Moving objects like waterfall are good targets for those who want to learn long-exposure photography. Long-exposure is a common photography technique used by most photographers to take the photos of waterfall. Using this technique, you can result a silky smooth photo of waterfall that looks so amazing. However, the practice isn’t always easy as it seems. There are some aspects that determine the result of your shots.
Ideally, taking photos of waterfall with a long-exposure technique is done during the golden hour where the light intensity is not too high. The key aspect of taking a long-exposure photo is in the duration of shutter speed. You will also need some gear like tripod and lens filter in order to get the best results.
If this is your first experience of taking waterfall photos using long-exposure technique, here is the step-by-step guide you can follow.
Prepare you equipment
Before making a trip to the waterfall where you want to take the photos of, ensure you have prepared all of the needed equipment. A good planning is one of the keys that can affect your photography results. Since you want to take long-exposure photos, here is the list of equipment you need.
Remember, your goal is to take long-exposure photos. That is why you need a tripod. Taking a long-exposure photo without involving tripod is a big mistake. Because, it’s impossible to hand-hold a camera without introducing camera shake when using extremely slow shutter speeds. You may argue that you can sit your camera on a stone or any other object you potentially find on the location. Not wrong. But, it can limit your flexibility. You will lose the potential of taking photos from the best spot. Remember, photography is also about planning.
b. ND filter
As I mentioned earlier above, the ideal moment to take a photo of waterfall using a long-exposure technique is during the golden hour. The reason is because the light intensity is not too high. What if it’s impossible to come to the location during the golden hour?
The answer is ND filter. ND (Neutral Density) has long been a favorite lens filter of landscape photographer since it can drastically reduce the amount of light coming to your lens.
c. Remote shutter
This is not required, but it would so much nice if you have one. As the name suggests, this tool can be used to press the shutter button without physically touching the camera. Since you don’t physically touch the camera, it also means that there will be no vibration on camera. In other words, you can’t avoid the blurry effect on the photos you are going to take. If you have no remote shutter, you can outsmart it by setting the release mode on your camera to self-time.
You can use any type of lens to take waterfall photos using long-exposure technique. However, wide-angle and telephoto lenses are more recommended. High and powerful waterfalls can release plenty of water into the air, which might land on the front of your lens. Using telephoto lens enables you to take waterfall photos from a distance, while a wide-angle lens is great if the falls are smaller and you are standing close to them.
What if you only have a kit lens?. It doesn’t matter. You will keep be able to result a good long-exposure photo of waterfall as long as you have the right camera settings. Photography is also about skill. Isn’t it?
Once you done preparing all of the needed weapons, it’s time to get war. Remember the key rule, long-exposure photography is about a long duration of shutter speed. However, it’s not the only setting you need to adjust. Below are the settings you need to adjust.
a. Use slower shutter speed
Again, the key of implementing long-exposure technique to take waterfall photos is by slowing down your shutter speed setting. Slow shutter speeds can create the “ghosting” effect, making the subject appear smooth. The shutter speed setting can be vary depends on the time you take the photos. For instance if you take the photos at a daylight with high enough light intensity, you can try to set the shutter speed to two or three seconds, with ND filter installed.
b. Use the narrower aperture
In addition to slowing down the shutter speed, another setting you can adjust to reduce the amount of light entering your lens is by narrowing down the aperture. In the camera language, narrow aperture means high value of F. You can combine this setting with the shutter speed setting to get the balanced results. Don’t be lazy to try several different settings.
c. Use the lowest ISO
I personally never use high ISO since it can reduce the sharpness level of photo. The higher ISO you use, the more dots you will have on your photos. Besides, you are not taking photos at night so increasing the ISO setting will be useless, at all.
Below are some examples of waterfall photos I taken using long-exposure technique, complete with the camera settings.