Hamilton Conservation Authority City of Hamilton Bruce Trail Conservancy


Waterfall Photography Notes

Borer's Falls
Sandy 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 your picture.

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.

  Copyright © 2023 Hamilton Conservation Authority - Hamilton, Ontario, Canada