Who doesn’t like seeing a waterfall? And there is nothing quite like seeing a waterfall in full flow, but capturing unique images of waterfalls can be challenging. You will often be working in low light conditions and unless the waterfall takes a lot of effort to get to, you will be sharing it with hoards of other people. Just follow these few simple tips and transform your photos.
Wait For The Right Time
Waterfalls are best seen and photographed in full force which is usually after rainfall. So do your research and find out when the best time is to photograph them. Some waterfalls will be mere trickles in the summer months where as others will flow all year long. Try to work out which way the waterfall faces and plan your shoot accordingly. It will be much easier to photograph the waterfall with the light coming from behind you rather than in front. Cloudy days are great for photographing waterfalls as the diffused light means you will get less contrast between highlights and shadows.
Think About The Composition
It’s important to compose your images to work with the river and waterfall. Don’t simply place your waterfall in the middle of the picture if it doesn’t look right; instead, try to direct the viewer’s eyes with the shape of the river to the waterfall. Placing a point of interest in the foreground is also a great way of direct the viewers attention from one object to another. The key is to really study the scene, take your time and work out the composition that works best.
Decide On Your Settings
Do you want to freeze that action or get a smooth effect on the water? There’s no right answer, just what you want your photograph to say. If you want to freeze the action you will need a fast shutter speed which will be dependent on how fast the water is flowing. Start at around 1/250s and work your way up until you get the desired effect. For smooth looking water you’ll need a slower shutter speed. Again, start at around 1/15s and work your way down. Remember that if you are going to be using a slow shutter speed you will need a tripod.
Think About Surroundings
One of the best ways to capture waterfalls is when they are in contrast to the plants, rocks and foliage around them, so look out for these elements around the waterfall that you can incorporate into your photo. Fallen trees, leaves and even people can transform an image and give it a completely unique look and feel. You could even sometimes make the waterfall secondary in the composition and have the focus on another element in the scene such leaves on the ground or even the flow of the water.
Use A Polarizing Filter
A polarizing filter is incredibly useful when photographing any body of water. Not only will it limit unwanted reflections, but it will also help boost the saturation of blues and greens which are in abundant in and around waterfalls. They are fairly cheap and can also act as extra protection for your lens glass from the water.
Unless the waterfall you are photographing requires a lot of effort to get to, it will likely attract crowds. One way to avoid this is to arrive very early in the day when you usually have the place to yourself. But if you do find that it’s busy just be patient and wait for a gap, but make sure you are ready and have your camera set up to go so that you don’t miss the opportunity. Or, you could always incorporate people into your composition to give a sense of scale and tell a completely different story.
Waterfalls make for fantastic photos and offer many different way of capturing them. But as with all landscape photography, try to think beyond the obvious and don’t be afraid to take risks with your composition and settings. Waterfalls are pretty well photographed and to make your images stand out you need to be prepared to dedicate the time and effort needed to capture them at their best.
Show us your waterfall photos and share your tips and experiences below.
Photo Credits: Kav Dadfar (All rights reserved).