Alabama is home to plenty of sweet outdoor spots just begging to be photographed. Venues such as Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, the star-filled sky outside of Tuscaloosa, and utopian waterfalls in Bankhead National Forest are just a few of the photo-friendly destinations around the state, many of which go hand-in-hand with a nearby hike or other wilderness excursion.
From spooky, fog-drenched darkness to the long-exposure smoothness of falling water, here we share and explore a few of our favorite photogenic outdoor spots in Alabama, as well as insider strategies on taking a killer photo there. Whether you're a seasoned pro or an aspiring shutterbug, you're sure to find plenty of inspiration here—and more than a few images that will certainly make your Instagram highlight reel. Ready to get clicking?
1. Caney Creek Falls
North of Birmingham and a short drive or bike ride away from Double Springs, Caney Creek Falls is home to some of the state's most impressive and inspiring waterfalls . From small rivulets that gently trail over moss-covered limestone bluffs to massive cascades that can be heard from a distance, these waterfalls are located within the greater Bankhead National Forest area, which is also known as the "land of a thousand waterfalls." The area also offers hiking, biking, and overnight camping in addition to these fantastic photo-friendly spots.
Caney Creek Falls is one of the most aesthetically pleasing waterfalls within the sprawling national forest due its impressive height and substantial flow, which makes it perfect for photographers seeking inspiring vistas. While it's hard to take a bad photo here, getting to Caney Creek Falls can be a bit of a challenge, as it is not practical to hike from any of the wilderness trailheads.
In order to find this hidden gem, start at the Bankhead National Forest District Rangers Office on Highway 33 about a mile north of Double Springs. Head north from the office about three miles on AL 33 before taking a left onto County Road 2. Travel approximately 3.7 miles until you see mailbox 9916 and park. From there, seek out the nearby gate that marks the trail that leads 1.5 miles to the falls.
2. Tannehill State Park
Daniel Hillman first built a forge on the banks of Roupes Creek in 1830, after finding what he considered to be the richest brown ore he had ever seen. As a result of Daniel Hillman's early adventures and entrepreneurship, contemporary audiences can view and attempt to photograph the many features of Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park . Some of the most interesting aspects of this location are the unique architectural structures and designs that served as the means for Confederate troops to forge iron goods and products. The photograph above, for example, depicts a massive stone furnace used to heat the necessary materials in the process of creating iron goods.
Imagine, too, what the furnace once looked like at night: When lit, it would light up the night sky and send gigantic flames into the air—a spectacular sight to whet the imaginative appetite of any would-be photographer.
3. Sanders Ferry and Black Warrior Roads
Sanders Ferry Road is known as a cyclist's paradise to those familiar with the Tuscaloosa area. Just a few miles from downtown, this roadway is particularly flat and largely devoid of motorized vehicle traffic and light pollution at night. This also makes the location perfect for capturing astral photographs that showcase the stars. Sanders Ferry and Black Warrior Road are also home to pumpjacks and other mechanical subjects like the one pictured above, which can make for beautiful nighttime photographs.
The motion captured from long exposures, like the one in the photograph above, can be difficult to get right. One strategy is to use a tripod to keep the camera steady during shots like these. Nearby fenceposts can serve as a suitable perch (though you might want to get the ok beforehand from the landowners). DSLR or mirrorless cameras are likely necessary for shots like these, too, as most basic cameras do not have an adjustment for exposure length or the ability to swap out situation-specific lenses.
4. Sloss Furnaces
For photographers who appreciate the aesthetic gravitas of large-scale industrial showcases, Sloss Furnaces delivers with gusto, with abundant opportunities for interesting experiments behind the camera lens. A National Historic Landmark in the heart of Birmingham, this location has provided a unique experience for visitors who marvel at the scale and history of this former iron-producing giant. Oxidized and decaying industrial behemoths stand quietly in rows that were once bustling with workers and the clamor of production. The iconic water tower, which bears the name of the furnaces, is one of the most photographed elements of the site.
You can combine a photo shoot at Sloss with one of the many events held on its grounds every year, including concerts, festivals, and bike races—all the more reason to make a trip to this fascinating Alabama landmark.
5. Oliver Lock and Dam
This dam, located just north of the Tuscaloosa Country Club, is a wonderful venue for photographers who like to try to capture the flow of water, bird species like blue heron, or a bustling fishing hole for local anglers. Long exposure night shots like the one above serve as a fitting example of the strange visual effect that falling water can create. The contrast between the glassy surface of Black Warrior River before it passes through the concrete drop and cascades down the opposite side serves as a photographic oddity—and one well worth considering as fitting spot for your next photo shoot.
Originally written for BCBS of AL.