A waterfall and moving water video tutorial presented by our very own Shannon Kalahan with accompanying lesson notes.
First, what do you need?
- Camera with adjustable shutter speed
- Timer / remote / intervalometer
- A circular polarizer (if you have one) to help cut the glare
- A neutral density filter if there is high flow
- A wide angle lens if you intend to get close to the waterfall’s base, a zoom or long lens if you do not
- A microfiber cleaning cloth if you get close enough for waterfall spray to hit your lens
When should you shoot?
- Early or Late
- Overcast days
- If possible, put your aperture somewhere between f/8-f/16. The available light (and/or neutral density filters) will dictate how small your aperture is. The closer you get to f/22, the more diffraction you’ll need to deal with, so I recommend keeping your f-stop closer to the lens’s sweet spot, between f/8-f/11 on most lenses.
- ISO 100 when possible - again, this will be dictated by available light. As long as you’re not shooting at dusk or dawn, you should be able to keep the ISO low.
- Turn off image stabilization
- Shutter speed needs to be slow, but “slow” varies depending on how much waterflow and light you have. For massive falls on a bright day, you might need 13 seconds and a 10-stop ND filter. For small cascades on an overcast day, you might be talking 1 - 2 seconds. Consult your camera’s light meter and image histograms to ensure you’re protecting the shadows and highlights.
- Leading lines, especially those that make the viewer feel like they’re standing in the flow with you
- Something to anchor the image or serve as a foreground element. Sometimes, that is a leading line.