Yorkshire Photo Explorer

Leaping Salmon, Stainforth Force

Leaping Salmon, Stainforth Force

Whenever I think of leaping salmon, I immediately think of Alaska and grizzly bears trying to catch them as they power into the air (clearly I’ve watched too many wildlife programmes). However you can also witness this spectacular sight in Yorkshire at Stainforth Force (minus the bears of course). Located in the southern Yorkshire Dales near the village of Stainforth, the falls allow you to get close to the action. The best time of year to see the salmon run is during October and November and particularly after heavy rain.

It had been raining quite a lot recently, so I headed out on a Sunday morning to try my luck. As it happened, quite a lot of other people also had the same idea, so it was easy to see where all the action was taking place. Joint calls of “ooo” and “wow, look at how big that one was!” as I approached made me think I would be luck. No sooner had I got there, than a number of salmon made their attempts at leaping the falls. Yes, this was going to be good.

Leaping Salmon, Stainforth ForceI set up my tripod on the rocks just by the lower fall (fortunately I got there just as a space was free). I initially put my zoom lens on, but soon realised that I would have more luck with a wider angle. The technique I used for these shots was to set up the camera with all the settings dialled in and pre-focussed on where most of the salmon were leaping. I then locked this focus by setting the lens to manual focus. As soon as a salmon made an appearance, I then pressed the shutter button. A remote shutter would be better, but I need to invest in one that does rapid fire shooting!

Leaping Salmon, Stainforth ForceWith this technique, I managed to get a few decent shots. They’re a bit grainy as the ISO is so high, but I was quite pleased. Most of the salmon didn’t make it up the falls, but there were a few who did – and were met with a cheer from the gathered crowd. Here are a couple that made it:

Leaping Salmon, Stainforth ForceLeaping Salmon, Stainforth ForceFrom a comfort perspective, I’d recommend taking a foam cushion or something waterproof to sit on if you can, as the rocks are very wet. I made do with a carrier bag, but I was very cold by the end!

This was a thoroughly enjoyable day and a wildlife trip I highly recommend. I’d never seen a leaping salmon before, but now I have seen lots. Here are a few more photos from my visit:

Practicalities
Approximate post code (for sat nav) BD24 9QD
Parking There is a Yorkshire Dales National Park car park in Stainforth village. Parking charges apply. See the National Park website for current charges.
Directions Take the footpath at the back of the car park by the river and go under the bridge. Follow the footpath and turn left at the gate (signposted ‘Stainforth Foss’). At the end of the track, turn left onto the minor road, which heads steeply downhill. You’ll then reach a small bridge and the river. Just over the bridge there is a small gate on the left. Follow the edge of the river to the falls. The best place to catch the salmon is the lower, largest fall. The rocks above provide a good seat and place to set up your camera.

This is the location of Stainforth Force:

Notes for next time
  • Try different angles on the falls
  • A bright cloudy day would allow for faster shutter speeds/lower ISO
  • Come on a weekday when it’s quieter

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