5 Tips to Improve Your Waterfall Photos

One of my favorite subjects to photograph are powerful yet serene waterfall scenes.  The payoff of reaching a stunning waterfall after a long hike is always worth it and even more so if you can capture a stunning image from that moment in time.  I'm going to share a few things I always keep in mind while photographing these locations to try and help you get great shots you can be proud of.

Blackwater Falls, West Virginia

Blackwater Falls, West Virginia

1. Weather/Time of Day - For the most part I usually plan waterfall shoots for cloudy days.  Cloudy days are great for even light and cutting reflections off the water and shiny surfaces.  Also cloudy days help you achieve slower shutter speeds which are useful to show motion in the water.  If it is cloudy you can pretty much shoot waterfalls all day long.  If you are going to be taking photographs of waterfalls on a sunny day I would plan to use the soft early morning light.  Direct sunlight in the middle of the day will cause very harsh reflections and cause lots of your shots to be overexposed and it will make it harder to shoot at the optimal shutter speeds.  (The photo of Blackwater Falls above was shot at 7AM just around sunrise.)

2. Tripod - When shooting waterfalls always use a sturdy tripod.  Camera shake will always ruin even the best of subjects and especially when working with waterfalls.  The slower shutter speeds you will most likely be using are very susceptible to motion blur so always have your camera on a sturdy tripod and use a wireless remote/self timer/cable release and mirror lock up if using a DSLR.

3. Shutter Speed - Typically when shooting waterfalls I like to blur the water to show motion but not too much to lose all the details in the water.  I find a good starting point for a shutter speed is 1/8th of a second for very fast moving water all the way down to 2 seconds for water that is more calm and not moving as fast.  It's important for you to experiment with different speeds to find the look you want for your artistic vision but I find that range from 1/8th to 2 seconds to be excellent for waterfalls.

Elakala Falls, West Virginia

Elakala Falls, West Virginia

4. Polarizing Filter - One great tool you should always have in your camera bag for shooting waterfalls or landscapes in general is a polarizing filter.  A polarizing filter is helpful with waterfalls to reduce the light getting into your camera to help you achieve the slow shutter speeds I mentioned above.  Also the filter will help cut reflections of vegetation, rocks and water.  If you have ever seen those photos where you can see right through the water to the rocks below it's because they used a polarizing filter.  I never shoot waterfalls without one as I find it to be essential in creating the look I want.  Also, spend some money to get a decent filter, you don't want to put a cheap filter in front of an expensive lens.  It will degrade the image quality.  I would recommend polarizing filters made by Hoya or B+W which are affordable brands but still provide great results.

5.  Angle/Perspective - One of the fun things about photographing waterfalls is being able to immerse yourself into the scene.  Waterfalls are a very popular thing to photograph and that can make it hard to come up with a shot that hasn't been done before.  I recommend trying to get low or close to the water or have an interesting foreground subject like a log or rocks. So get down into the scene and If you have to get in the water to get a perspective that other people haven't captured of the same location.  Be careful though, rocks around streams and rivers are super slippery so use extreme caution and wear shoes and clothes that are suitable for that kind of climbing.  Never put yourself in danger to get a shot, this should be fun after all and not something that puts you in danger or in the hospital.

Hopefully you found this information helpful and you get out there and capture some great waterfall shots.  If you have any questions or comments you can contact me through the 'Meet The Artist" section of my site or leave me a comment below.




VIntage Racer Group Turkey Bowl 2015

Not only do I enjoy shooting landscapes and nature one of my other favorite subjects to photograph is auto racing.  Ever since I was a kid my parents would take us up to Summit Point Raceway a few weekends every summer to watch the SCCA races.  I actually got my first experience shooting photographs at these events using a Pentax film camera and not having much idea what I was doing.  My father did teach me about focusing and panning but at the time it all seemed so daunting.  

Yesterday I was back up at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia enjoying the smell of the rubber and exhaust, sounds of the engines all these things instantly bring back great memories from my childhood.  The Vintage Racer Group was having it's annual Turkey Bowl race which gives me a chance to practice my skills at panning and action/sports photography.  I created a short slide show video of some of the images from the race  and posted it below, enjoy.

Manassas Battlefield Sunset Time Lapse 10-17-15

Our first cold day of the fall here in Virginia and I decide to go stand outside in the 25mph wind gusts to do a time lapse video at Manassas National Battlefield.  Needless to say I forgot my wool hat at home and my ears and hands were pretty cold and numb by the time I was done.  This video captures the famous Stonewall Jackson statue facing the sunset and you can see visitors to the battlefield wandering around in the background. This time I used basic jpegs to hopefully speed up processing time which it did but also made editing the final product trickier than shooting in raw.  I guess it is a compromise in speed/ease over quality.  This video is best watched in HD 720p in YouTube.  Hope you enjoy!

Time Lapse Photography for Beginners

Yesterday I went out and tried something I've been wanting to do for awhile.  Packed up my camera gear and left the house at 5:30AM to make it to Leesylvania State Park in time for sunrise.  It was raining when I left but hoped that the clouds would clear just enough to get a decent sunrise with nice color.  Fate and nature were on my side and the rain stopped just before getting to the park.  Got out my Nikon D7100 and my trusty Tokina 11-16mm wide angle lens and attached it to my tripod on the pier.  Using the cameras built in intervalometer I set the camera to take a shot every 10 seconds and to take a total of 200 photos.  Here are the final results of my first attempt at capturing a time lapse.  

This time lapse consisted of 197 photos taken at 10 second intervals which took somewhere between 15-20 minutes to complete.  The video was processed using Adobe Lightroom 5.7 and output at 24 Frames per second at 720p to YouTube.  Now a few tips for beginners on accomplishing your first time lapse video.

  1. Digital camera with a built in intervalometer or a third party intervalometer that plugs into the camera so you can do time interval shooting (taking a set number of shots in a predetermined amount of time).  Basically it trips the shutter so you don't have to press the button every time.
  2. Tripod, it's essential that your camera has a stable base so it doesn't move while recording images.
  3. Fully charged batteries and plenty of room on your memory card.  Since you can't afford to have your camera stop shooting in the middle of the process it is important to make sure your battery is fully charged and you have plenty of free space on your card.
  4. Patience, you can stand around for 20 minutes or longer  just waiting for the camera to do it's thing so patience is key.
  5. Don't shoot the highest quality RAW files, I would stick to the smaller RAW files so it will make the processing time faster when actually creating the video.  Full RAW files will make the process painfully slow when you are back doing the work on the computer.  If you don't have a smaller RAW file option shoot JPEG.
  6. Shoot in Aperture Priority mode.  This way the camera will adjust the exposure automatically throughout the shooting process using the light meter.
  7. A program that will let you process the files into a video format when you get home.  I used Adobe Lightroom 5.7 but there are other programs out there that can help you output the images into video.
  8. Lastly, YOU NEED MOTION!  If you don't have anything moving in your time lapse you might as well have just shot a regular photo.  You need motion to make a time lapse interesting.  Clouds, water, cars, people all make interesting moving subjects for a time lapse.

Web store now open for orders!

I'm pleased to announce that you can now order prints of many of my photographs online through my web store!  Many sizes and types of prints are available including ready to hang canvas and metal! 

If you don't see your favorite print in the store please let me know and I can make it available for you to purchase.