you don't look like a train spotter...) and gloves are essential even in Spring and Summer... That water won't get any warmer!


These places are beautiful, but very remote, and if your injured and require medical help or treatment for hypothermia, you're not gonna land a helicopter anywhere near, may not have phone signal, and may not even get a vehicle close, so you need to do ANYTHING you can to minimise the risks...


Silk glove liners from motorbike shops or equestrian retailers etc are super cheap and very warm but thin enough to continue doing most things..

Walking boots and extra sheepskin soles can save you putting socks on and off constantly, and a broken ankle..

Hand and foot warmers

Flasks of hot drinks

If your head and your feet are cold, so is the rest of you !

Chill blains hurt..thaw slowly and don't jump straight into hot baths or put freezing hands and feet on heaters

Sleeping bags can be good to put models in to hide them from the public or keep them warm between shots

Pop up tents make good windbreaks

You need to know the predicted temperature WITH WINDCHILL! It may be a nice warm sunny day, but if it's blowing a North wind it's gonna be much colder..

Algae of any colour is to be avoided... Both blue and green are common and can cause poisoning..

Make sure somebody knows where you're going and when you should check in or be back

 Look for experience from model or photographer that they have experience of these sorts of locations, and if it's not there ask for it.. They should be happy to provide it and no question should be a stupid one.. If you're unsure, don't shoot until you are..

Make regular donations to lifeboats/mountain rescues and air ambulances if you shoot these sorts of places.. They rely on your donations and  it might just be you one day..

Put the required number of layers on, and then tie another round your waste or put it in your bag... Better to have it and not use it than regret it..


bottom of page