Self Taught Photographer living in East Gippsland, Victoria. Visit my website tracielouise.com ...... All images used are Tracie Louise Photography, unless otherwise stated
Published June 26th 2013
Catching the Falls
Serenity Falls in Buderim
Who doesn't love a good waterfall? We have no shortage of stunning falls in South East Queensland. Of course the information that follows can apply to capturing any waterfall in any location. Whilst this is predominately relevant for DSLR camera users, there are also iPhone apps (and possibly other smart phones as well) that can allow the slow motion capture necessary to achieve the affects shown here. Whilst I do have the app on my iPhone, I will be honest in saying I have not yet tried it out.
Obi Waters Falls in Montville
Photography is all about light. I have even heard it referred to as the art of painting with light. But when it comes to creating that silky, seamless flow of a well captured waterfall, controlling the amount of light entering the camera is crucial. Most people assume that the best time to photograph anything out in nature is on a lovely sunny day. This is not the case with waterfalls. Overcast days are best. And whilst we don't always have control over the weather conditions, fortunately most waterfalls are nestled in amongst the rainforest or trees, providing the required shade for a good shot.
If you have never taken your DSLR's settings off "Auto" now is the perfect time to do so. You will need to use Aperture Priority setting, which allows you to manually set the aperture (the size of the space by which light passes through the lens), and the camera will figure out the shutter speed automatically for you. In order to achieve the look of water actually flowing, the aim is to have a longer than normal shutter speed, allowing the movement of the water to blur, whilst keeping everything else in frame perfectly focussed. For this reason, a tripod is a necessity. There are many inexpensive alternatives when it comes to tripods. The Gorillapod, the Pod, or even a sturdy fence post.
Obi Waters Falls in Montville
For the most effective results possible you can't go past filters. If you have any plans to get serious about waterfall photography, investing in a good Neutral Density filter is a must. Put simply, the filter blocks the amount of light entering the camera lens therefore allowing the shutter to stay open longer. The longer shutter speed creates the look of moving water. Neutral Density filters come in two basic types, the round screw on type, or the square filters requiring a separate mounting frame. You can purchase varying different strengths of filters to cater to different light conditions. There is even a varying Grad filter, which allows you to use different amounts of filtering all from just one filter, although these can be expensive. If you are just starting out, I would recommend a 4ND or an 8ND, which should cater to most situations.
It's a bit of a game of hit and miss in the beginning. Every situation is different. Every waterfall is different. A good starting point is to use a setting of f16 in Aperture Priority mode. The strength of your filter and the light conditions in your location will play a huge roll in determining which setting will eventually produce the desired results. But that is the beauty of digital photography.. you can always hit the delete button and try again. Adjust the f-stop setting up and down until you achieve an image you like. The bigger the f-number (eg. f22, or smaller the f-stop) the longer the shutter will remain open, and the more light will be let in, making the image lighter. The smaller the number (e.g. f8, or bigger the f-stop) the faster the shutter speed and the darker the image. Don't be afraid to play around and experiment with different settings for different effects.
There is no shortage of wonderful locations to practice this technique in South East Queensland, from the Bunya Mountains Paradise, Festoon & Tim Shea Falls and more to The Sunshine Coast Hinterland's treasure trove of waterfall picture opportunities, with Kondalilla, Mapleton Falls and others around the Maleny, Montville area. Buderim offers Serenity and Buderim Falls. Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park and many others.
Mahano Shipwreck on Fraser Island
Using these techniques you can create some wonderful glass like effects on any moving water, not just waterfalls. Creeks, rivers, lakes and even the ocean can all be tamed this way. Moving water of all kinds provides such a wonderful challenge to the digital photographer because there are just so many creative outcomes that can be achieved with just a little willingness to try something different. So get out there and see what amazing works of art you are able to create, and most of all, have fun experimenting.
Your photography is amazing. I recently bought a Canon 600D but I have so much trouble with over exposure and the camera focusing on the closest thing and blurring the rest. Uploading photos is a nightmare with how long it takes. It's definitely user error :) I seem to get a much better photo from my Olympus pen epm1. I am thinking of selling the Cannon and buying the Olympus epl5. What would be your recommendation? you obviously have a lot of experience:)