How to Photograph a Waterfall
Getting Great Waterfall PicturesBy Liz Masoner, About.com Guide to Photography
Published February 8, 2012 ©
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What is a Good Waterfall Photo?A good waterfall photo is, simply, one that captures what you wanted to capture. There is no "only" way to capture a waterfall in a photograph. The water does not always have to be clear and frozen in time, it does not have to be blurred to soft white ribbons, there does not have to be a rainbow with the waterfall, you do not have to shoot from the base of the falls. There are more ways to capture good waterfall photographs than there are waterfalls in the world. The trick is to be able to capture what you set out to capture in waterfall photography.
Common Types of Waterfall Photos
Some of the more common types of desired waterfall photos are:
Blurred Water Captures
Blurred water is a very common and highly desired waterfall photograph style. This effect uses a slow shutter speed to allow the water to blur into soft white ribbons. The longer the shutter speed the less detail is visible within the water blur. To achieve this effect in a daytime photograph, you'll need to reduce the amount of light entering the camera so that the shutter can stay open long enough to allow the water to blur. Depending on the speed of the water flow and the desired amount of blur, you will want to use a shutter speed anywhere from 1 second up to about 30 seconds (again, this varies greatly by waterfall so you'll need to experiment). In order to reduce the light enough you'll need to make a couple of adjustments. First, use the lowest possible film speed on your camera. Second, use the smallest possible aperture on your camera that you can for the depth of field effect you want. Since waterfalls are usually fairly large you'll most likely be using a small aperture (large F-Stop) anyway. If these two adjustments together do not reduce the light entering the camera and raise the required light for recording enough then you'll need to add a neutral density filter. A neutral density filter is basically sunglasses for your camera lens. It reduces the light entering the lens without changing the color of the scene. Remember that at slow shutter speeds you'll need a tripod or other stable support for your camera.
Frozen spray waterfall photos are much simpler than blurred water photos. To capture the spray frozen in motion, simply use a fast shutter speed. Again, it is variable depending on the specific waterfall, but you'll most likely want a shutter speed between 1/250 of a second and 1/1500 of a second. You may find you need to increase your film speed and open up the aperture somewhat to allow the camera to capture your subject at these increased speeds.
Rainbows with the Falls
Capturing a rainbow, whether with a waterfall or on its own, is all about the angle. Rainbows are created when the sunlight fractures through the water droplets in a specific way. Because of this, your point of view for a rainbow photograph will be dictated more by the rainbow than by your preference. Remember your composition options and work with the angle you can find for the brightest rainbow. Beyond being careful not to overexpose the image, the biggest part of capturing a rainbow is to not hinder yourself with filters. Remove any polarizing or UV filters you may keep on your lens. These filters can literally filter out a rainbow.
Getting CreativeDon't let yourself be limited with your waterfall photographs. Try seeing the waterfall in a new way.
Photo credits via Flickr(in order of appearance):