I am traveling around Europe chasing waterfalls for a decade and in the beginning I didn’t pay much attention to my photography. I wanted to give a general idea of how a certain waterfall looks like. Only problem is that it very difficult to transfer a feeling to a picture. Waterfalls can be very impressive because of the power of the water falling down. How to capture this?
Freeze water drops
My first advise is to work with a fast shutter speed (exposure time). When capturing the power of water you have to work with a fast shutter speed: 1/500 sec or maybe even faster, 1/1000 sec. Note: it also depends on the light circumstances if you can use very fast shutter speeds. If not, change the ISO value to 400 or 800.
When using a SLR or compact camera use the S (Tv) modus to adapt the shutter speed. If you want to take pictures with a mobile phone, most of the time there is a prof (Siemens) option where you adapt the shutter speed and the ISO value.
Point of view
Before going to a waterfall do some desk research. Examine other pictures and determine what the best point of view is for a nice picture. Not everybody has the ability to determine the perfect point of view on location. And is saves a lot of time if you know directly where to go and what is possible. It happened to me several times that I was standing at the wrong side of the canyon…
You can use Google maps or an Open Source Map to find out where a path is and what is possible.
Take the information with you and use it. I often forget to check what I had in mind.
Depth and height
When taking pictures of a waterfall, without placing familiar objects in front of the waterfall, you can’t see how tall and big a waterfall is. It is an art to show the proper appearance. I have pictures of waterfalls that are huge but where the picture doesn’t show how high it is.
Place a person in front of the waterfall with a striking colored clothes. When there is contrast, you will see the effect better. Use colors like red and yellow.
Another way to show the power is by using a telephoto lens (200 mm): place somebody in the line of the water(fall), somewhere near the waterfall, and the picture becomes very dynamic.
A lot of photographs like pictures of waterfalls with a slow shutterspeed (long exposure time). The effects you get is a soft blur of the water. You won’t see the power of the waterfall anymore, but it can look very nice.
When using a SLR or compact camera use the S (Tv) modus to adapt the shutter speed. The longer the exposure, the more effect you get. You can use starting 1/2 sec and the try 1 or s sec. With these shutterspeeds you have to use a tripod. Another option is using a stone with a towel under the camera.
If you want to take pictures with a mobile phone, most of the time there is a prof (Siemens) option where you adapt the shutter speed. Use a selfiestick to stabilize your mobile phone.