I am frequently asked by folk which is my favourite topic/subject for photographing. There is no straight answer to this BUT…I do love shooting waterfalls. Always have, always will.
Now, there are two fairly powerful and differing schools of thought about these. To photograph them in a blur, or to capture every splash and drop? I have always maintained that this is the choice of the photographer; neither is right and neither is wrong. If I am judging a shot there is NO WAY I would judge it down purely on the basis of my preference. A well composed, technically sound shot will stand up on its own.
But it has been interesting over the years to listen to comments such as “blurred waterfalls – that’s not natural”. or “too frozen looks wrong. That’s not how the eye sees it”. To me, both of these comments are a bit daft. First of all, because the camera/lens combination are able to capture water through a high or low shutter speed to me makes it no more or less natural than the shortfall in our eye/brain connection that does not allow us to see waterfalls this way. Moving water, over time, will appear blurred. Moving water, in a split nano second, will appear static – that’s how it is!
OK, my preference – is to shoot the falls with a degree of blur to show movement. This to me renders the story, if you like, behind flowing water. Water is NOT static, it flows, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. But it always moves (unless it is a block of ice – when it would have to be carried, thrown or whatever).
Sure, I do believe it is possible to take a BAD waterfall shot; for example, too long an exposure leaving the image looking like pouring double cream. To avoid this I generally take a reading off the plunge pool, the whitest part of the photo, as work around that. My target finish is to achieve an effect like ‘spun glass’ where the strands of water are still visible and not mashed into a whiteout.
Notice that I also consider which orientation is best; landscape or portrait.
I have written a (Blurb) book on my waterfall photography. It is available to buy off the Blurb website
which may be of interest?
In the meantime I would love to hear how and why you photograph waterfalls the way you do.
Waterfall running into Graig Goch Reservoir in the Elan Valley