Photographing Waterfalls

One of the most elegant subject in landscape photography are waterfalls. The world is full of these wonders; our country alone would have thousands of waterfalls. There are many different types of waterfalls; from cascade, plunge, multi step, tiered, punch bowl, etc. Each would have its own beauty to behold. Here are some tips that I can share for those who wish to photograph waterfalls. The tips are based on my experience and countless times photographing these subjects.

1. Include interesting layers in your composition. From mossy rocks, to flowers, to curved lines of cliffs. Add these layers as anchor points to your photos.

Haifoss, Iceland
2.0 sec; f/16; ISO 100
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 16-35 f/4L

2. Use slow shutter to have that bridal veil effect. Technique plays an important part if photographing waterfalls. A shutter speed from ¼ to 4 seconds is the optimal, it blurs the water but still leaves enough details. Long exposure can also work for strong or bigger waterfalls, 30 seconds to 1 minute usually works for me.

Waterfall from Lake Sebu
1.5 sec; f/11; ISO 400
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 16-35 f/2.8 Mark II
Kirkjufellfoss, Iceland
61.0 sec; f/16; ISO 200
Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 16-35 f/2.8 Mark III

3. The DIAGONALS. Inclusion of dynamic lines such as diagonals or curves is a sure hit in any visual design. It leads the eye of the viewer to the waterfall. Diagonals can be found from rocks to the shape of the shoreline of the river.

Gulfoss, Iceland
1.0 sec; f/16; ISO 100
Canon 5DsR
Canon 16-35 f/4

4. The REFLECTION. In any waterfall environment, it is often that shallow pools of water forms around the area. Look for reflections and use this as your foreground element. Don’t forget to use a CPL filter to enhance the reflection.

Skogafoss, Iceland
1.0 sec; f/16; ISO 50
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 16-35 f/2.8 Mark II

5. The TOP VIEW. For certain types of waterfalls such as punchbowl, it can only be viewed from the top. Try to use the cliff as your leading lines, curves are also dynamic lines.

Aldeyjarfoss, Iceland
129.0 sec; f/16; ISO 100
Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 16-35 f/2.8 Mark III

6. The INTIMATE. Photographing waterfalls is not exclusive to wide angle lens, certain type of waterfalls such as multi-level/steps would be better if shot with a telephoto and highlight details.

Hraunfossar, Iceland
4.0 sec; f/16; ISO 50
Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 70-200 f/4L

6.The INCLUSION of ICONIC elements. If the waterfall is beside a mountain, include it your composition, use the waterfall as your foreground element that leads towards the landmark.

Kirkjufellfoss, Iceland
1/4 sec; f/16; ISO 100
Canon 5Ds
Canon 16-35 f/4

I hope these tips will provide a jumpstart to photographing waterfalls. Research nearest waterfalls in your area. From Metro Manila some waterfalls worth visiting are from Laguna, 2 hours drive such as Pagsanjan falls, Kalayaan twin falls, Liliw waterfalls, etc.

Happy shooting!

Published by Edwin Martinez

Edwin Martinez is considered one of the Philippine’s premiere Landscape photographer, he has been shooting travel and landscapes from around the globe. His works have been featured both in local and international publications. He also does photography tours in Iceland, Norway, Canada, US, and other locations.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: