5 Steps to Waterfall Photography (Guest Post)

This is the final post in a series on outdoor photography for Cru staff attending IBS and national staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado. Many staff will head to Rocky Mountain National Park on their free time, hoping to find great photo ops of the park’s beauty.

Few things are more enjoyable and peaceful than sitting alongside a waterfall cascading in a mountain stream. The rush of the water creates a soothing white noise that, combined with the peace and relaxation of the mountains, brings rest to a weary soul. Capturing that moment of rest with a camera can be challenging, but here are a few tips you can use while visiting the mountains.

Shoot in the Shadows

You need to find a waterfall that is completely in shadow or covered by a light overcast. This serves two purposes. One, it allows a photographer to reduce the shutter speed being used. (I’ll discuss why you want a slower shutter speed a little further in the article.) The second purpose is to have a nice, even lighting for your waterfall. “Even lighting” prevents hotspots, places where the sun reflects brilliantly off the water, which appear washed out in a photograph.

Use a Slow Shutter Speed

The peaceful memory of the waterfall best shows up when shutter speeds of a quarter second or less are used. I used a shutter speed of one seconds for the shot of Rocky Mountain National Park’s Alberta Falls and a quarter second for the photograph of the Fall River cascade in the park.

The series of photographs of Calypso Cascades have the corresponding shutter speeds written on them. This show the effect the different shutter speeds have on the water. These photographs also show the importance of keeping the subject in the shade. The cloud that covered the cascade moved away during the shoot. This caused greater contrast, which washed out areas in the images that were photographed last.

Use a Tripod

Use a tripod. That’s the only way a photographer can use shutter speeds that are as slow as the ones needed to blur water.

Shoot from a Different Angle

Many of the waterfalls in the National Parks are photographed often. Shooting them from unique or different angles allows your photograph to look different than someone else’s. I stood in the water and placed the tripod in the water when photographing the image of Alberta Falls. Most people take their photographs of this waterfall from the trail above.

Use a Polarizing Filter

Use a polarizing filter to reduce glare.

Enjoy your time at Staff Training this summer and make sure you get to the mountains. It would be a shame to come to such a place and not experience the hand of the Creator.

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  • Learn and practice new photography lessons from Pat so you can bring home your own awesome Colorado photos. Follow Pat’s CSU2013 Photo Tips series!
  • Meet e4e author, and professional photographer, Pat Mingarelli and read Pat’s posts on e4e. Learn about his ministry, Creation Speaks.

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