Scaleber Force is a wonderful multi-tiered waterfall, sitting deep inside a moss drenched gorge in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Flanked by a narrow verdant gorge, it has all the hallmarks is of something from a Tolkien novel and has plenty to offer as a photography location.
How to get there?
Whilst not being remote, it is not the easiest place to find.
Scaleber Force is located roughly 1 mile from the outskirts of Settle heading along High Hill Lane, heading toward Malham. Make sure you keep right at the fork in the road, then look out for a small coppice of trees on the left hand side of the road which mark the falls gorge; they appear shortly before a steep dip in the road.
Though easily accessed by car, there’s no official parking, there's room on the roadside verge for a vehicle or 3, but that's it. Once out the car, you can instantly hear the tumbling waterfall.
A wooden style in the stone wall by the verge leads over a drystone wall and onto a short (but steep!) descent down rocky steps to the base of the waterfall.
Getting near the falls requires a short scramble up the weir like cascades from the end of the footpath.
What to shoot?
Scaleber Force has plenty to offer.
Grand scenics of the main waterfalls' wispy veil which falls 20 meters from the top of the cliff, is the main draw and the small set of weir like terraces make excellent foreground material to lead into the main falls.
Boulders and spouts are all around, and the details within Scaleber's cascades make for great subjects in their own right separated from the parent waterfall, especially in Autumn when the surrounding trees litter them in orange leaves. These areas are my favourite area in the gorge providing plenty of elements to focus on more intimate landscapes.
Wide angle lenses from 16 to 35 mm will be ideal for capturing the falls and it’s surrounds, easily accommodating the lower and upper levels of Scalerber’s layers of waterfalls.
Whilst the gorge is narrow and both sides of the river can be accessed by criss crossing rocks or a short wade -- the river height and personal definitions of safety notwithstanding. Longer focal lengths do come into their own here, a 70 -- 200mm range will enable you to extract many of the minor details in the area on both river sides and at the falls base.
When to shoot?
Facing East, the gorge is surrounded on three sides by near vertical cliffs, which makes Scaleber Force ideal as an early to mid morning location being sheltered from direct sunlight until midday in the autumn and winter months. As with all waterfall photography, overcast days are best, with the cloud diffusing light that would otherwise pose contrast issues.
Spring brings a lush green to the gorge, as the mosses and trees awaken after Winter. A short shower adds greater intensity to the colours as well.
Personally, Autumn is my favourite season for photography in this location. The mosses still hold a deep verdant which contrasts wonderfully with the orange and yellow leaves to make perfect complimentary colours, plus the Yorkshire Dales are less frequented by tourists, so you’re highly likely to have the gorge to yourself.
Winter is a drab season. Rains are often so heavy the beck in spate and the waterfalls are in full torrent making it tricky to retain fine detail in the water with it running so fast. Also I tend to prefer finer ‘angel hair’ strands of water in my waterfall photography. But that could just be a personal thing
As waterfalls go, Scaleber Force is my favourite photography location in the UK to date so far, by far. And it offers something new with each visit.
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