Silver Falls State Park, Oregon

Middle North Falls, Oregon- Tutorial on photographing waterfalls

[/caption] There are several necessary ingredients when photographing waterfalls or fast moving water: First, you need to find the perfect subject such as a waterfall or area along a creek or river that looks like a photogenic spot. You then need to be sure that the vegetation is at its peak. That means that there can’t be any of the vegetation that is still dormant, dead or brown. This means that you will probably need to wait until late Spring or early Summer. However, you also want to have the water level fairly high since a thundering waterfall is more photogenic than a trickle. Therefore, your best opportunity is to take your photos when the vegetation is at its absolute peak and the water level is high. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you want to go out on a overcast or even rainy day since A bright sun can prevent you from setting a long exposure as well as create too much glare. The photo that I posted is a perfect example. I included some of the overcast sky in order to show that you can set a longer exposure and still include some of the sky in the shot. I positioned myself at a spot where there was plenty of vegetation so I could enhance the effect that a succulent landscape provides. I was able to extend the shutter speed to 4 seconds without any glare, even though it was taken at 12:30pm in the middle of June. There are several things that you can do as well to ensure a good exposure. You want to set your histogram on your camera so you can play back each of your shots and ensure that it’s not over exposed or under exposed. I try to get the histogram in the middle of the grid. Since I always attach my ND filters when taking photos of moving water, I have an advantage of someone that isn’t using them. An ND filter is critical and you pretty much can’t take any descent photos of waterfalls without one. I normally attach my ND4, CIR PL and warming filter. However, I also have an ND8. I then adjust the ISO to 100 and then adjust the white balance. The correct white balance setting is critical and many people overlook the importance since taking long exposed photos during the middle of the day can ruin a good quality photo. Another very important thing to remember is to always use a tripod. I also attach my remote switch and bubble level since I don’t want to take any chances of jerking the camera when I take the shot. The bubble level ensures that it’s not crooked and I don’t trust using the power of thirds grid that’s available on your camera settings. I also never use manual mode since I’ve never had any problems with the automatic setting. I either set the camera in program/normal mode or shutter priority whenever I want to set the shutter speed. The shutter speed on this photo was set at 4 seconds and I’ve found out that any more than 4 seconds isn’t really necessary. You will still get the flowing motion of the waterfall over creek and eliminate the chances of ending up with water spray on your lens or blurry leaves in the photo. I was using my Sigma 17-70mm lens and set the focal length at 21mm in order to frame the waterfall with the vegetation surrounding the scene. The aperture was at F-13 and again I set the shutter speed at 4 seconds. As you can see, the vegetation is lush and green with no dormant plants and the waterfall is thundering over the cliff. Waterfalls can be one of the most frustrating subjects to photograph but they can also be the most exciting since the end result can really be spectacular. Another thing to remember is that photoshop is a great tool to use in order to saturate the vegetation but make sure that you don’t overdue it. Rely on your camera settings when your out in the field and only use photoshop to do some cropping and maybe add a little saturation. However, sometimes I will sharpen the photo if needed.

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