Want to shoot waterfalls with a greeting card effect ? Well here are the few things I want to share which I learnt while chasing the waterfalls.
September , October and November are perfect months for waterfall photography in Karnataka. The Monsoons are just getting over and they are leaving huge amount of water that rundown and reach the sea!
Gears : Basic DSLR camera , prosumer cameras like Canon SXIS, Nikon Coolpix or Powershot series or any camera with aperture control, Tripod ( optional) , A CPL filter( if you have a DSLR) , ND filter ( optional) , shutter release ( optional)
Best time to capture: A good cloudy day, before 10AM and after 3PM. You can take photos between 10-3pm but I don’t really encourage that.
Where to go: You need not visit the highest or largest waterfall in the world where you will be accompanied by thousands of tourists . Also you will end up taking same photos that everybody is taking! What you need is quite stream running down the hill. If you are ready to go anywhere in Karnataka just for waterfall photography I can suggest you millions of places!
- Generally for waterfalls you will get lots of time. So you can think and compose intelligently. I will simply go to aperture mode, dial f8 , keep ISO 100 and check what is the shutter speed camera is exposing to. If the shutter speed is slow enough to make the waterfalls blur then I am good with f8.
check these images ( you can click to view it bit larger). Slower you get more blur on water you get.
So you know what you need now right? But keep in mind do not go beyond F22. Try to stay below f16.
For me the best slowest shutter speed starts from 1 sec. Slower I get nicer the pics come.
Ok, camera settings are good. Now what ? Composing. Wander a little bit around the waterfalls . Make a mental note of camera positions. Make sure you can keep your tripod firmly. I told you will have enough time. Think and compose wisely. Mount your camera on tripod , if you have a shutter release use it or you can put the timer on ( 2 sec preferable unless you are shooting yourself in the waterfalls ) and shoot. If your camera is focus hunting you can use the manual focus.
If the waterfalls you are visiting is famous and many people keep visiting them I would do an image search over internet and try to understand the geography. Also I would do a small homework how to take a different shot at this place.
If you are exploring a waterfalls then it is total fun. You are the master as you are going to create the first photos so first impression!
I always prefer the second option but I don’t want to miss the famous waterfalls as well!
What I learnt:
- Take a regular shot that everybody has taken first.
- Think something different. Take a shot that nobody has produced. Including some objects in the frame make very interesting unique photograph
- Try to add some scale to the waterfalls. You can do this by adding a small human element or some object whose we are familiar with. ( remember if you add scale to a small stream then it will look funny
- Try different focal lengths. Sometime a flat image creates more depth .
- Beware of spoiler objects. There might be dead tree branches, plastics ,cloths etc. So before even starting clean up the waterfalls instead of doing in post processing software . It is a good service to the nature as well .But some time dead tree branches can be sued for composition!
- Try to include colors. Very difficult in our region as we have only one color that is green but see if you get some colorfull rocks !! or May be some flowers and sky! !
- Try black and whites. You can make a great black and white photos from waterfalls.
- Make a good use of light. Faster shutter speeds along with a good light will make pretty interesting waterfalls shots.
- Try some interesting angles/ perspectives . Result will be amazing!
- Do not hesitate to take man-made waterfalls, they might be interesting too!
Use of CPL
A circular Polarizing filter ( CPL) is very useful when shooting a waterfalls. CPL removes the glare created by the light. Check these images to find out the differences. To know the science behind it check this link.
But be sure you are rotating the CPL to get it in the correct position. If the front element of the lens rotating then for every focus you need to rotate your CPL to get it right position. If your front lens element is fixed type then you have to rotate only when you switch between landscape to portrait.
If no tripod
You can place your camera on something like a bag or a thick cloth. But you have to struggle a little to get the framing right. But still you can shoot it!
Common mistakes which I done many times :
- Leaving IS ( Image stabilization ) on when mounted on tripod
- Not setting the horizon properly ( believe I still do this mistake often )
- Forgetting to out your camera neck strap around your neck. : Never ever forget! You don’t want to give you’re a camera a good mountain water wash!
- Don’t forget where you are while shooting : Don’t be too brave, I don’t want my readers or anybody fall and drown in a waterfalls while photographing ! ( ok , I have not done this ever)
- While camera is shooting you doing your funny acts like running around or chatting with friends etc. Be watchful and keep thinking about the next composition.
- Just taking one shot of the waterfall and coming back : never do it. I will do minimum 10 composition if I get to see a waterfalls! And a safety shot, few same shots with different settings !
In other words don’t finish your shoot with slow shutter speeds. Try fast shutter speeds as well. Based on the light available you might get amazing results!
7. Forgetting that timer is on( if you are not using shutter release) : Don’t forget as a tiger may jump in to the falls and you try to capture it waiting for camera to click!!
8. Do not leave your stuff.
9. Always keep an umbrella and some plastic covers with you if you are out in a rainy day( do I need to write this here ?)
10. Be careful about snakes, leeches, spiders etc.
11. Don’t pollute the nature instead clean it. It is a great service to nature. Clean a waterfalls even if it is not so photogenic!
12. See below in detail!
13. See below in detail!
POINT No 12: Enjoy
Nature has given so much to us. Look at the waterfalls , so beautiful, so peaceful ! Sit there and relax, spend some time forgetting the camera. Jump in to it enjoy the fresh water.
Point no 13:
Ok, this will push you down from the ride. I have this stream in my native place that I often visit during monsoon. Every time I visit my ideas are improved, conditions are different and I take always different shots. I shot some photos for the stock agency and I enjoyed as I told in the Point no 11. Then I moved further and shot many photos and again enjoyed. Then I went further following the stream suddenly I shocked to see a DEAD MONKEY IN THE STREAM!! YEEEEEYKS!
luckily I was all alone and nobody had chance to see my face at that time. But hope you got the message.
If anybody found any of the information is not correct anywhere please comment or email me so that I can correct it or modify it.