Best of the Tetons

Granite Falls Blurred Water Oct11

Granite Falls and Granite Creek:

Map/Directions to Granite Falls, plus photos, and tips for photographing waterfalls.

Granite Falls Wide Oct11

Granite Falls is located roughly 35 miles from downtown Jackson. Drive south to Hoback Junction and then towards Bondurant and Pinedale. At about 25 miles from Jackson, look for the sign below and turn left on Granite Creek Road.

Granite Sign Oct11

Granite Falls MapThere are plenty of photo opportunities going up and back along the 10 mile dirt road to the falls.

Click the small thumbnail to see a much larger map of the Granite Falls area or use this interactive map via TPE.


Granite Creek Oct11

Granite Creek Vertical Oct11

The Creek tumbles through a tight little canyon with boulders and rocks.

Granite Creek Riffle Oct11

Granite Creek flows from the waterfalls and eventually connects with the Hoback River.

Granite Falls Blurred Water Oct11

A small sign  announces the fact you are at the falls—but it will be apparent. There’s a small parking lot and a few trails leading to the edge of the creek. There will seldom be more than a couple of cars in the parking lot.  I usually start taking photos from well below the waterfalls and then work my way to it. In the latter part of the year, tourists and bathers can wade across the river and soak in a free hot pool on the other side. During the Spring runoff, the current is much too fast for safe wading. There’s a commercial concrete pool about a half mile above the waterfalls with a separate parking area. It is operated as a concession under the forest service and a small fee is charged to use the pool.

Photographing Waterfalls:

Granite Falls Crisp Oct11

On bright, sunny days, the highlights on most waterfalls wash out. In other words, there will be no details in the highlights. One solution is to try to photograph them on cloudy days or when the waterfalls are in shadows. Sometimes, you can wait for a cloud to pass in front of the sun to put the waterfalls in temporary shadows. With a point-and-shoot camera, or when not shooting using a tripod, you’ll be shooting a fairly quick shutter speeds and that will effectively “freeze” the water. Some people like their waterfalls frozen.

Granite Falls Flowing Oct11

If you would like the water in your waterfalls shots to appear to be flowing, you’ll likely need to use a tripod and shoot with longer shutter speeds. The image above was taken with an 8 second exposure at F/8—blurring not only the waterfalls but also the creek itself.

Granite Falls Crisp MidFall Oct11

This tight image was taken with the aid of a good tripod. The exposure was 1/125th of a second at F/3.5 and ISO100, taken with a Nikon D800 camera.

Granite Falls Smooth MidFall Oct11

This is the same shot, taken only a few minutes apart. All I did was dial the Aperture settings on the camera from F/3.5 to F/11. That changed the shutter speed to 1/13th of a second. ISO stayed the same.  It is possible to overdo the effect by blurring the water so much that areas become blobs of white, with no texture. I check the view on the back of the camera and always keep an eye on the histogram to make sure I am not blowing out highlights.

Granite Falls Terraces Oct11

There are plenty of opportunities at Granite Falls to photograph tight little areas and details. In fact, you can walk directly onto the terraces and shoot from all kinds of unique angles. This image was taken at 1/2 Second at F/22 and ISO 100. It doesn’t cost much to shoot a variety of images on a digital camera.  I normally set up on a tripod and get the EV adjusted about right while in Aperture Priority. I start wide open at F/2.8 and then change the aperture on each shot all the way up to the smallest aperture setting (F/22 on my 24-70mm lens). The shutter speed will change automatically. That way, I get a lot of choices when I get home.

A few tricks and tools: Adjusting the aperture gives a lot of options.  Usually, you can get shutter speeds down to 1/3 second or so by stopping down the aperture while photographing a waterfall on an overcast day or while in shadows. For longer exposures, it’s possible to add neutral density filters to help extend the shutter speeds. You can also use a circular polarizer, even if you don’t gain anything by the polarizing effects. It will usually cut the light by two stops. For the 8 second shot near the top of the page, I used a special filter made by Singh-Ray called a Vari- ND filter. You can dial in two to eight stops of adjustment. In fact, it was on during most of the shots above, so I was affecting the exposure by at least two stops even when I was at zero. They also come in handy if trying to blur a moving object like a running horse or moose. The Vari-ND filters are quite expensive, however.

Other Waterfalls: A while back, I created a Feature Post called Lesser Seen Regional Waterfalls. Granite Falls was part of that post, but there are several others in the region. Of course, there are other falls in Grand Teton National Park and lots of them in Yellowstone. If you keep an eye out for them, there are lots of little waterfalls that will never be on a map like the one below.

Pass Waterfall Oct. 3

This little terraced “waterfall” was taken just off the road at one of the turnouts about half way up Teton Pass. There are quite a few of them on Sylvan Pass as you exit out of the park towards Cody. Lastly, photographing waterfalls is purely subjective. Freeze ’em, or make them flow! It’s your call!

Photo Equipment: Images on this page were taken with a Nikon D800 and either a Nikon 24-70mm or 70-200mm lens with an old Gitzo 1348 tripod.

Please Note: All of the images on this page are fully copyrighted with the US Copyright Office.  ©2013 Mike R. Jackson – All Rights Reserved

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Comment (1)

  1. Lowell Schechter

    you definitely need a tripod to take these kind of images.
    I realized also a small aperture is needed. During my trip to Yellowstone, I photographed a few of the falls there and got decent results. Certainly a good info for people wanted take photos of water falls

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