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Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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How to Shoot Compelling Waterfall Photos?


How do you seasoned photographers make your water in your waterfall pictures look smooth or sometimes like smoke? Do you get this effect by the setting you choose when taking the picture? OR, do you all manipulate the photo in photo Shop to get that effect?


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4/3/2008 5:57:48 AM

 
W.    Hi Tammy,

"We" stick our cameras on a tripod, select the lowest ISO, and a slow shutter time (like 1 second or longer), attach an ND filter if required, and set the whole rig off with the selftimer.

Have fun!


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4/3/2008 7:32:18 AM

 
W.   
Now, that didn't even hurt, did it? ;-P


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4/3/2008 7:38:06 AM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  The challenge is the longer shutter speed, especially if it's bright outside...that's where a polarizer or as W.S. suggests, a neutral density filter help....anything to cut light. Lower the ISO, go to smaller aperture. Cloudy weather helps too. Also, you can start to get blur at 1/3rd to 1/2 seconds.


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4/3/2008 7:38:48 AM

 
no 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/29/2005
  you definitely need a tripod but if you can't afford one or don't have one you can always use a bunch of little stress reliever balls or anything soft and sturdy (i say soft because it gives you more leway to get the shot you want)

After that you should probably shoot with a shutter speed 1/6 or lower depending on how fast the water is, experiment, if you're a beginner i'd say put it on aperature priority and mess with a bunch of different shutter speeds

hope this helped!


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4/3/2008 8:31:22 AM

 
Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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  Thank you all very much for telling me your deepest darkest secrets....LOL... I do have the filters as W.S. indicated and I do have a tripod. As for affording a tripod, lol, well the camera would have been my expensive piece so a tripod is nothing in comparison. I have been wanting to try a shot and I know the most perfect place not far from me and it's easy to get to.

I will have to try it if I go out this afternoon.

Tammy


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4/3/2008 9:14:55 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy Tammy. Tripods are just one way to support your camera. The object being camera support during the exposure you can even use a boulder, a tree limb, etc.

As far as shutter speeds, you probably ought to experiment with that to find which ones produce the results you're looking for and under which lighting conditions. If you shoot when the light is softer, at sunrise or sunset, you can get away with longer speeds and the color effects are more subtle. I've shot water scenes from oceans to rivers to waterfalls at speeds from seconds to minutes.

And yep, you might want to try a .6 ND filter but shooting in less light like twilight will help. Remember, the brightness of the sky will be amplified / brightened considerably with the longer exposure times and at twilight or even later, probably balanced with the brightness level of the water.

Now what I REALLY want to know is why is the ocean so salty?
Take it light.
Mark


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4/3/2008 10:53:08 AM

 
W.   
"Now what I REALLY want to know is why is the ocean so salty?"

Because when the sun evaporates the water, the minerals salts do NOT evaporate and so stay behind in the remaining water. Making it salty.


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4/3/2008 1:03:43 PM

 
John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
  "Because when the sun evaporates the water, the minerals salts do NOT evaporate and so stay behind in the remaining water. Making it salty."

Self-professed photographers should stick to picture-taking and stay away from the natural sciences.


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4/3/2008 3:45:05 PM

 
W.   
Just like self-appointed moderators should stay away from me.


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4/3/2008 4:46:14 PM

 
Donald R. Curry
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/2/2006
wildlifetrailphotography.com
  Tammy,

I do all the above, but going early morning just right when the sun starts to come up or late afternoon just before the sun goes down can't be emphasized enough. Water reflects light much better than the plants and rocks around it. If you photograph the falls in bright light the water will be blown out. Timing is everything. Sometimes you have to go back to the same place several times to get it right. Tall falls are tricky because the light is bright at the top and dark at the bottom. A GD Filter helps with this. Once you get it right you will be hooked on waterfalls. Good luck and let me know how you do.


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4/3/2008 5:13:14 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Actually, the reason is because the ocean is filled with smelt herring.
M.

P.S.
Good one W.


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4/3/2008 5:16:40 PM

 
Bernard    Now Mark
you can't be like that guy named anonymous, you can't cover it up, we told you not to drink so much beer when the rest room was out of order.


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4/4/2008 12:34:54 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
cammphoto.com
  To "veil" water effectively, these points should be remembered:
1) A tripod or other support is essential if your composition includes elements surrounding the falls.
2) Your distance to the action can determine what shutter speed to use. At greater distances, a much slower speed will be required to blur the action than if the same falls were photographed closer. The effect you seek will be much harder to achieve from far away.
3) Overcast days are best ... but keep in mind that heavy cloud cover or deep shade will render the entire scene with a bluish tinge. You can use warming filters (or white-balance adjustments) to combat this color shift.
4) Compose carefully to avoid any sunlit portions of the falls when shooting in deep shade or those portions of the frame will blow out (...and over-expose). Also, avoid including the sky in all shooting scenarios for the same reason.
5) Practice on small falls on tiny creeks so you can get close to the action ... so close in fact that you have to worry about water splashing onto your lens. This will not only solve the distance dilhemma but sometimes it's just fun to get your feet wet.
6) Meter the brightest (frothiest) part of the falls and set your exposure to over-expose that part of the falls by 1/2 stop. (My own tests have concluded that this metering method works well in most lighting scenarios.)
6) Try to compose the scene with a contrasting (darker) background to acentuate the falls.
7) Include a "subject" or point of interest in the foreground and use the veiled falls or rapids as a background.
8) Shooting the scene at different shutter speeds will yield different effects.
9) The human eye and brain perceives motion at somewhere around 1/60 second. (If you were to photograph a waterfall in 35mm format with a 50mm lens at 1/60 second, the degree of implied motion would be the same as seen with the naked eye.). Every speed slower than 1/60 second with the same equipment would imply greater motion.
At 1/15 second, a vertical falls a few feet away from the lens will veil nicely. At 1/4 second, it will appear cotton-like. and at 1 second or slower, it will be "smokin'".
Bob


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4/4/2008 4:12:40 PM

 
Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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  Thank you Bob... I now have plenty to absord and I can't wait to try a "COMPELLING" waterfall shot for the very first time.

(((((Hey, Bob))))

When shooting that waterfall should I be using the pop up flash or something like a SB-600 speedlite? All I have available is the pop up at this time but can quickly buy the SB-600 off e-bay if you think I really need it for best results.

Please let me know what you think.

Thanks,
Tammy


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4/7/2008 7:27:02 PM

 
W.   
Flash freezes movement, Priscilla. Which is precisely what you DON'T want if you're after that veil effect.

Besides, that waterfall is probably at 60 feet or further away. Flashguns are ineffective beyond 15 to 20 feet, max.


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4/7/2008 7:47:13 PM

 
W.   
OOPS!

Please read 'Tammy' for 'Priscilla'.
(Don't know where I got that from. Must be a lingering dream).


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4/7/2008 7:48:58 PM

 
Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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  LOL... I was wondering what Pricilla meant and it threw me off....but I got the point of what you were saying...LOL.

Thnak you for responding. Well, I looked at your gallery...LOL... and guess what you have a fine gallery there.

I am curious as to why you have a gallery with no photos? Or did I miss something?

Tammy


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4/7/2008 7:52:51 PM

 
Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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  Ya know, I thought I was losing my mind but I'm not. For some reason my wording of the title and my first two sentences were removed. The title was re-written. Not sure why. I did not know that if the editors or should I say moderators don't find your wording to be the liking of their own they can change it.

I did not find anything wrong with the wording I started this post with.

Tammy


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4/7/2008 8:01:41 PM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  Tammy, it's possible the editors will spotlight this thread in the Snapshot Newsletter; e.g.,
http://www.betterphoto.com/snapshots/archive.asp?snapNumber=362

If so, maybe they believe the edits will make it easier for folks to understand the topic...if not for Snapshot, but for a simple "search" on the BP page for shooting waterfalls...granted, that's just a guess.


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4/7/2008 8:08:54 PM

 
W.   
Why I have a gallery with no photos? Three reasons:

1) Laziness. I did build a few galleries at other sites, and don't feel like doing it AGAIN. It's gotta stop sometime. I decided a couple years ago it was that time. And it's saved me a lot of it since.

2) Protection. Photos you don't post can't be nicked, and don't have to be protected. Again saving a lot of time.

3) Contract. Most of my photos worthy of an online gallery were commissioned. I sell them inclusive of copyrights. They are therefore not mine to display.


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4/7/2008 9:09:08 PM

 
Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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  Ken: Well that makes sense if that is the case. I could see why they would remove the first two sentences if this thread is spotlighted or in the Snapshot.

It was actually funny when I came back looking for my thread...LOL... I thought to myself, since when did I start using the word "Compelling" without even remembering I did....LOL...

I really thought my mind was playing tricks on me....LOL...

Tammy


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4/7/2008 9:25:30 PM

 
Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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  Smith: I liked your first anwser....LOL... So you must be really seasoned if you can't list your photos.

I would love to see a shot that you have made of a waterfall.

Tammy


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4/7/2008 9:27:46 PM

 
W.   
"I would love to see a shot that you have made of a waterfall."

I don't think I ever did. 1) They're not my favorite images, TBH, and 2) it's been done before (THOUSANDS of times...).


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4/7/2008 10:20:37 PM

 
W.   
However, should I find myself doing a wedding gig with a waterfall nearby, I can see me trying to combine the couple and the veiled waterfall. Could be appropriate, don't you think? Probably a blend of (at least) 2 exposures. HDRI.
I think they'll lap it up. ;))


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4/7/2008 11:10:41 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
cammphoto.com
  Tammy,
BP will often edit and compress things when they are slated for PhotoFlash or their other Newsletters (..to save space, no doubt).

It's true that flash will freeze the falls but it can be a cool effect when it's combined with a slow shutter, especially when a vertical waterfall is crashing onto a rock or bolder and splashing vociferously in all directions.
You can even filter the flash with red, blue or some other color to accentuate the frozen highlights.

It's also true that waterfalls (like flowers) have been done "thousands of times". That just means its more challenging to come up with something a little different.

Bob


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4/8/2008 1:13:50 AM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  This thread is in today's Snapshot!


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4/8/2008 3:49:12 AM

 
W.   
I beg your pardon, Ben? What is that 'Snapshot'?


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4/8/2008 4:16:43 AM

 
Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2005
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  W...Snapshot is one of BP's newsletters. Here's the link...if you scroll down you'll see the forum topic on waterfalls.
http://www.betterphoto.com/snapshots/archive.asp?snapNumber=363

Ken..aka Ben


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4/8/2008 4:50:40 AM

 
W.   
Thanks, Ken.
And my apologies to both you and Ben (whoever that may be. What's with me today with those names?)


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4/8/2008 5:24:12 AM

 
Tammy L. Newcomb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2006
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  Ken, well I guess you hit the nail on the head when trying to explain why Better Photo would change my wording around. I seen this thread in the snap-shot I have only asked three or five questions since January and this will be my second question featured in "Snap Shot" since the begining of the year.

I have not made it down to the water fall I want to photograph because of my dedication to my kids and college.

This only gives me more time to absorb all the learning tools that have been verbally stated to me through this thread and other resources.

I did manage to upload some new pictures to my gallery today so if anyone is interested by all means drop in, look around and stay a second or two...

Tammy

THANKS, BOB... You are wonderful!!!


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4/8/2008 5:08:38 PM

 
Rom A.G.   Best waterfall shots I've taken thus far are of Niagara Falls(Canadian side).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/22672423@N07/

I used a minitripod placed on those columns and waited for the light show.
ISO was kept at 100, but shutter speed varied.


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4/8/2008 6:09:40 PM

 
Terri Mcdowell   i've read all these very helpful hints on taking great waterfall shots, but what i'm wondering is does the film make any difference? i've always been told that you need to use slow film. can't wait to put these hints into use!
thanks


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9/22/2008 8:42:16 AM

 
W.   
Hi Terry,

when 'they' say "you need to use slow film", the operative word is 'slow'. Not 'film'. 'Slow' in this instance meaning a low ISO setting. Which is the same in film and digital photography.

With film, at VERY long exposures, say 30 seconds or longer, you may experience 'red shift'. With digital you don't. Check the search function for more details.

Have fun!


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9/22/2008 9:39:09 AM

 
 
 
 
If you are working with a small waterfall, you may be able to use perspective distortion to achieve more dramatic results. In this photograph, the waterfall was only about 16 inches high. I used a 28mm lens, and had the tripod set so the camera was only about an inch above the water. It was shot on iso 25 tilm using a #3 ND filter. It was shot at f8, at a two minute shutter speed. It's amazing what you can do with a drainage ditch, huh?


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9/24/2008 12:46:54 PM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
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  Tammy, in addition to all these fine suggestions I sometimes expose an extra frame of the scene darker than needed so highlights that would blow are not blown. It just depends on the scene. I don't personally mind some waterfall photos to have a few light areas. I believe I have one in my gallery right now that is light in places. I then take them in to Photoshop and layer the properly exposed waterfall over the darker one and erase the blown highlights to bring detail back in to the water then flatten the layers.


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9/24/2008 3:20:32 PM

 
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