Photographing Waterfalls

Hi all! I wanted to talk today about one of my favourite things that I like to seek out wherever I am travelling around the world: waterfalls! I just love them. There is something about them that is so refreshing and makes me feel at one with the environment whilst illustrating the shear force of nature. I always take a photo to add to my album of memories, so in this blog post I am going to discuss the main points to bear in mind when shooting a waterfall and how to ensure you come away with great images!

Composition

Composition is key! You need to Identify and arrange a strong composition create powerful waterfall images. While I do not one to delve too deeply into the very dense topic of composition, there are a couple of aspects worthy of note with regards to composition when shooting waterfalls: curves and environment. Curves are everything when it comes to waterfall photos, with two types being of particular importance. Firstly, the curve formed by the water. Waterfalls that flow or fall in a way that it forms a curve often create far more visual interest than don’t. essentially, curves can create elegance within a waterfall photo.  Secondly, any curved object that draws the eye toward the waterfall, such as a rock or boulder will strengthen the overall composition and  enhance the viewer experience. The second aspect of waterfall composition is the overall environment surrounding the site of the waterfall. It is essential for the success of any  waterfall shot. A waterfall by itself does not make for a well balanced image.It must be complemented by the surrounding scenery, acting as a frame and giving context to the image. So be sure to look at the bigger picture and compose to include some of that surrounding scenery when setting up your composition.

waterfall 01

Shutter Speed

As falling water is moving object, the shutter speed chosen to capture it will have a definitive outcome on the overall image. When shooting waterfalls it often desirable to use a slower than normal shutter speed to create motion blur rather than freeze the image, as this can be particularly pleasing on the eye for the viewer.  When ascertaining a suitable shutter speed to employ for shooting a waterfall, these four factors should be considered:

The correct shutter speed will vary from waterfall to waterfall, and one should experiment to find the correct setting, by reviewing their images on the back of the camera after each exposure. For bigger, fast-flowing waterfalls 1/100 second is a good setting to start at in order to best reflect the violence and force of the moving water. For smaller waterfalls, where an ethereal look is often desired, a slower shutter speed of 1/2 to 2 seconds may well be a good starting point.

Exposure

This can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to waterfalls, as the falling water can create a highlight in vast contrast to the surrounding shadows. So just where do you expose for to get a good all-round exposure and without clipping any detail in either the highlights or shadows? As always, test, test, test! If necessary take to separate shots, one exposing correctly for the highlights and one exposing correctly for the shadows and blend them together in post-production.

You can learn more about long-exposure and exposure in general at this extremely useful website: http://www.exposureguide.com/

waterfalls 02

Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t put your camera on auto settings. The contrast in a waterfall needs to be metered for manually for best results. Don’t shoot waterfalls on a sunny day. The harsh sunlight will just intensify contrast and create unwanted reflection and shadows. Don’t forget your polarizing filter. These are essential to minimise reflection in the water.

Keeping Your Equipment Dry

We all know that water and camera equipment don’t really mix to well together. Therefore it is prudent to be vigilant with your equipment whenever you are near water, as will be the case in this particular scenario. You can buy waterproof covers for DSLRs but you can even get fully waterproofed, point-and-shoot style, digital cameras, although these will be compromised when it comes to functionality. You can find great deals on used second hand waterproof digital cameras online! It’s worth checking them out to see if you can save yourself a bit of cash.

camera 01

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Be sure to get out to a local waterfall and practise these techniques next time you are travelling. Then be sure to email in your results for us to share on the blog. Cheers!