Watching the Falls / by Todd Henson

A lone photographer watching, and photographing, Great Falls along the Potomac River.

One morning years ago I was photographing the falls at Great Falls Park in Virginia. This is the location where the Potomac River narrows and drops in elevation, creating these amazing rapids and water falls. You can return to this location over and over and see something different each time as seasons change, water levels fluctuate, atmospheric conditions shift, and people enter or leave the scene.

I love photographing these falls. They are such a grand and powerful example of nature so very close to Washington, D.C. This morning there was a layer of fog hugging the river, obscuring the distant elements in the scene. Fog can be a natural way of simplifying a photograph, helping to focus our attention on one element or another.

What drew me to the scene this day was the lone photographer standing on the rocks to the upper left. He was framing a shot of the falls just as I was, but my shot included him. I like the lone figure, hunched over his tripod, concentrating on the falls. Such a grand scene, enveloped in a layer of fog, and this lone photographer.

There are times I prefer including only the natural elements of the scene, just rocks, plants, water, wildlife, but not people. Other times including a person can add a sense of scale to the scene. It can also affect the mood or emotion of the image. Perhaps the viewer will imagine themselves as the person in the scene. Or maybe they will wonder about the person and their story, what brought them here, what they are thinking or feeling.