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Everyone loves a waterfall, and I am no exception. The sheer power of all that water is mesmerising, and I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture the movement in my photos. Slow shutter speeds are essential to get that blurred effect, or maybe a fast one to try to freeze the droplets of spray. Here are some of my favourite waterfalls from around the world.

Niagara Falls

Canadian Falls from the Skylon Tower

I have to start here. My first major trip abroad, or at least the first outside Europe, was a school camping trip to Canada in 1973, when I was seventeen. We spent two of the three weeks at a campsite just outside Niagara Falls and made several visits into town to see the falls, which left a significant impression on me. We did the classic Maid of the Mist boat ride, crossed to the US side for a different perspective and looked down on them from the Skylon Tower. We even had a short helicopter flight over the falls! Years later in 1995 I revisited Niagara with Chris, on a detour from our New England road trip, and was again blown away. These photos are from that second visit and are scans of slides, so please forgive the quality.

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The American Falls

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The Canadian Falls - Maid of the Mist, and night illuminations


This was another of our early US road trips, again captured on slides. Towards the end of our time in the state we drove the Columbia River Gorge where there are numerous waterfalls to be seen. My photos are of Multnomah (on the left) and Latourell Falls. The former drops in two steps, split into upper falls of 542 feet (165 metres) and lower falls of 69 feet (21 metres). Latourell drops in a single fall straight down from an overhanging basalt cliff rather than tumbling over rock, and is pretty dramatic as a result.

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Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Washington State

Lower Myrtle Falls

I have already shared photos from our 2017 road trip in another blog here but couldn’t resist including a few of my favourite waterfall ones here. I loved the setting of Myrtle Falls in Mount Rainier National Park, with the snowy mountain as a backdrop:

Upper Myrtle Falls

Elsewhere in Mount Rainier NP the falls at Sunbeam Creek and Falls Creek, while small, were very pretty:

Sunbeam Creek Falls

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Falls Creek

Rainbow Falls at Stehekin on Lake Chelan were another highlight of that trip:

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Rainbow Falls


As with Washington, I have also already blogged about Chile, where I was particularly impressed by the Salto Grande in the Torres del Paine National Park – more than worth the effort it took to battle the ferocious winds to walk there!

Salto Grande

Also in the Torres del Paine were the Cascada del Rio Paine, in a very picturesque setting:

Cascada del Rio Paine

Further north I had been impressed by the Petrohué Falls, albeit in less perfect weather conditions:

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Petrohué Falls


The best waterfalls I have seen in Europe are those of Iceland, which we visited in February 2012. Days were short and chilly, but the falls were magnificent, especially Skógafoss and Seljandsfoss on the south coast. I’m looking forward to seeing them again next May when I return to Iceland for the Virtual Tourist meeting there.

At Skógafoss we not only viewed the falls from below but also climbed the wooden steps to the top where we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside and of the water tipping over at the top of the falls.





Seljalandsfoss can be seen from some distance away as you drive towards it but it is only when you park and walk closer that you get the full sense of its size. The water pours over a cliff and drops about 60 metres into a surprisingly calm pool, before flowing away across the meadows. From the parking area a short easy path leads to the pool at the foot of the falls. From here you can climb a few steps to a path that leads behind the torrent, but on our winter visit both these and the path close to the water were thick with ice and we decided not to attempt it – something for next May, for sure!


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We also went to Gullfoss on the Golden Circle – more extensive and dramatic than the south coast falls, and surrounded by ice and snow on our February visit, but with rather leaden skies for photography.

Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall” but when we were there, as you can see, it was more silver than gold. Although the falls themselves weren’t frozen, the land around them was and the whole scene was awesome in a wintry fashion – just beautiful!

Having seen the power of Gullfoss it is hard to imagine that it was ever threatened, but so it was. In the middle part of the last century such wonders were perhaps less appreciated than they are today, and for a while there was talk, and even some plans, of harnessing the power of the river here to generate electricity. The popular story is that these plans were overthrown due to the efforts of one woman, Sigrídur Tómasdóttir, who even threatened to throw herself over the falls. Whether it was her threat, or a simple lack of money, is not clear, but the falls were saved and today are protected as they should be, while a memorial to Sigrídur stands in the upper car park area. Iceland would certainly be the poorer, despite all its other magnificent scenery, without this dramatic sight.


Iguaçu Falls

If I were to award a prize to the most impressive falls I have visited, Iguaçu would win for sure. With all the majesty of Niagara but in a much more natural setting, they took my breath away. I’m in good company too – apparently when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguaçu, she was heard to say, “Poor Niagara”.

Two thirds of the falls are on the Argentine side of the river and one third in Brazil, where we stayed. The falls are part of a practically virgin jungle ecosystem protected by national parks on either side of the cascades, where development has been well-controlled and restricted. This beautiful tropical setting is one of the reasons why for me (and Eleanor) Iguaçu had even more wow factor than Niagara.

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Argentine Falls

Another reason for their grandeur is that the falls here extend for a long way, and there are so many of them. However you look at them, the stats are mind-boggling! In all, the system consists of 275 falls along a 2.7 kilometre length (1.67 miles) of the Iguaçu River. Some of the individual falls are up to 82 metres in height, though the majority are about 64 metres. The Devil's Throat, or Garganta do Diabo in Portuguese, is the most impressive of all: a U-shaped cliff 150 metres wide by 700 metres long. On average an average of 553 cubic feet per second thunders over the escarpment. Again though, these photos are scans of slides so the quality could be better.

'Garganta do Diabo' - the Devil's Throat

The name of the falls comes from the Guarani Indian word meaning "great water." I love this little legend which the local Caingangue Indian tribe told to explain their origins:

Is this Naipi?

The Caingangues, who lived on the banks of the Iguaçu River, believed that the world was ruled by M'Boi, a god who took the form of a serpent. Naipi was the daughter of the tribe’s chief, Igobi; she was so beautiful that the river ceased to flow when she looked upon its waters so as not to disturb her reflection.

Because of Naipi's exquisite beauty, she was to dedicate her life to the worship of M'Boi. However, there was a handsome young warrior in the tribe, Taroba, who fell in love with Naipi the moment he first saw her. On the day of the consecration, while the chief and the priest were drinking and the warriors were lost in their dancing, Taroba stole away with Naipi in a canoe and followed a swift current down river.

When M'Boi learned about the escape of Naipi and Taroba, he became insanely angry. He drove his serpent body underground, and twisted and writhed, and by thrashing his body to and fro he opened a gigantic fissure into which the waters poured from the Iguaçu river. Taken by the waters of the great falls, the canoe was borne down into the depths of the river, never to be found.

The legend tells that Naipi turned into one of the prominent central rocks below the waterfalls, forever to be touched by the waters, and Taroba turned into a large palm tree, inclined over the throat of the river, to gaze forever at his beloved.

A rather touching story with which to finish our mini tour of some of my favourite waterfalls.

Posted by ToonSarah 10:40 Tagged landscapes waterfalls chile brazil niagara iceland washington_state Comments (13)



When we use the term ‘monochrome’ we might be assumed to be talking about black and white photography, but I also like to take colour monochrome photos, by which I mean colour images that consist mainly of shades of a single colour. Let me show you what I mean.

Sunrise and sunset are obvious times of day for such photos as the warmth of the sun tints everything around.

Sunrise at Souimanga Lodge, Senegal

A Senegal sunset

The blue light of dusk has a similar effect – and in winter dusk comes early in northern Europe.

In January 2013 we travelled to Tromsø in search of the Northern Lights and were fortunate enough to see them several times. But our time there, and cruising the fjords to the north on a Hurtigruten ship, also gave us the opportunity to see something of this beautiful country, although the days were very short.

Winter cruise in the Norwegian Fjords

Tromsø Harbour

The previous year we had visited Iceland on a similar but less fruitful quest, but that trip was even more rewarding photographically speaking, as I hope this, and several others of the photos I've selected for this blog, will show.

Hafnarfjördur Harbour, Iceland

But bad weather, often cursed by photographers (including me!), can provide great opportunities too. I spent much of our boat trip on Chile's Lago Todos los Santos wishing the clouds would clear so that we could see the surrounding mountains, but in the end I was happy with the moody photos I took there.

Island on Lago Todos los Santos, Chile

We had similarly damp and dreary weather on the first day of our visit to Japan's Kamikochi National Park. Kamikochi did have a certain beauty in the rain, although it had meant that the mountains we had come to see were hidden from view. Luckily we were to get a glimpse of them on our final morning in the park, but meanwhile there were still photo opportunities to be found.

Kamikochi in the rain

Unsurprisingly we had some bad weather in Iceland too, although also a couple of glorious days - this isn't one of those!

Gullfoss panorama

Upper falls, Gullfoss

While not precisely bad weather, steam from geysers creates the same effect as fog or mist, muting colours and softening the scene.

One of the geysers of Iceland, the Great Geyser (Icelandic name, Stori Geysir) , gave its name to the phenomenon as a whole, with geysers all over the world named after it (geyser is Icelandic for 'gusher'). Sadly the Great Geyser is these days more or less inactive (although occasionally it can be coaxed back into life when artificially stimulated with carbolic soap powder). But luckily another nearby geyser, Strokkur, is much more obliging, and erupts at regular 5-10 minute intervals. It may not reach the heights that its neighbour once did, but at 30 or more metres it is still a pretty impressive sight. And I promise you, these are not black and white photos!

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Strokkur, Iceland

Of course, geysers are not confined to Iceland, and in Chile we visited the famous El Tatio Geysers, best seen at dawn when the steam is most active and visible, and the light is of course subdued.

El Tatio geyser field, Atacama Desert, just before sunrise

El Tatio geyser field, Atacama Desert

Similar effects can be found in stark landscapes, where there is little vegetation and colours are often muted. The White Sands of New Mexico are a perfect example. Imagine a desert with dunes that stretch to the horizon, dotted with a few hardy plants and baking under a hot sun. Now imagine that the sand in this desert is not yellow, but as white as snow, and you will have some idea of what it is like here.




White Sands National Monument

Closer to home, one of my favourite photographic locations is Druridge Bay in Northumberland, preferably on a crisp winter's day.

Winter scene in the dunes, Druridge Bay

And talking of the Northumberland coast brings us to seascapes. Again, Northumberland provides some of the best.

Refuge on the Pilgrims' Way, Holy Island

Gulls and rocks off Boulmer

But perhaps the most dramatic coastal scenery I have been able to photograph to date is that of South Iceland, where big seas and black sands make for exciting views.

Reynisdrangar seen from Dyrhólaey

Reflections, Dyrhólaey

Another option for monochrome colour images is to get in close to your subject, so only one colour fits into the frame. Let's finish with some examples of this.

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Indian architecture - Taj Mahal and haveli in Jaisalmer

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Moroccan architecture, Telouet

Plant pot at the Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji: the Golden Pavilion, Kyoto

Antiques in Frenchtown - New Jersey

Guggenheim Museum, NYC

Posted by ToonSarah 08:20 Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches rain architecture desert new_york japan india colour views chile weather morocco photography seas national_park geysers iceland Comments (10)

Doors and windows


I enjoy photographing all sorts of architectural details (more may appear later in this blog) but there is something especially interesting about doors and windows. In a plain building, they are often the most decorative feature, and always they invite you to wonder about what lies within.

I have visited a number of European cities or even entire countries whose windows and/or doors have drawn me to photograph them in significant numbers. Let’s start with some of my favourites.



For the most part Iceland is memorable for its landscapes rather than its architecture, but both in Reykjavik and elsewhere I found its colourful corrugated metal houses very photogenic:





The capital of Latvia is best known, architecturally, for its glorious Art Nouveau buildings (which will surely feature sooner or later in my blogs here). But to the south of the old town lies another district that I found equally captivating photographically-speaking, Latgale, more usually known as Maskavas forštate or the Moscow District. This is a traditional working-class area with a mixed population (Russian, Latvian, Jewish and more). The architecture is a mix of faded Art Nouveau grandeur and traditional 19th-century wooden homes that seem quite rural in character and a little out of place so close to a city centre. Here there are few tourists, but a photo around every corner and a rough-edged picturesqueness if you take the time to search it out.


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In Tallinn it was not windows but doors that caught my eye, and my lens. As I walked around the oldest parts of the city, both the lower and upper towns, I was struck by the large number of beautiful wooden doors on the old buildings, and took lots of photos:

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A Virtual Tourist Euromeeting (read more about what that is here: You can kill a website but you can't kill friendships) brought me to Portugal’s Algarve. I don’t generally do “sun, sea and sand” holidays but in addition to the usual excellent company of VT friends I also found here plenty of history and some beautiful old buildings in the heart of Faro and even touristy Albufeira. I was especially struck here by the many old wooden doors with filigree metal inlays covering their windows. These seem to be part of a clever design – behind the metalwork are shutters that can be opened to let cool air into the house without any loss of security.

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Doors in Albufeira

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Doors in Faro

The doors often also have the traditional hand-shaped door knockers known as the Hand of Fatima or Mãos de Fátima in Portuguese:

Door knockers in Faro

And in Silves

These are more prevalent in Muslim countries on the whole, but very common here too – possibly due to the old Moorish influence which pervades other aspects of the architecture. There are various stories about them, for example that they protect the house from evil. I also read that where there are two knockers on a door one is male and one female, and that visitors would be expected to use the one appropriate to their own gender. As each had a different sound the women of the household would know whether or not they could open the door.


Another Virtual Tourist meeting brought me to Sibiu in Romania, where many of the roof tops have these distinctive small windows often referred to as the “eyes of Sibiu”:

Eyes of Sibiu

But there were other windows, and doors too, that caught my eye:

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One of my favourite regions of Italy is Marche, with its ancient stone village atop the rolling hills. Here are a few photos from there:

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New Mexico

Further afield, the adobe architecture of New Mexico really appealed to me, and the insertion of often brightly painted wooden window or door frames in the earthen walls makes for interesting contrasts:

Window in Cimarron, NM

In Santa Fe

Ranchos de Taos


Whether ornate Islamic architecture or more humble homes, there are plenty of photogenic window and doors to be found in Marrakesh and elsewhere in Morocco. The following photos were taken on two visits to Marrakesh:

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Window and door details, Marrakesh

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Window and door detail, Musee Tiskiwin, Marrakesh

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Cell windows in the Medersa Ali Bin Youssef, Marrakesh


Cuenca is known in Ecuador for the attractiveness of its old doors, both on major buildings such as churches but also, as in these photos, on regular houses:

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Doors in Cuenca


While for the most part Japan is a modern country, you can still find plenty of example of its traditional architecture, with paper screen walls and the calm geometrical simplicity of its doors and windows, as here in the old merchant houses of Takayama:

Yoshijima-ke, Takayama

During the Edo period Takayama was largely a merchant, rather than a samurai, town, and its architecture reflects that fact. The streets of the old town are lined with houses of a style that accommodated both family and business life. The light inside these houses was beautiful, and the contrast of the heavy dark beams, the lighter lacquered wood used for door frames, pillars etc., and the translucent paper screens was captivating:

Old merchant houses in Takayama

And let’s finish with a selection from elsewhere in the world:

Door, Bibi Khanum Mosque, Samarkand

Windows in Greenwich Village, NYC

Entrance to the Sobierski Palace, Lviv

Posted by ToonSarah 11:17 Tagged buildings japan italy houses doors windows romania morocco photography iceland ecuador Comments (5)

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