Some of the most awe-inspiring natural landscape pictures are waterfalls. As a subcategory of landscape photography, waterfall photography presents a unique set of challenges. Photographing flowing water can be tricky, but the following guide will give you some techniques and tips to consider for staging and capturing waterfall photos.
Photographing waterfalls can make for challenging conditions, so the baseline is a dust-and-drop resistant camera. A wide-angle zoom lens is optimal as it gives you more flexibility when capturing a waterfall from different perspectives, reducing the need to reposition in a potentially hazardous environment.
In order to ensure stability and prevent unwanted blur or a loss of detail, you’ll also want to bring a tripod along. Depending on how far you have to trek, packing your gear securely while limiting the weight of your pack should be a priority. Keep yourself light on your feet and be aware of your surroundings. The footholds around a waterfall are typically wet and slippery, and it would be terrible if anything other than water takes a plunge.
One of the most important factors in capturing great waterfall images is your camera’s shutter speed. Flowing water can either blur into a smooth, tranquil body that conveys constant movement, or it can be highly detailed and expose the waterfall’s sheer force. For starters, you can use the shutter priority mode, allowing you to concentrate on capturing movements while the camera takes care of the aperture and ISO.
A long exposure – slow shutter speed ¬– is commonly used for waterfall photography to give the water that smooth silky look without sacrificing focus and detail.
A short exposure – fast shutter speed – is going to expose finer details, such as splashing water and water drops. Short exposure can freeze movement, which may not be desired if you want to highlight the mesmerising flow of water against its motionless surroundings.
Most photographers prefer lower lighting for shooting certain landscape images, like waterfalls. Too much exposure to light can wash out an image. Photographers will need to plan accordingly to take advantage of lower visibility. Schedule your shot in either early morning or evening, or during a highly overcast day. On the other hand, the cloudy weather may be too dull for a landscape shot, so you may want to shoot from a higher elevation to take in less of the sky.
When it comes to challenging photo subjects like waterfalls, the best advice is to practice and learn from your images. When you’re just beginning, consider choosing a waterfall close to home so you can visit again and again to experiment with your camera’s settings and your own creativity. Have patience and your effort will pay off. Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings and your safety, as shooting near a waterfall can be risky. Once you’ve become comfortable and have discovered your preferred camera settings and positioning, you’ll be able to explore different locations and use your new skills on any waterfall you discover.