Photographing Waterfalls

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1 Photographing Waterfalls Developed and presented by Harry O Connor May 3, 2010 All photos by Harry O Connor

2 Introduction Waterfall photographs are landscapes Typical landscape considerations apply: Foreground interest Leading / diagonal lines Rule of thirds Geometric shapes Framing elements Special considerations apply Flowing water others Connestee Falls Near Brevard, NC 2

3 Special considerations Flowing water How much blur Icicle look to fog look Exposure Right for the water vs. right for the rocks, etc. Right for the water vs. right for the sky Terrain Valley with shadows Open overhead leads to bright spots Limited views More often too much light than too little light 3

4 Waterfalls are where you find them Sometimes volume and beauty are not synonymous Looking Glass Falls Pisgah Nat l Forest, NC Unnamed flow New River Gorge, WV 4

5 Although you don t find many around the triangle Map from: Top resource: North Carolina Waterfalls, A Hiking And Photography Guide By Kevin Adams 590 pages, 13 color & numerous B&W photos Published by John F. Blair, Publisher, 2005 Price: $

6 Caution! Waterfall photography can be dangerous Steep drops Slippery rocks Falling / loose rocks Unexpected flows Snakes, bears, other critters Poison ivy, poison oak, thorns International caution symbol from: 6

7 Agenda Equipment needed or useful Basics of exposure Applying the basics of exposure to waterfall photography Some photos to discuss / evaluate 7

8 Necessary / useful equipment Cable release Camera with adjustable aperture / shutter / ISO settings and filter screw-in thread Tripod Circular polarizer Lens: wide to moderate in most situations; sometimes a telephoto gets the good shot Raingear Neutral density filter 8

9 Straight JPEG files All photos in the next section are full frame, straight from the camera card jpeg files with no modifications unless otherwise explicitly stated. 9

10 A polarizer reduces light and reflections It is useful to differentiate blue sky / white clouds Put it on and rotate front glass and effect is visible Without polarizer With Polarizer _1516_ /1600 sec F _1516_ /320 sec F9 Note: BOTH these images had a slight levels adjustment to alleviate a somewhat muddy cast. 10

11 A polarizer reduces light and reflections It is useful to reduce reflections in water, glass etc. (non metallic) Without polarizer With Polarizer _1242_ /125 sec F _1243_ /100 sec F8.0 11

12 A polarizer reduces light and reflections It sometimes reduces unseen reflections to enhance apparent saturation Without polarizer With Polarizer _1314_ /320 sec F _1314_ /80 sec F4.5 12

13 A neutral density filter just blocks light When there is too much light for the desired aperture / shutter combination, ND will block light and allow the desired setting ND filters come in whole stop increments ND name Optical density # stops ND ND ND ND ND ND Most useful, if you only buy one NOTE: For this discussion we are referring to round, screw-in ND filters. You can also get square partially clear / partially ND filters that can be placed in front of a lens to affect only part of a frame. Table derived from: 13

14 Basic Exposure EXPOSURE TRIANGLE SENSOR SENSITIVITY (ISO) less Noise more Many versions of this graphic exist. Search Exposure Triangle for hundreds of hits. 14

15 The perfect exposure is a full bucket of water ISO is sensitivity of the sensor the amount of water (light) required to fill the bucket Low ISO takes more light to fill the bucket High ISO takes less light to fill the bucket 15

16 The perfect exposure is a full bucket of water Aperture is the opening in the hose Shutter speed is the time to let the water flow A coordinated hose size and flow time lead to a full bucket The gardener takes longer to fill the bucket with the small hose than the fireman takes with the large hose 16

17 How your camera sets exposure (Auto) It reads the light and calculates the best compromise of the three variables: Shutter ISO /2 Aperture 800 1/4 f /8 f /15 f /30 f22 1/60 f16 1/125 f11 1/250 f8 1/500 f5.6 1/1000 f4 f2.8 f2 f1.4 Probably biased toward a low ISO like 200 Probably biased toward a hand hold-able shutter like 1/125 or above Probably biased toward a mid aperture of f8 to f16 But other equal combinations exist (see ) Note: Each camera maker and camera model has its own algorithm for exposure. 17

18 How to set and use your camera at waterfalls* 1. Auto ISO off; set as low as you can, 100 or Mode to Shutter priority; S on most cameras, Tv on Canons 3. Set shutter to slow speed; ¼ or ½ second a good starting point Steps 1 2 & 3 result in the camera choosing the best aperture for calculated correct exposure 4. Mount on Tripod, attach cable release, screw in polarizer filter 5. Frame shot 6. Rotate polarizer to darkest setting or near darkest setting 7. Depress shutter part way and review shutter / aperture values If aperture value is high and blinks**, the scene requires a smaller physical aperture than your lens has; choice is to use ND filter or faster shutter speed 8. Take a test exposure and review as indicated on the next slide * Harry s opinion based on experience and research ** Your camera might have a different indication 18

19 Review your histogram and look for blinkies Under exposed --- Slower shutter or Wider aperture or Higher ISO Good overall exposure No blown highlights, Minimal blocked shadows Over exposed --- Faster shutter or Narrower aperture or Lower ISO or ND filter Most cameras display blown highlight / blocked shadow indications with blinking warnings. Here, Blue indicates pure black, Red indicates pure white Generally, you want to avoid pure white in the water and sky by adjusting for less exposure. Histograms and blinkies simulated in Photoshop but are similar to what is available in many cameras 19

20 Have Fun! Bracket Auto if you want to bracket every shot, or dial in exposure compensation for some shots Move around Get close to or in the water Try slower / faster shutter speeds Get the big picture Look for interesting details Next we ll look at some samples of photos shot with different settings 20

21 I went to Umstead Park to take some photos of a waterfall there to illustrate this presentation The day was overcast but bright. Note the absence of bright sun or dark shadows. You don t see a waterfall? Look closer The upcoming series of photos was taken with the camera set with ISO fixed at 100 and Mode at Shutter Priority. Then I manually decremented the shutter speed. 21

22 No filter _1214_ /30 sec F5.0 22

23 No filter _1214_ /8 sec F

24 No filter _1215_ /10 sec F

25 No filter _1215_ /10 sec F

26 Polarizer _1221_ /15 sec F5.0 26

27 Polarizer _1222_ /10 sec F

28 Polarizer _1222_ /10 sec F

29 4ND _1227_ /10 sec F

30 Shoot RAW! The photos used to illustrate the shutter and filter points were JPEG to avoid issues of manipulation, but in real situations there is often detail available in RAW exposures in both the shadow and highlight areas that has been compressed out of the JPEG exposures. Use the recovery and fill light sliders to bring out detail, as well as the exposure slider to fine tune the overall image. All photos from this point forward are from raw images processed in Photoshop. 30

31 Hidden Falls Hanging Rock State Park, North of Winston-Salem > 14 foot drop _1018_ f32 31

32 Bald River Falls Tellico Plains, TN Just off Cherhola Skyway > 100 foot drop _1029_34 3 exposure HDR 400 1/4, ½, 1 f22 32

33 Blackwater Falls Blackwater Falls State Park, WV Northeast corner of WV > 60 foot drop _2209_ /50 f18 33

34 Middle Falls Near Brevard NC > 6 foot drop _1035_ /4 f14 34

35 Thanks for listening Many hints and tips available by searching for Landscape Composition or Waterfall Photography Many locations (including free map and brochure offers) by searching NC Waterfalls If you need a copy of this presentation, or have any questions, send me a note at: 35

Photographing Waterfalls

Photographing Waterfalls Photographing Waterfalls Developed and presented by Harry O Connor oconnorhj@yahoo.com July 26, 2017* All photos by Harry O Connor * Based on May 2012 topic Introduction Waterfall photographs are landscapes

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