Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Pittsburgh Region Nature Photography I: Ohiopyle State Park

If I am planning to visit an area in the hopes of doing some landscape and nature photography I typically do some background research first, which always includes an internet search.  It recently dawned on me....I have been photographing nature and landscapes in the Pittsburgh region for years....why don't I do a series of posts about what my favorite locations in the region are.  Hopefully this helps out some folks  that are either visiting and/or those just starting out and wondering where to 'shoot'.

The ground rules for this series:

  • I have to have personally photographed at the location and have images to show
  • The area must be within 1-1.5 hours from Pittsburgh so that it is a comfortable 'day trip'
  • The area has to be publicly accessible so that anyone reading this may go

The first spot I would like to talk about is Ohiopyle State Park, which is on the outer edge of the 1-1.5 hour driving time frame. There are several other state parks in the area but, in my opinion, they all pale in comparison to Ohiopyle.

Getting There:

Take 376 to the PA Turnpile. Take Exit 91, Donegal, off the Turnpike. Turn left onto PA 31 East. In about two miles turn right onto PA 711 and PA 381 south. Travel ten miles to Normalville (yes, the name is for real) to a "T".  At the "T"  turn left onto PA 381 south. Drive for 11 miles into the park.

All the other information you could ask for is on the PA Dept of Conservation and Natural Resources site.

My favorite spots to photograph:

Ohiopyle Falls

You can't miss it.  The falls are located right on the main drag as you enter the park and right by the new visitor center.  There is a public parking lot available. You can hear the falls before you see them.

Get there early so the sun is still low in the sky (or go on a cloudy day) to avoid the bright sun on the water as there isn't much cover to block the sun. There are several nice viewing platforms from which to photograph.  The photo below was just taken earlier this month from the viewing area outside the newly built park office. It was a bit early for fall color, as the leaves were just starting to change.  But it was a very still morning with almost no wind, allowing the leaves to remain sharp during this 11 second exposure at f8.

Ohiopyle Falls, the widest falls in Ohiopyle State Park, PA

Cucumber Falls

My favorite falls to photograph in the park. They are far, far narrower than Ohiopyle Falls, but higher and more delicate looking. To get there, turn right out of that parking lot for Ohiopyle Falls and drive for 1-2 minutes, taking your first right (onto Kentuck Roud, SR 2019).  About 30 seconds further and you will see a small parking area for the falls on the right side of the road. There are wooden stairs that lead you down to the falls with plenty of vantage points for photographing along the way.

Cucumber Falls, Ohiopyle State Park, PA

The Flumes:

OK, get in that car and turn left out of the Cucumber Falls parking lot, retracing your steps.  But instead of turning left at the "T" to go back to Ohiopyle Falls just go straight across the road into the parking lot for the flumes.  This area has some terrific flat rocks for abstracts, rapidly flowing water cut into solid rock (hebce, the flumes) and, at the entrance to the narrow flume some nice views upriver.

Autumn scene at the entrance to The Flumes, Ohiopyle State Park, PA

What Else:

There is more.  Lets see.....

  • Acre upon acre of forest
  • Lots of water, slow and fast, lazy and rapid cascades
  • An interesting old railroad bridge that you can walk on )by the old visitors center
  • There is one weekend in the summer when kayakers are allowed to go over Ohiopyle Falls making for interesting photos....but it is crowded

Where I Eat:

In my opinion the best place is The Firefly Grill!

If the weather is warm don't forget to stop at for Moose Tracks ice cream.  My favorite!

Falls Market in Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania.  Get the 'Moose Track' ice cream!

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