Niagara Falls Photography (The Ultimate Waterfall Location)

The locals take it for granted, but our international visitors were appropriately in awe

By Simon Burn – subscribe to Simon’s YouTube channel

In early September, we held an international photography meet-up at Niagara Falls, Canada. Prolific YouTubers David Griffiths and Tim Day flew over from the U.K.

I was already in Ontario, along with locals Andy Strote, Rachel Lerch, Mike Goodwin and Dave Erauw.

(By the way, everyone living near Toronto knows that visitors may be somewhat interested in seeing Toronto, but what they really want to experience is Niagara Falls. It’s OK, we accept that.)

Andy Strote – The light was looking promising long before sunrise

Tips for Photographing Niagara Falls – Start Before Sunrise

Although the meet-up was scheduled for the middle of the day, most of us were there before sunrise. That was the time to get unique shots of the falls, and for us, the sun delivered in spectacular fashion.

It’s also important to get there early to beat the crowds. Niagara Falls is wildly popular, especially in summer and becomes extremely crowded, making it difficult to find a good position.

If you’re there for sunrise, station yourself just a bit down the gorge from the top of the Horseshoe Falls. In the summer, the sun rises behind falls over the Niagara River.

From that position, you’ll have the curve of the falls and the rising sun illuminating the mist in shades of pinks, oranges and yellows.

If you work quickly, you’ll also have time to walk downstream to get a longer shot of the Horseshoe Falls with the lit-up mist hanging above them. As the sun rises, it illuminates the falls themselves, so look for bands of sunlight on the water.

The immense power of the water erodes the rock bed and dissolves minerals, which gives the water a lovely bright green colour, especially in the sunlight.

David Griffiths – Here comes the sun, and a lot of colour too!

Simon Burn – The sun had risen, but the mist created a soft diffusing effect

What are the Canadian Falls or American Falls?

What we call Niagara Falls are actually three waterfalls. The classic shot of the big curved waterfalls is the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.

A bit down the gorge are the smaller Bridal Veil Falls and American Falls. Those two are on the U.S. side of the Niagara River.

Yes, it’s a bit confusing since the border goes right down the middle of the river which curves at the falls thereby creating a Canadian and American side. All of the falls are best viewed from the Canadian side.

David Griffiths – A view towards the American side of Niagara Falls

Simon Burn – Simon’s favourite shot from the day, do you agree?

Other Photo Opportunities at Niagara Falls, Canada

  • At the foot of the American Falls, focus on the massive rocks that have broken off the face of the falls
  • Look for visitors on the American side on platforms at the foot of the American Falls
  • With a long lens, look for people on the American side next to the top of the Horseshoe Falls on the left
  • Watch for the Hornblower Niagara Cruise boats that take raincoat-clad visitors right into the mists of the Horseshoe Falls

Andy Strote – The Hornblower will take you right up close and personal to Niagara Falls

  • You can go on the boats for the close-up shots, but be sure your gear is waterproof – it gets extremely wet
  • From down the gorge, with a long lens you can pick out yellow raincoat-clad visitors on a platform on the right side at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls
  • Pay to go to Journey Behind the Falls where you get your own yellow raincoat to stand on the platform. You’ll experience the power and thunder of the Horseshoe Falls.
  • Journey Behind the Falls also has lookouts right into the back of the falls

Andy Strote – Behind The Falls takes you onto a platform to shoot from below

Andy Strote – Great shots to be had down here, but watch the water on your camera!

  • Another option is from the Skylon Tower, 775 feet above the falls. It features an outside observation deck, but expect some jostling for position. Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Bring your passport or proof of citizenship and you can walk onto the Rainbow Bridge to shoot down the gorge towards the falls

Simon Burn – A wider view of Horseshoe Falls from further down river

David Griffiths – Another view of the Horseshoe Falls. Can you spot the Americans on the platform?

Evening and Winter Photography at Niagara Falls

After sundown, coloured lights are projected on the falls which present interesting photographic opportunities. There are also fireworks from the gorge in front of the falls. Check the lighting and fireworks schedules here.

In the winter, depending on how cold it’s been, you’ll find ice formations at the base of the falls. The falls themselves keep flowing, but there’s often substantial ice build-up in the gorge providing dramatic and unusual compositions.

David Griffiths – Unique views from the formal gardens

Street Photography at Niagara Falls

About 10 a.m., the crowds show up. Hopefully, you’ve got your sunrise shots. Depending on the lighting you may want to continue to shoot the falls and surrounding landscape, but you’ll soon find the tourists in your way.

The other option is to switch to street photography. You’ll see all types of people here, from all around the world.

For a while, I chose a street photography theme – Shoot the Shooters – taking pictures of everyone else taking pictures. I even got people to pose for me and had people ask me to take their shots with their phones. Sometimes, you just have to go with what’s in front of you.

If you’re serious about street photography, head up Clifton Hill which is packed with unusual attractions, a Ferris Wheel, colourful signs, and of course people.

Simon Burn – Is Niagara Falls possibly the busiest place on earth for selfies?

Simon Burn – Someone shooting a Story for Instagram perhaps?

Getting to Niagara Falls

If you want to be there for sunrise, you need to travel by car, unless you’ve stayed overnight.

If you’re coming from the USA, the closest border crossing is at Rainbow International Bridge. It gets very busy, so allow plenty of time to cross. The last time I drove across coming back from a U.S. excursion, it took over an hour to get through customs.

If you’re visiting Niagara Falls for the day from Toronto, the best time to travel is early in the morning. Our drive took about 90 minutes because we set off around 4.00 a.m. Departing in the middle of the day could add another hour, as the highways get very congested.

There is a direct train route from Toronto, but the first train doesn’t depart particularly early, so you wouldn’t arrive until mid-morning – just in time for the huge crowds!

It’s the same with coaches – you may not be able to get sunrise or sunset shots unless you stay overnight.

Parking at Niagara Falls

Recognize that this is a top tourist attraction which means you’ll pay for parking.

There are three options:

  • If you find a street parking space, you can only pay for two hours at a time. That means you’ll have to go back to feed the meter. Not an ideal option.
  • There are numerous parking lots, that generally offer day rates. Expect to pay $20 – $25 per day. Some lots are outdoors, others are garages at the big hotels. We parked at the lot off Fraser Hill, close to the top of the falls. At 5:30 in the morning, it was nicely empty. It fills up very quickly though.
  • If you’re staying overnight, some hotels offer free parking. Check to be sure.
Andy Strote – Everywhere Simon goes: “Are you a photographer? Can you take our picture?”

Niagara Falls Fun Facts

  • The Horseshoe Falls are the largest of the three, at 2,590 ft wide, with a 187 ft drop
  • About 2.2 million liters of water go over the Horseshoe Falls every second
  • For the American Falls, it’s a bit over half a million liters per second
  • One fifth of all the fresh water in the world flows from the four Upper Great Lakes – Michigan, Huron, Superior and Erie – through the Niagara River and over the falls
  • Niagara Falls is the second largest falls on the globe next to Victoria Falls on the Zambia / Zimbabwe border
  • Niagara Falls sees about 12 million tourists per year
  • Due to erosion, the Horseshoe Falls erode about one foot per year. They are slowly creeping up the Niagara River.

For Further Unique Shots, Visit Niagara Falls USA

On this trip, we stayed on the Canadian side. It’s the most popular location for shots of the falls, but that means, it’s also the most typical.

In future, we’re planning to cross the border to shoot the falls from American vantage points. If you’re considering this, be sure you have a valid passport and check to see whether you need a visa to visit the States.

Many Other Photo Locations in the Niagara Region

If you’re in the region for a longer period, there’s plenty to shoot:

Simon captures the day at Niagara Falls starting at sunrise

David flew from U.K. to shoot and film the falls. Was it worth it? David explains…

Simon Burn

Simon has been a photographer and creative director in the UK and Canada for over 25 years.

He worked with Andy for multinational corporations and brands before veering off to work on travel, tourism, food and lifestyle projects. Simon has travelled all over North America and Europe, working with consumer brands, tourism associations, and resorts. His work has been published in books, graced the covers of magazines, featured on TV; and he’s also worked with other photographers in the role of creative/art director and photo editor for publications and brands, in addition to being a photography competition judge.

In 2018, he started his own YouTube channel to share his love of travel and landscape photography and filmmaking.

ExploreDiscoverShoot is borne of Simon, Andy and David’s combined creative, business and technical skills, a strong entrepreneurial flair, and passion for photography and content creation.

The opportunities to work with other creators, share ideas, and promote creativity and knowledge, is a driving force with infinite possibilities.

Simon Burn

Simon has been a photographer and creative director in the UK and Canada for over 25 years.

He worked with Andy for multinational corporations and brands before veering off to work on travel, tourism, food and lifestyle projects. Simon has travelled all over North America and Europe, working with consumer brands, tourism associations, and resorts. His work has been published in books, graced the covers of magazines, featured on TV; and he’s also worked with other photographers in the role of creative/art director and photo editor for publications and brands, in addition to being a photography competition judge.

In 2018, he started his own YouTube channel to share his love of travel and landscape photography and filmmaking.

ExploreDiscoverShoot is borne of Simon, Andy and David’s combined creative, business and technical skills, a strong entrepreneurial flair, and passion for photography and content creation.

The opportunities to work with other creators, share ideas, and promote creativity and knowledge, is a driving force with infinite possibilities.

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