Matthiessen State Park – Cascade Falls – Lower Dells

Matthiessen State Park is located in central LaSalle County, approximately 4 miles south of Utica and 3 miles east of Oglesby.

Feature Image Details

The Lower Dells area has some caves at the end of the trail you can duck into for some interesting compositions.  The feature image is a blend of numerous exposures both focus stacked and exposure bracketed. This is a complex shot that took some time to piece together with various techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop.

I used a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at different focus points and different exposures and blended them together. There is no direct light on the waterfall which would have made the contrast too great to handle.

Cascade Falls Second Image

The second images is also a composite, but much easier. One image was for 8 seconds at ISO 100, the other for 0.3 seconds at ISO 1250. The faster shutter speed was to stop movement in the tree leaves the slower shutter speed produced the swirls from foam in the water.

I used a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at 50 mm with a circular polarizer filter for both shots.


I have a B+W XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer and a set of B+W Neutral Density Filters. My B+W ND filters are of strength 3.0 (10 stops),  1.8 (6 stops), and 0.6 (2 stops).

I did not need the neutral Density filter. I liked the results of the movement at 8 seconds.


  1. Waterfalls almost always photograph better on cloudy day.
  2. A polarizer reduces glare and increases exposure times to make for smoother-looking water. I nearly always use a filter when photographing waterfalls.
  3. The standard advice is to use polarizers to deepen a blue sky, but I almost never use them that way. Instead, I routinely use them to saturate colors and remove glare on cloudy days.
  4. Even towards sunset, it was still bright out. I needed the neutral density filter to get the added exposure time I wanted.
  5. The Canon 16-35 MM F4 L lens can accommodate two filters without vignetting. The 24-105 L lens is not as forgiving.

Other Matthiessen State Park Images

  1. Matthiessen State Park – Giant’s Bathtub – Upper Dells
  2. Matthiessen State Park – Lake Falls – Upper Dells


Starved Rock State Park is close by. Matthiessen State Park is actually a nice side attraction.

Both parks are in a bit of disrepair with closed trails and at least one rotted bridge making one of the waterfalls in Starved Rock inaccessible.

Illinois does not have the funds for park maintenance.

It’s a sad state of affairs but these parks are very much worth visiting.

Starved Rock State Park Articles

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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