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The smoothness of the water against the hard, sharp edges of the rocks or greenery that surrounds them can create very pleasing compositions. But, like all types of landscapes, photographing waterfalls can be challenging.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be sure to get some great shots:
The best time to photograph waterfalls is after rainfall as it means the water is in full force, and the rain helps saturate the greens in the forest, or the moss on the rocks, which will produce a beautiful luminous green colour. Avoid the drier seasons as you may find that the waterfall is no more than a trickle. Waterfalls are best photographed on overcast or cloudy days, as 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, just wait for a gap in the flow of traffic or get close and crop out the people in the picture. Remember that you could also try to incorporate people into your image, which can give the same waterfall a completely different context.
There is no right or wrong way to photograph moving water. Some people prefer to photograph the water in a way that captures the details, and some prefer to capture a smooth silk-like movement. Your shutter speed is key in determining how much movement you want in the water; 1/15th of a second should be a good starting point for blurring the water (go slower if you want more blur) and 1/250th or higher should start to freeze the water. If you are going to be photographing using slow shutter speeds remember to use a tripod to ensure you capture sharp images. A polarizing filter is also handy if you want to minimize unwanted light reflections in the water or rocks.
It might seem like a strange thing to say, after all the waterfall is the hero of the shot. But if you want to make the waterfall more interesting sometimes it better to make it secondary in the composition. By adding something in the foreground it will capture the viewer’s interest, then you can lead their eyes to the waterfall. This could be anything like rocks, a fallen tree, leaves, or even potholes. Not only will it make your photo more interesting but it can also help create a sense of movement in the water. So don’t settle for the first angle that you get, instead look around to see if there is anything interesting, which can help the composition. The key is to take your time rather than rushing to the next place.
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 provide a sense of scale, but it can also help your photo become more interesting, and tell a story. So don’t be afraid to add people into the image. Just 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 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.
Now it’s your turn. Share your photos, thoughts and tips below.