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How to Photograph a Waterfall

Updated on December 27, 2013

Elakala Waterfalls

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

"Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young. At these times the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock, erosion happens slowly, while downstream the erosion occurs more rapidly. As the watercourse increases its velocity at the edge of the waterfall, it plucks material from the riverbed. Whirlpools created in the turbulence as well as sand and stones carried by the watercourse increase the erosion capacity. This causes the waterfall to carve deeper into the bed and to recede upstream. Often over time, the waterfall will recede back to form a canyon or gorge downstream as it recedes upstream, and it will carve deeper into the ridge above it. The rate of retreat for a waterfall can be as high as one and half meters per year." Wikipedia

Waterfalls can be a wonderful source of inspirational pictures if you know how to capture their beauty and magnificence correctly.

It is nit just snapping a shot of water falling over the edge. You must show your audience the inner workings of each waterfall and how the power of the water shapes each waterfall and how this extreme power can still be thought as beautiful.

One of the keys to capture good worthy images is to capture it in angles that have not seldom be seem and using perspectives that showcase how the water falls, how it flows how it breaks upon the rocks and how the environment adapts itself to its abundance of life giving water that brings life to everything it touches yet how destructive this same water can be if left unchallenged or disrupted or worse, not respected.

Mt. Shasta Waterfalls

(CC BY 2.0
(CC BY 2.0 | Source

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Bear in mind that some waterfalls end up in a river ,lake or smaller ponds that are created by the constant flow of water.

Sometimes swirls form and this are great shots to take.

Consider also that some of the vegetation that thrives around the fall can be colorful, although this depends on what region of the world the fall is located, there are always some breathtaking scenes featuring vegetation but if seasons change in the particular location then plan your shoot around the changes so you can capture images of the changing of the leaves as well as other naturally season inspired changes like Autumn colors, snow and so on.

Anderson Japanese Gardens

CC BY 2.0 Digitally edited to comply with TOS. You may see original by following link
CC BY 2.0 Digitally edited to comply with TOS. You may see original by following link | Source

This type of photography needs some basic gear among which is the tripod to stabilize your gear since most waterfalls present less than ideal lighting situations.

A wide angle lens to capture the entire scene and some telephoto lenses if you want to focus on single spots, a cloth rag since moisture here is abundant and you will need to wipe the camera body and lens often and perhaps a powerful flash unit, specially if you will be doing some night or dusk time pictures.

Polarizing filters although not a must can be helpful for eliminating reflections and glare for most waterlogged sites, plus they are also useful in darkening the blue of the sky and darkening clouds as well as foliage on nearby vegetation.

Try to take several shots of the same angle at various shutter speeds; slow to capture the movement of the water as if it were "floating clouds", a fast shutter speed to "freeze" everything and in between. This will let you judge where the best effects for your intended purpose fall and take it from there.

Remember to keep your photo case and other gear protected form humidity by enclosing them in a plastic bag when not in use and to wipe them off dry afterwards.

Glacier Cascade

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

These photographs are not only quite pleasing to the eye since they depict calming scenery and showcase one of nature's wonders but they are quite in demand by many greeting card and poster publications as well as many nature inspired ones.

They can also be used as single showcase pieces in an art gallery and if the scenes are well done they always feature a market.

It is good to research previous photographs done by others to get an idea of what angles and perspectives work and then add your own artistic spin on them keeping in mind what local governing board manages them, if any, and considering approaching them to gauge their interest in using your resulting images.

Swatara Falls

CC BY 2.0)
CC BY 2.0) | Source

© 2013 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      7 years ago from Miami, Florida

      WiccanSage: thank you

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      7 years ago

      Beautiful shots, all of them. Unfortunately the state I live in now has like 1 small waterfall in the whole state, lol. But I do love taking photos of waterfalls, rivers, streams, etc. I've tried it on a fast shutter speed and the water can almost look like ice; some shots I took up at Mt. Ranier in Washington state with some snow still sticking to the rocks made the waterfall literally look like it'd been frozen solid. I prefer the slow shutter speeds to get that sense of movement. Great hub, good advice.


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