How to take those silky long exposure waterfall shots.

Dave ZdanowiczEquipment / Reviews

I often get asked how to create the smooth silky like water effect when photographing waterfalls. I thought I would put together a quick guide on what equipment you need and how to use it.

 

What you need:

 

  • A waterfall 
  • A tripod  I use a Vanguard ALTA PRO 283CT and BBH-300 ball head
  • ND Filter I used a Hoya ND100 for these shots. You can technically get away without using one if you are shooting in low light. The best time for this would be very early morning before sunrise or just after sunset.

What would help:

  • A remote shutter release. Perfect
  • A graduated ND filter. These are very useful for controlling the sky. I’ve photographed without one a number of times and I was often left with a blown out sky that was hard to control. I used a Formatt Hitech Firecrest 0.9 Softgrad.

 

Things to remember:

  • If you are using a lens with Image Stabilisation make sure it is switched off. The Tripod does the job of keeping the camera steady so if your stabilisation is enabled it will blur your pictures.
  • Wear some decent footwear and waterproof clothes. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve slipped and fallen photographing waterfalls!
  • Make sure your filters are clean. Any dust or finger prints will show up on the pictures.

 

Steps:

  1. Compose your shot. I normally do this without my ND filter attached. The ND filters limit the light into the camera so sometimes it is very difficult to see the scene through the view finder. Some cameras will have a facility called live view and exposure simulation. If this is the case for your camera you will be able to attach the filter and compose your shot using this method.
  2. Experiment with your settings. In order to get the smooth silky effect in the water a long exposure is needed. A long exposure is normally considered for any shot which takes more than 1/2 a second to shoot. The 1st thing to do is switch your camera to manual mode. (don’t be scared of this). Your ISO should be set as low as possible. (ISO 10o). Experiment with your Aperture. Start at around (6.7-13) and exposure time of 30 seconds. Take the shot. If its too dark then reduce your aperture. If its over exposed you can either reduce the exposure time or increase the aperture.  To shoot in broad daylight a strong ND might be needed. Look for a 10 stop if this is the case.

 

Here are some examples I took of Janets foss near malham. I have displayed the settings I used.

 

iso100/f6.7/30seconds

iso100/f6.7/30seconds

ISO 100/F4.5/30 seconds

ISO 100/F4.5/30 seconds

iso100/f4/8seconds (no ND just 0.9 graduated filter)

iso100/f4/8seconds (no ND just 0.9 graduated filter)