Cascading water is exciting to watch and photograph. Raging rivers also make beautiful photographs. Surging white water rapids, briny mist, and cascading spray are all the elements you need for a great picture.
Here are eight tips to consider when photographing water in motion:
Use a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second or slower. A slow shutter speed renders moving water as a silky white blur.
Use a low ISO setting. A low ISO setting gives you a relatively small aperture, which ensures a large depth of field.
Use a tripod. When you use a slow shutter speed, stabilize the camera to get a sharp picture.
Use a neutral density filter in bright light. In bright light, you won’t be able to use a slow shutter speed and get a properly exposed image. A neutral density filter cuts down on the amount of light reaching the sensor, which means you can get a properly exposed image using a slow shutter speed.
If you use neutral density filters on a regular basis, consider purchasing a variable neutral density filter. This is actually two filters in one. You rotate the outer ring to dial in the strength of the filter.
Use a fast shutter speed when you want to freeze the motion of a raging river. You can also use a fast shutter speed when you want to show the details of a waterfall. You may have to increase the ISO setting when using a fast shutter speed to achieve a large depth of field, which requires a small aperture. Don’t increase the ISO too high or you’ll end up with a noisy image; use a tripod instead.
When you compose the image, position the horizon line in the lower third of the image. It’s also a good idea to place the waterfall to one side of the image.
Rotate the camera 90 degrees when photographing a waterfall. This is known as portrait format. Rotate the camera 90 degrees any time you photograph a subject that is taller than it is wide. The only exception to this rule would be a waterfall like Niagara Falls that is actually wider than it is tall.
Take a picture downstream from a waterfall. You’ll often find wonderful details when you venture a couple of hundred feet downriver from a waterfall, such as this image that was photographed a few hundred feet from Bridal Veil Falls.