Our pal and frequent contributor Juan Pons brings us tips on photographing waterfalls this spring.
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Juan has a wonderful workshop on photographing waterfalls in North Carolina. Get more info on this killer workshop here, and get $50 off the workshop price if you mention OPG when you sign up!
The name of the game when shooting waterfalls is getting nice, silky water that looks like it’s flowing and it’s moving in energy. The way you accomplish that is by shooting with slow shutter speed, normally between one and a half seconds and four or five seconds. The rule of thumb as far as which speed to use is going to be based on the flow of the water, how fast the water is flowing and the amount of water that’s coming down. So, for example, when you have a lot of water and the water is moving very fast, you want to use something like one and a half seconds. When you don’t have as much flow and the water is moving slowly, you may go up to four seconds or so.
In a situation like this waterfall behind me, I am going at about one and a half second, maybe even one second. The way you accomplish that is by doing a couple different things. First is to use the lowest ISO your camera can handle, for example, ISO 100. Some cameras can do 50, and some cameras can only go down to 200, but that’s okay. There are a couple techniques that you can use to get that slow shutter speed, and I’ll tell you about those in a second. The way you get those slow shutter speeds is by doing a couple of things. First is using a small aperture, and the way you’re going to use that small aperture is to stop down your lens, usually between f8 to f16. You probably don’t want to go down to f22 because that may degrade your image quality.
The other thing that you want to do is use a neutral density filter. You can use a three stop neutral density filter or a six stop neutral density filter. Those two are the ones that I like to use. I like to use them sometimes independently, or sometimes I feel like I need to combine those. The last thing that you definitely want to be using is a polarizer, and make sure that you use that polarizer correctly. What you use the polarizer for is to actually remove the reflections from the water, and what you want to do is twist that polarizer so that as we look into the view finder, you can see that reflection coming off. I hope those tips help you the next time you’re out shooting a waterfall. So, why don’t you join me next time on one of my waterfall workshops, and I’ll take you to some locations like this. Take care.