Waterfalls are great landscape photo opportunities.  When we look at them we see them like this picture is depicting this waterfall.  The water, flowing downstream, is silky and dreamy.  How is it that most waterfall pictures taken are so disappointing?

Moving objects in front of our eyes, when our eyes remain still, are naturally blurred.  When we are looking at a waterfall, we don’t try to follow water droplets going down the stream.  Because our eyes remain still the water going downstream is blurred.

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When taking a picture, our camera tries to protect us from “motion blur”.  Motion blur is created when the camera is moving and a slow shutter speed is used. To prevent motion blur, our camera uses a fast shutter speed.  This in turn freezes the water that is going downstream.  This create boring and unnatural waterfall picture.

To re-create what our eyes are used to see we need to use a slow shutter speed.  Ideally, the shutter speed should be 0.5 seconds or slower.  This creates additional challenges:

  • If there is too much light, such slow speed might not be possible;
  • The camera need to be very stable to prevent motion blur;
  • Using an aperture of f22 or f32, to reduce the light, will makes everything soft because of diffraction.

This picture has been taken at f18 for 0,4 second using a neutral density filter on a sturdy tripod.

In order to reduce the amount of light, I used ISO 100 and a Neutral Density Filter in front of the lens.

To prevent motion blur, I use a sturdy tripod and the delayed shutter that is sometime used to take picture of ourselves.  This prevented my finger from generating motion blur. I also used the mirror locked up function that locked the mirror up when I did press the shutter.

Using these techniques you will be able to create silky pictures of waterfall.  Are you using these techniques to achieve silky waterfalls?

This waterfall is located on the grand loop road in the Yellowstone National Park.  It is easily accessible.

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