While returning from Bangalore after finishing Macro & Product Photography Workshop and driving down the beautiful Shradi Ghat, I spotted a small roadside stream flowing down as a small yet beautiful waterfall. Capturing the magic of the water gushing out in full force is a favourite subject of most of us. The secret of good waterfall photography lies in the how you have chosen the camera settings for waterfalls. It’s all about shutter speed.
Most big waterfalls flow throughout the year. The smaller streams only flow and produce their tiny water falls during the rainy season. The light was also very nice as it was an overcast day. I used two lenses to make this waterfall capture as that was the only two lenses I had with me during the trip. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. Since I did not have the ND filter, I used ISO 100 & F/22 to get cut the light needed to get that dreamy effect. I used Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod with Acratech GV2 Ball Head/Gimbal Head.
If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, you will want to set the camera to “S” for shutter priority (may be different on your camera). This will allow you to set the shutter speed while the camera will make the rest of the adjustments. If you want the effect of smooth water, you need to use a slower shutter speed. The average person cannot hold a camera steady for longer than 1/30 second and will use a tripod starting at 1/20 seconds when using a wide angle lens.
To help yourself stay steady, hold the camera with both hands, elbows down at your side, and gently hold your breath before you take the shot. If your shot is clear, try again at 1/15 seconds. Or, if your original shot is blurry, try again at 1/30 second. Having railing or a wall beside the waterfall where you can rest the camera will help immensely. If you have a tripod, set your camera on shutter priority, and set the shutter no faster than 1/20 second. I usually start at 1/6 seconds or slower if I have an ND filter or if the light is subdued like it was here. Use either remote shutter, live view or 2-second self-timer to avoid the shake caused by jabbing the shutter button.
I use Manual or Shutter Speed Priority Mode for all my waterfall photography. All the photos here were shot in Manual mode. In Shutter Speed Priority Mode you select your desired shutter speed and the camera chooses an appropriate aperture & ISO. However, often a Neutral Density filter is required to utilize full advantage of this mode if the sky is not gloomy. Shutter speed is most important setting in waterfall photography. When capturing a silky smooth effect, you will need to allow a lot of water to flow through while the exposure is being made. But there are some rules to the amount of water that you should allow to flow by and how that can affect the final composition.
If the water is flowing very slowly then it is imperative to reduce the shutter speed to something like 1 second or even 2 or 4 seconds, again if the water is flowing too fast, try increasing the shutter speed to something such as 1/6th of a second. So anything between 1/6 to 4 second is good timing. It is always best to take a few test shots at different shutter speed and see how the pictures are coming through and then adjust the final settings accordingly. First two of the pictures here are shot with 0.3-second shutter speed. The last three are shot with 1/6 second speed as the flow was feeling faster in a wide angle lens as against the 100mm.
Next is the aperture. Try with f/11 or f/16 and take a few test shots. If the light is too bright with f/16, try using ND filter. F/22 in most modern cameras causes diffraction and softening of your image. Since I wanted the slow shutter speed and I did not have the ND filter I was forced to use f/22 on almost all of them. If I had used f/16 as the aperture, it would have over exposed present picture. ISO always at lowest ISO possible ISO of 100. Here I used Live view both to compose and trigger the shutter. The touch screen can be used in Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to trigger the shutter release thus creating a click without causing camera shake.
I am planning for a Waterfall Workshop in Chikamagaluru area in the month of September. Please await the dates and details of the workshop.