Thursday, January 27, 2011

How To Take Pictures Of Waterfalls

Click On The Image For A Larger View

Waterfalls are a magical show of sight and sound.  Capturing these tumbling cascades of rushing water with your camera is not hard, but taking one that you will treasure requires some forethought and planning.  This particular waterfall, called Soco Falls, was taken just east of Cherokee, North Carolina not far from the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smokey Mountains.  It is located on a winding road with a very small parking area near the road.  A 5-minute hike down to a wooden platform on the steep hillside gives you a nice view of the falls.  Click here for directions to the falls.

I took a few pictures but the lighting was not good.  The falls were lit by a high afternoon sun, with dark shadows and bright highlights.  I wanted more subdued light so I came back late in the evening, when the sun was no longer shining directly on the scene.  Instead of shooting from the wooden platform looking down on the falls I decided to hike down near the creek below the falls.  Carrying a camera and a tripod was not easy on the slippery path of rocks and mud (later I found out that a few people have fallen to their death at these falls).

With my camera on a tripod, I set my zoom lens to its widest view, 18mm.  To get the silky-water look you need a fairly long exposure, so I set my camera to aperture priority mode.  Aperture priority lets you set the f/stop (its aperture) manually while the camera sets the shutter speed automatically.  The larger the f/stop number you use, the longer the shutter speed has to be to get the same amount of light into the camera's sensor.  The setting for this picture was f/22 with a shutter speed of 8 seconds and an ISO 200.  The other thing that you need is a shutter release cable otherwise just you touching the camera's shutter button will blur the image.

Long exposures to capture the moving water is almost impossible in bright sunlight, so wait for more subdued lighting.  Cloudy, even rainy days are perfect.  Stop down the lens for long exposures to get the silky-water look.  And finally, taken lots of pictures from many viewpoints.  One is bound to be just the one you are looking for.

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