Any introduction to photographing waterfalls will usually include the following: (1) always shoot on overcast days, (2) use a circular polarizer to minimize reflections in the water and (3) use a slow shutter speed to blur the water. Like many “rules”, they are best served as guidelines. Here are eight bold ways to take your waterfall photography to another level by challenging these (and other) rules.
1. Get wet.
Don’t be afraid to get in the water to create a bold, in- your-face foreground that puts the viewer smack dab in the middle of your composition. Safety should be your number one priority, so it goes without saying this requires sound judgment. The good news is that by positioning your camera in close proximity to even seemingly tame cascades, you can produce fantastic results. In all likelihood you will be contending with a near constant spray of water covering the front element of your lens. Bring a lens cloth, be patient and make a lot of images! If necessary, clone out water spots in post-processing.
2. Add texture.
Using a slow shutter speed produces a pleasing, soft motion blur in running water. In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the motion blur imparts a sense of the passage of time, adding another dimension to the image. Often not much thought is given to the shutter speed−just as long it creates “some” motion blur. Many photographs can benefit from adding subtle structure and details of the water providing it with a textural component. So rather than push towards longer exposures, experiment with faster shutter speeds. You’ll be surprised at how adding texture elements can transform an image.
3. Convert to black and white.
Be bold and create a high contrast, black and white image where the flow of water stands out in stark relief to its immediate surroundings. Compose images that utilize the flow of water to create compositional lines. Allow the lines to lead the eyes of the viewer through the entirety of the image, from top to bottom and from right to left.