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Tips For Photographing Waterfalls
By Terry Girard Submitted On December 03, 2008
Waterfalls make a great subject for landscape photography. Either as part of a panoramic view or as a stand-alone landscape, waterfall scenes can be quite spectacular.
You have seen pictures of waterfalls in magazines and books and would love to be able to take pictures such as those. Well it is not as hard as you may think. In this article you will find some simple tips to use when confronted with a magnificent waterfall.
These are a few items that you should consider having with you on your outing to the waterfalls or any other photo shoot for that matter.
1) A tripod is a must. You will be using long shutter speeds and it is essential to keep the camera rock steady.
2) Use a shutter release cable instead of the shutter release button. This is not an essential piece of equipment if you are very careful. However it is possible to get camera shake when you press the shutter release button.
3) Use a neutral density filter. This will help keep the shot from being overexposed in the lighter areas such as sky, clouds, snow etc. It will also help reduce the light source so you can use longer exposure times. The longer exposure will give the flowing water of the falls that silky appearance. This makes for a much more attractive shot.
4) If possible take a variety of lenses. This of course will enable you to take shots from wide angle panoramic to tight-in telephoto. It will also enable you to take shots from varying distances.
5) A lens hood will cut down on flaring especially if there are sunny periods.
6) Put your equipment in a backpack. This is the most comfortable way to carry it. Make it as light as possible.
7) If you will be walking trails to get to the falls make sure you have a trail map and make it an outing with friends. Always remember safety first.
Here are some tips about your camera settings. Not all cameras will have all of these settings. Read your cameras manual and use the settings that are available to you.
1) If you can adjust the ISO on your camera, set it low, 100 should be fine. If your camera does not go that low do not worry, just set it as low as you can.
2) Try different f-stops to see which affect you like best. A higher f-stop will give you a greater depth of field and allow for a longer shutter speed without over exposing the shot.
3) Experiment with the shutter speed. Try 1 or 2 seconds or even longer. The effect will be dazzling. The longer the exposure the softer the moving water will appear.
4) Set the camera to bracket the shot. When you hold the shutter release down the camera will take three shots. One at regular exposure then one a little under and one a little overexposed. You can then choose the one you like the best.
5) Set the white balance manually. Again, your cameras manual will tell you how to do this.
Taking the shot.
Now it is finally time to take the picture. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
1) Start taking your pictures from a distance, and gradually move in closer. This will help to keep the scene from becoming contaminated. You do not want ugly footprints in your scene especially if it is a winter scene. (For those of us who get snow in the wintertime.)
2) Take your pictures when the waterfall is in the shade. The best time of day is early morning or evening when the light is not so direct. An overcast day is also great for shooting waterfalls. The cloudy conditions help to diffuse the light.
3) Frame the falls with the rocks of the cliff or trees, or ice formations. If you get ice and snow during your winter this is absolutely the best time to photograph waterfalls
4) Do not put the waterfalls right in the center of the shot. Try for an angle from one side or the other or place the falls offset in the frame. If you can get close to the bottom or the top of the falls without getting your camera wet this can make for a spectacular shot. Always remember. Safety first. Do not try for that spectacular shot if there is a danger of falling.
5) Try tilting the camera at different angles. Sometimes this can give you a perspective you did not see at first. A tall slender waterfall looks better when the camera is tilted 90 degrees, to give a portrait view. A wide waterfall looks better taken with the camera level in a landscape view.
Make preparation, collect together the proper equipment and travel as light as possible. There will be hiking involved.
Decide on a strategy for the shoot. Write down the settings you will want to use in an order that flows well.
Approach with a plan. Take your distance shots first to avoid contaminating the scene. Have your shots planned before hand. But be prepared for that unexpected, unplanned shot. You will find that those are often the prize shots of your outing.
When walking into the falls pay attention to your surroundings. You never know when a terrific shot will present itself. Where ever you go always be looking for photographic opportunities.
Go out often and you will find that you learn something new each time and you will be able to see the improvement in your photography.
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