6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

Waterfalls are some of the most beautiful natural features you will ever get the chance to photograph and are a very popular subject for landscape photographers. Photographing waterfalls provides a great way to get outdoors and explore nature.

 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

There is something magical about the patterns and sounds of flowing water that really heighten your senses and make you feel at one with nature. Although waterfalls look great, you may be wondering well how do I photograph them? Here are six tips to help you on your way.

1 – Get the right equipment

You will be better equipped to photograph waterfalls if you have the right equipment. A wide-angle lens is essential to broaden the angle of view and ensure you are able to photograph the whole waterfall. You will also be able to get up close to the falls rather than photographing them from a distance.

Once you have found a great waterfall and have the right equipment to capture it, you are ready to take some photographs.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

2 – Experiment with different shutter speeds

So now that you have the gear, how do you take photos that capture the authenticity and beauty of the scene?

When photographing waterfalls, finding the ideal shutter speed involves a lot of experimenting. This step is all about trial and error, which is part of the fun. Try taking shots with different shutter speeds and check out the results to see the differences.

I would recommend taking pictures with both fast and slow shutter speeds ranging from between 1/500th of a second to a few seconds and see which style of image you prefer.

3 – Freeze motion

How you shoot waterfalls effectively depends on the look and feel of the image you are trying to achieve. If you want to capture the water in a static way, you will need to choose a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of the water. This isolates the water in motion and gives a very different result to using an extended shutter speed.

See the difference between the three images below and how the change in shutter speed affects the water. (Images courtesy of dPS Managing Editor, Darlene Hildebrandt)

ISO 100, f/4, no ND filter, 1/640th of a second.

ISO 100, F/22, o.3 sec with ND filter

ISO 100, F/22, 1.3 sec with ND filter

4 – Blur motion

Using a slow shutter speed will help you to capture the water’s movement. You will find that the longer the shutter is open, the smoother the water will be. Be careful not to use a shutter speed that is too slow if the water is very fast flowing as the water may become one large white mass without any definition.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

Generally, you will obtain better results by using an extremely slow shutter speed of over a second. However, this will not be possible if you are hand holding the camera due to excessive camera shake, which brings us to the next tip.

5 – Use a tripod

Investing in a tripod will help to keep the camera more stable and enhance your chances of getting good images. The main advantage of using a tripod is that you are more likely to capture images of waterfalls that are sharper as the camera is less prone to movement during slower exposures.

Using a tripod will allow you to use slower shutter speeds to give you a smoother look and feel to your waterfall images. Images captured using long shutter speeds tend to look more dramatic and the silky water looks more appealing and pleasing to the eye.

If you do not have a tripod, you could set your camera on a stone or some other object to capture part or all of the waterfall.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

6 – Use a polarizing filter

One of the best ways to add some color to your images is to use a polarizing filter. This is a great way to deepen colors by increasing their saturation. But be aware that the polarizer also cuts the amount of light entering the camera, and thus increases your exposure by up to two stops of light.

6 Tips for How to Photograph Waterfalls

Polarizers also help to eliminate glare and reflections from the surface of the water and can be used to increase contrast. This is especially true when shooting during the day in bright conditions.

When adding a polarizer, the water you capture should become blurred, depending on how fast it is flowing. The advantage to using a polarizer is that you can increase the exposure time and slow the shutter speed, as the amount of light going through the lens is decreased. This allows you to create images with motion and silky-smooth water action.

Your turn

With these practical tips, it’s time for you to get out there and start photographing your next waterfall!

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