Waterfall Photography Notes
Bell, HCA Manager of Design and Development and photographer (photo at
left taken by Sandy Bell)
My favourite time to photograph
waterfalls is on overcast or rainy days. This type of weather tends to
intensify colours and allow slower shutter speeds. Although you don’t
want too much rain that it turns your water to the colour of chocolate
milk. Remember you always get better lighting at the beginning and the
end of the day.
A tripod is an indispensable tool for
photographing waterfalls. This allows you to use slower shutter speeds
which are great for giving your waterfalls photographs a feeling of flow.
Shutter speeds of 1/15 to ¼ of a second will show the motion of the water
much like our eyes see it. Shutter speeds of 1 second and slower will
give you that silky look that is favoured by many photographers including
myself. Don’t be afraid to use higher shutter speeds when you are working
on close-ups and want to freeze the water spray droplets in mid-air.
Photographing waterfalls in full sunlight can be very tricky due to
the brightness and contrast of the surroundings. Rather than rely solely
on your camera’s meter, try bracketing your exposure. With digital
cameras, this is very easy and by taking three or four pictures at
varying exposures you will ensure you have one that is properly exposed.
Another tool for photographing waterfalls is a polarizer filter. A
polarizer will help reduce reflections in the water and intensify colours.
Be sure to fully rotate the polarizer to see the effect it will have on
Aside from the technical approaches to photographing
waterfalls, think about your composition. If the sky is overcast or takes
away from the scene, minimize it. In fact, consider leaving it out of the
picture unless it adds to the scene. Look for different vantage points
from which to photograph. Do you want to shoot from the top or the
bottom? Don’t be afraid to try wide angle or telephoto lenses if that
adds to the picture. Try to include things that give scale to your
photograph so people can get a sense of the size of the waterfall.
However, remember you should only photograph from locations that are
safe for the photographer, since injuring yourself to get a good picture
is counter productive. In the same vein, please do not trample cliff side
plants or create new trails in your quest to find a great vantage point.