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Outdoor Photography - WaterFalls

Waterfalls are almost always an interesting subject for you to photograph. When i was first taking pictures, I would always stick the camera up to my face and click away thinking that i was getting a great photo because it looked great in real life. When I got the pictures back from the developer I was always disappointed -- the print never looked like the photographs that I had seen on calendars and in books. Well there's a few tricks that I didnt know about to help make the photographs be more expressive and come to life a little bit. Below are two images of the same spot, I actually did this to illustrate a point to my wife while we were contemplating the universe.

In this first shot, I wanted to illustrate what a typical waterfall shot looks like. When setting my camera, I wanted to play around with the shutter speed and let the cameras light meter take care of the aperture -- so I set my camera on the 'TV' setting. The 'TV' setting allows you to set the desired shutter speed while the camera sets the aperture (the size of the opening in the lense). In this shot, I wanted to essentially stop the water, which requires a fast shutter speed, I selected 1/250th of a second. [The camera set the f/stop to f/20.] As you can see the water in this shot is essentially stopped which makes for an okay picture, but really didnt capture the beauty of the setting and makes for a forgettable picture.

This next shot is a much more interesting photograph. I changed the camera shutter setting to 1/10 of a second, which is pretty exaggerated -- I actually recommend a little slower setting of 1/25 or 1/30th of a second. With this slower shutter speed the camera changed the f-stop to f/20, which descreases the total amount of light coming into the camera. The two camera settings each let in the same amount of light as you can see from the consistent color in the background rocks. The aspect of this photo that makes it interesting is the 'Angel Hair' effect given to the water. The big difference is in the way that the water looks. With the slower shutter speed the white lines that you see on the top of the rocks as well as the seemingly solid white of the water really illustrates that the water is in motion. With the fast shutter speed you're actually able to see the drops of water, which is a little less interesting from a photographic perspective.

Here's how you do this:

  • Set your camera to 'Shutter Priority' ('TV').
  • Set the shutter speed to between 1/10 to 1/30th of a second. This will actually depend on the amount of sunlight that's available.
  • Try a neutral density filter (or filters) to darken the setting without changing colors -- please note it was unnecessary to use the filters on the day these shots were taken.
  • For waterfalls, go out on an overcast day AFTER a rainstorm when the water is higher than on hot sunny days.
  • For waterfalls, go in the springtime when the snowmelt makes for a lot of water coming down the hill or mountain.

All photos are copyrighted to the photographer, Kurt Tietjen from http://www.kurtteej.com
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