Waterfalls can look stunning in photos. Whether it’s a thundering waterfall off a cliff face or a gentle flow they can look beautiful. Sometimes it’s the smoothness of the water against the hard and sharp edges of the rocks. Or maybe the greenery that surrounds them. It can all combine to make for very pleasing compositions. But like all types of landscapes, waterfalls can be challenging to photograph. So here are 6 tips for photographing waterfalls.
Timing is key
The best time for photographing waterfalls is after rainfall. This is when the waterfall is in full force. The rain also helps saturate the greens in the forest or the moss on the rocks. This can them a lovely luminous green colour. Sometimes during the dry season, you may find that the waterfall is no more than a trickle. Waterfalls are also best photographed on overcast or cloudy days. This is because the even light can compensate for the harsh contrasts between the water and the rocks or vegetation.
Unless the waterfall you are photographing requires a lot of effort to get to, it will likely attract crowds. One of the best ways 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 try to wait for a gap in the flow of traffic or get close and crop out the people in the picture. Remember that you could always try to incorporate people into your image. This can give the same waterfall a completely different context and often add to the story.
Think about your shutter speed
There is no right or wrong way to photograph moving water. Some people prefer to freeze the water so that they can capture the details. Some prefer to create a smooth or silk-like movement. Your shutter speed is key in determining how much movement you want in the water. In other words the slower your shutter speed the more movement you will see in your image.
1/30 secs should be a good starting point for blurring the water (go down if you want more blur). If you want to freeze the action, set your shutter speed to 1/250 secs or higher. If you are going to be photographing using slow shutter speeds remember to use a tripod. This will ensure you capture sharp images. A polarizing filter is also handy if you want to minimise unwanted light reflections in the water or on the rocks.
Think about the composition
It’s important to compose your images to work with the river and waterfall. Remember not to place your waterfall in the middle of the picture (unless it works in the composition). 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 to direct the viewer’s attention from one object to another. The key is to study the scene, take your time and work out the composition that works best.
Think about the surroundings
One of the most intriguing things about waterfalls is the contrast between them and 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 potholes can transform an image and give it a completely unique look and feel. You could even make the waterfall secondary in the composition and keep the focus on another element in the scene. For example, leaves on the ground or even the flow of the water.
Look for people
One of the best ways to make your photos look original and also give them context is to include people. Not only can including people help give a sense of scale but it can also help your photo tell a story. So don’t be afraid to add people into the image. If you do, make sure that you are either using a fast enough shutter speed to shoot handheld or you are using a tripod.
Waterfalls make for fantastic photos. But as with all landscape photography you need to try and think beyond the obvious. Waterfalls are photographed a lot. So to make your images stand out you need to be prepared to dedicate the time and effort needed to capture them at their best. Follow these tips for photographing waterfalls and you will be on your way to capturing some stunning photos.
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