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  1. #1
    Ausphotography Regular David's Avatar
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    The how to shoot a waterfall scene ?

    Went down to Mt Field National Park in Tasmania in May last year thinking it would not be a waste of money and effort cause I thought I knew what I was doing...I came back with this



    What had I done: I exposed for the whole area and got a nice shiny rock bed, well lit up foreground and a totally blown out white waterfall... damn.

    So, lesson learnt at Horseshoe Falls, I made sure I exposed for the waterfall when it came to Russell Falls and came up with this



    Better (but still not quite right) exposure for the waterfall but the detail in the surrounding fiolage is lost.. dark and shadowy and gloomy. doh.

    So I ask around and people tell me do two exposures, one exposing for the waterfall and another exposing for the surrounding greenery and shadows etc and blend them together using Photomatix, for example.

    What I end up with is a compromise result, the waterfall somewhere between correct and half correctly exposed and a background fiolage area I could improve with shadows adjustments etc but the waterfall would still remain only half right... double damn.

    So, back to the drawing board. Okay I tell myself, I am going to expose only for the highlighted area (ie the waterfall) and learn how to recover the shadowy areas in Photoshop and shoot in RAW because I am told you can recover shadows/dark areas but not blown out over exposed areas.

    Still with me ? Okay, so now I am thinking what IF I want to shoot the waterfall in a frozen slow exposure state....okay I tell myself, grab an ND filter that slows down the shutter speed by 3 stops (an ND8) and whack that on and hope there is not too much wind around because the surrounding fiolage is going to move and blur the shot.

    But now I have an even darker foreground area that I doubt Photoshop can provide 3 stops of recovery for.. am I right ? Triple damn.

    So, I hear someone say, don't use a bloody ND8 3s stopper, use an ND4 2 stopper or ND2 1 stopper AND remember you probably don't have to go past x shutter speed to get a frozen waterfall effect anyway. That is, you may be asking for a longer than necessary shutter speed and risking movement blur for no good reason.....

    Hmmm.. how am I doing ?

    The reason I am asking is that I am about to go visiting a new area with waterfalls I have not been to before and travelling a fair way to get there and I do not want to waste this trip like I did in Tassie last year.

    My plan is to invest in an ND2 and ND4 Neutral Density Filter, try them at X waterfall exposing for the waterfall in the shot, do some 'testing' to see how fast a shutter speed I can get away with to get a frozen effect and bump up the ISO to 200 or 400 and drop the apeture down to F11 or F8 to help things along. I typically shoot waterfalls with my Canon 10-22mm lens at the wide end most of the time because I love the greenery.

    ALL COMMENTS AND SUGGSTIONS TO TRY IN CAMERA OR ON THE PUTER VERY WELCOME.
    Last edited by David; 14-05-2010 at 4:35pm.
    Comments and CC welcome..

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    "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust 1871 - 1922

  2. #2
    Account Closed Wayne's Avatar
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    An interesting dilemma!

    I don't get much of a chance to shoot anything with falling water, because out here we have drought, then flood. Flood provides much water, but, can't access anywhere because all the roads are cut.

    I'd be interested in how some people achieve their great results we often see here, but I would prob try a bracket of 3 shots and HDR in Photomatix.

  3. #3
    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Well, at least you went; you saw; and you spoke about it.
    I liked both shots, technicalities aside. I thought I could glean something of your appreciation of the scenes. Am.
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  4. #4
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    Polariser is always handy to David when shooting waterfalls. Multiple exposures can work well too. Instead of taking only 2 try 3+. Photomatix is a great program, hard to master at first but once you get the hang of it its easy. If you havn't read the help/instructions with photomatix its a must. It will put you on the right track straight away, explaining what each slider does etc. Play with it, experiment and see what works for you. What you get straight away when you load your shots is often quite an average looking shot that can take a fair bit of fine tuning.

    Also try to get there early in the morning/late in the arvo as the light is not so harsh. If you have a ND400 try that as well, you will be able to get a longer exposure if you are there in the middle of the day.
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  5. #5
    Administrator (Site Owner) ricktas's Avatar
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    I use a polariser and either my ND4 or ND8, depending on how bright a day it is. Remember there is no 'right' way to photograph anything. If there was we would all be taking the same shots. Photography is a creative art form, do your own interpretation by coming up with your own ideas about how you want the waterfalls to look.
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  6. #6
    Ausphotography Site Sponsor/Advertiser DAdeGroot's Avatar
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    I typically only shoot them under the right conditions (overcast - the heavier the better), and use a polariser.

    I have done the ND400 thing during the day, and you get very smooth water, but if there's ANY sun in the scene you will get blow-outs or underexposed areas.
    Dave

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  7. #7
    Ausphotography Regular
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    Quote Originally Posted by Philr View Post
    Polariser is always handy to David when shooting waterfalls. Multiple exposures can work well too. Instead of taking only 2 try 3+. Photomatix is a great program, hard to master at first but once you get the hang of it its easy. If you havn't read the help/instructions with photomatix its a must
    Thanks Phil: I have the full Photomatix program and have not read any instructions at all- well doh ...yeah I guess so. Think I will leave the camera in the bag for a couple of weeks before that waterfall trip and learn how to use the program properly. I have to agree about the best time and conditions for waterfalls being early morning or late afternoon and under an overcast sky: I will get hold of the ND400 for daytime shooting though, good idea. Seems I am going to have to go the multiple exposure road still and blend them together on the computer later to get first class results.


    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    I use a polariser and either my ND4 or ND8, depending on how bright a day it is. Remember there is no 'right' way to photograph anything. If there was we would all be taking the same shots. Photography is a creative art form, do your own interpretation by coming up with your own ideas about how you want the waterfalls to look.
    Thanks Rick: I never thought to use a CPL at a waterfall, mostly used them for seascapes in the past but I assume you use one on waterfalls to take the edge of the light reflections on top of the water (hence less blown out whites ?) and expose any interesting rocks etc underneath the water at the base of the waterfall. ..Makes sense to me and I guess breaking away from the cliche frozen water waterfall is a very good idea too. That is the problem with waterfalls, all shot a million times by a million people: how do u make urs new ish...

    Quote Originally Posted by DAdeGroot View Post
    I typically only shoot them under the right conditions (overcast - the heavier the better), and use a polariser.

    I have done the ND400 thing during the day, and you get very smooth water, but if there's ANY sun in the scene you will get blow-outs or underexposed areas.
    Thanks for the ideas Dave.. another vote for the use of a polariser and ND400 in daylight conditions assuming the sun is well out of the way.
    Last edited by David; 14-05-2010 at 8:29pm.

  8. #8
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    If you get adventurous even try a HDR with the ND400, sometimes works a treat!

  9. #9
    I am older than I look. peterb666's Avatar
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    I have only done a couple of waterfall shots and depending on the ambiant light, would use either an ND8 or stacked ND8 and ND4 to get an exposure longer than 1/15s.

    I have some 1.2 and 2.4 ND filters on order (ND16 and ND256????) but then I do stuff with really long exposures in other settings. I could imagine using that 2.4/ND256 filter if the waterfall in some conditions but as others have mentioned, dynamic range is an issue when you have bright sun and deep shadow in the shot.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterb666 View Post
    I have only done a couple of waterfall shots and depending on the ambiant light, would use either an ND8 or stacked ND8 and ND4 to get an exposure longer than 1/15s.

    I have some 1.2 and 2.4 ND filters on order (ND16 and ND256????) but then I do stuff with really long exposures in other settings. I could imagine using that 2.4/ND256 filter if the waterfall in some conditions but as others have mentioned, dynamic range is an issue when you have bright sun and deep shadow in the shot.
    Thanks Peter: yes sir, the dynamic range in typical waterfall scenes is the biggest issue for me to overcome so paying attention to the sky conditions is going to be critical to success I think after all the gr8 advise and thoughts posted here.

  11. #11
    I am older than I look. peterb666's Avatar
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    BTW David, I think your 2nd shot is pretty good. You have found a good compromise in the exposure and while your assessment is spot on. As a photo, it would work for most people.

    Cheers!

  12. #12
    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David View Post
    ....

    Still with me ? Okay, so now I am thinking what IF I want to shoot the waterfall in a frozen slow exposure state....okay I tell myself, grab an ND filter that slows down the shutter speed by 3 stops (an ND8) and whack that on and hope there is not too much wind around because the surrounding fiolage is going to move and blur the shot.

    But now I have an even darker foreground area that I doubt Photoshop can provide 3 stops of recovery for.. am I right ? Triple damn....
    Nope! you lost me here!

    A ND filter will alter the exposure exactly the same way forboth the highlights and the shadows.. so while you think you're software will struggle with even darker shadows, it's not. the exposure difference between the highlights and the shadows wil be exactly the same as without the ND filter!

    A correctly used CPL will actually cut the highlight requirement.. even if it's only by 1/2 a stop.. it's better to have than to not have that small advantage.
    If there's water on the green foliage the first thing you'll notice when using the CPL correctly is that the green foliage will change from a whit-ish green colour to a more vivid green colour. Generally speaking you should spot meter a neutral exposure of the best looking green, as green is grey in the colour world
    Alternatively you could over expose the brightenst detail in the scene by an amount too much more than the ability fo your raw processor to recover highlight detail. That should be somewhere about 1-2 stops overexposed. because you shot in raw, you then use negative exposure compensation to recover detail in those highlights and bringthem back to either just at the point of clipping, or leave them just over. 1/2 stop of clippled highlights in flowing water is not going to burn anyone's eyes out!
    The idea is to try to get the greate4st amount of dynamic range available onto your image sensor! in PP, you'll also recover as much shadow detail as you can too.

    In image #2, I would have used a 2 or 3stop GND filter to keep the blown highlights in the upper deck in check too. slide the GND only as far as required to keep the highlights at a decent point, and be prepared to recover some of the darkended foliage along the top of the image too. easy enough.

    ona side note: you use of terminiology is the wrong way round too. With a long exposure you're not freezing the flow of water you're making it more flowing, so you want to say:

    .... so now I am thinking what IF I want to shoot the waterfall in a flowing slow exposure state
    "freezing" the water means a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion of the water.

    hope that helps.
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  13. #13
    Ausphotography Regular
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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurking83 View Post
    Nope! you lost me here!
    ona side note: you use of terminiology is the wrong way round too. With a long exposure you're not freezing the flow of water you're making it more flowing, so you want to say:



    "freezing" the water means a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion of the water.

    hope that helps.
    Thanks Arthur: might take me a month to absorb the information but again as always you give me plenty to think about and guidance I would take ages to learn from experience. Thank you

  14. #14
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    I remember reading a Practical Photography mag a few years ago, that had an article about waterfall photography in it.

    One technique they used was the multiple exposure one with a bit of a twist. They metered the shot to get a 1/10th shutter speed, then manually set the camera to 1/100th and the same aperture and took 100 photos one on top of the other, was Nikon F5, but you could probably do similar with digital these days, just take your 100 separate pics then combine in Photomatix
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  15. #15
    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/ Steve Axford's Avatar
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    I shot this one a couple of years back. Had the same problems as you describe, so I used HDR on an overcast day (1 exposure for the shadows and one for the highlights). No filters, just 2 exposures and wet feet.


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    I tend to do bracketed shots so that I can recover some detail if the water is too far gone.

    This tutorial might help. It was written shortly after the last Curtis Falls meet I went on.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by nc1183 View Post
    I remember reading a Practical Photography mag a few years ago, that had an article about waterfall photography in it.

    One technique they used was the multiple exposure one with a bit of a twist. They metered the shot to get a 1/10th shutter speed, then manually set the camera to 1/100th and the same aperture and took 100 photos one on top of the other, was Nikon F5, but you could probably do similar with digital these days, just take your 100 separate pics then combine in Photomatix
    Well I do have Photomatix Pro, better learn how to use it. thanks for the tip.


    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Axford View Post
    I shot this one a couple of years back. Had the same problems as you describe, so I used HDR on an overcast day (1 exposure for the shadows and one for the highlights). No filters, just 2 exposures and wet feet.

    That image is just beautiful and at the level I want to achieve Steve, thanks for sharing it.. awesome image.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darvidanoar View Post
    I tend to do bracketed shots so that I can recover some detail if the water is too far gone.

    This tutorial might help. It was written shortly after the last Curtis Falls meet I went on.
    Thanks David, I will check out the tutorial

  18. #18
    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/ Steve Axford's Avatar
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    Just a hint - don't expect the automatic software to produce the result you want. It is just one step in the process and should be viewed as a means to an end, not an end in itself.

  19. #19
    HDR is one option. But I generally find a tripod or timer delay and a slower shutter seems to get reasonable results. If the sky is blowing out try a polarising filter.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by beaco View Post
    ... If the sky is blowing out try a polarising filter.
    I have read a few people say this on this forum recently and I'm not sure I understand the concept. Can someone explain how a CPL is used to reduce dynamic range?

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