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Photographing waterfalls

Waterfalls are a favourite in photography giving so many options to capture the cascading water.

Rainy days

Waterfalls are a great place to head on rainy and overcast days, the lack of sun glare on the water and the softer light means you can have longer exposure and your image won’t have any burned out areas on the water. When everything is wet from rain you’ll find that your shadows are nicely saturated to deliver powerful blacks. Wet leaves and rocks look so much more vibrant and rich.
If you’re lucky enough to get a cold spell and things get icy you’ll find your local waterfall turns into an enchanted winter wonderland overnight, just watch your footing.

Shutter speed

It’s nice to get those silky water shots and capture the motion blur of moving water, but there are times when it’s nice to also capture a frozen moment of action especially when the water is flowing very quickly after recent rain.
Your camera can create shutter speeds as fast as 4000th of a second, even faster on some cameras and at these speeds you will be able to see every droplet of water. Keep in mind you will need to increase ISO to work at these speeds.

Long exposure

A long exposure at a waterfall will make the water blurry and silky
The camera dial on the top of the camera should be set to the A (aperture priority)
Steps:

With these settings your camera will give you the longest shutter speed possible and is best for a waterfall in a shaded area.
For a quicker exposure that has less motion blur try to keep the shutter speed under one second by using a slightly wider aperture of f/7 and rotating the polariser to allow in more light.

Very fast exposure

A very fast exposure will allow the camera to work very quickly so you will be able to see the drops of water in the waterfall
Steps:

With these settings your camera will give you the fastest shutter speed possible and you will see every drop of water.
For very quick exposures to capture droplets of water open the aperture more to allow more light in, increase shutter speed to 500th of a second and adjust ISO until you get the exposure right.

Use a polariser

Polarisers really do make a huge difference when you’re dealing with wet rocks and reflections caused by water. Your polariser will allow you to use longer shutter speeds, reduce reflections and make your colours pop!

Avoid the sky

Do you really need a white triangle at the top of your image? A lot of people think images must have sky. By omitting the sky completely, you’ll create a more intimate scene that dedicates the entire frame to what matters most and eliminates the triangle of pointlessness.

Go abstract

Rather than trying to fit the entire scene into your frame, it often pays to zoom in on a smaller area of a waterfall which removes the viewers sense of scale and direction.
Instead of a river flowing over some rocks and tree stumps, you’ll create an abstract scene of natural beauty that hypnotizes the viewer with an atmospheric study in motion and colour. Just like removing the sky, omitting the top and bottom of a waterfall from our frame leaves room for imagination.

Bubbles

When there are bubbles on the surface of the water and they are swirling amongst rocks, try using a shutter speed of four to six seconds (depending on water speed) and those bubbles will create beautiful spirals in your long exposures.
Be careful not to slow things down too much though, if the exposure is too long, it will probably blur the motion too much to capture any definition.
Long exposure
A long exposure at a waterfall will make the water blurry and silky
The camera dial on the top of the camera should be set to the A (aperture priority)
Steps:

With these settings your camera will give you the longest shutter speed possible and is best for a waterfall in a shaded area.
Very fast exposure
A very fast exposure will allow the camera to work very quickly so you will be able to see the drops of water in the waterfall
Steps:

With these settings your camera will give you the fastest shutter speed possible and you will see every drop of water.