Shooting Waterfalls

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to photograph a waterfall and get that nice soft effect. My previous attempts had not been successful. Armed with my new knowledge about exposure and shutter speed, I headed to Great Falls National Park to shoot waterfalls.

Great Falls is a National park located outside Washington DC, along the Potomac River. There are two sides to the park. The Virginia side offers expansive views of the rocky falls, and the Maryland side has a walkway that extends over numerous falls.

Many photographers, including Ansel Adams have held waterfalls in their view finders.

Yosemite Falls Ansel Adams

Prior to making the trip, I checked out websites that offered good tips for shooting waterfalls.

I brought with me both wide angle and telephoto lenses, my tripod, and a neutral density filter that lowered the exposure by two f-stops.

I knew from my research that I wanted to get there early for the best light. Once at Great Falls, a sign in the women’s restroom alerted me that “If you fall in you will die.” Good thing I brought those hiking boots! 

I used the wide angle lens for expansive shots and the telephoto to focus in on smaller falls and details.  I set the ISO for 100, and my aperture for as small as it would go. From there I determined the slowest shutter speed I could set and still maintain a good exposure. 

One lesson for me is that my 100-400 mm telephoto lens allows me to set  f32, and with this I could set the shutter speed as slow as 1/15th of a second allowing me to get the blurred effect.  My wide angle lens only allowed me to set f22 and a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second. The resulting photo had some texture in the water.

GF VA shot with wide angle

GF MD shot with telephoto

While I was pleased with my initial results, I want to keep shooting waterfalls and improving my skill.  

Do you want to shoot waterfalls? It is a perfect time to get out, enjoy nature and capture some great images as well. There are several places within a day’s trip that offer opportunities to do so. I encourage you to give it a try!

Swallow Falls

Kilgore Falls

Delaware Water Gap

By Leslie S.


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