I’m sure you have at some point seen a photo of a waterfall in which the waterfall appears as a smooth, silky curtain that adorns a tall, rugged cliff. I have, for the longest time, wanted to learn how to capture a silky waterfall.
I finally had my chance early in February. As usual, it was a very dreary winter: dark and wet. The only place to capture any good photographs was Dakota Ridge, our local mountain, but almost every time I went up there to volunteer, it was snowing. For that reason, I had to get out whenever there was a break in the clouds.
Winter on the southwest coast of Canada is very tricky when it comes to photography because of the low light. However, in order to obtain that silky waterfall look, you must shoot at a slow shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed, the more light enters the camera’s sensor, so with the right setting, the light balances out. I discovered I gained optimal results when I shot in TV (shutter priority) mode.
The above photo was shot in TV mode with the shutter speed set to 1/15th of a second. I should also mention that I didn’t have a tripod at that time, so I improvised using my body. Thanks to Yoga and overall good stamina, I was able to keep my body very still while making the photos. However, I noticed that, at a shutter speed of 1/15th per second, I didn’t get quite the results that I was aiming to achieve.
So, I took several more photos of this same scene. This photograph (above) was taken at 0 ” 6 of a second with the aperture set to 25 (I should mention that TV mode will automatically set the aperture which is one feature I really like).
One Sunday that month, my mother and I drove up Sechelt Inlet road and hiked up to Burnett Falls. The sky threatened rain that afternoon, but I wasn’t deterred. Also, the thickly forested area surrounding the waterfall made lighting conditions less than ideal. However, I figured; how am I going to become a good photographer if I don’t learn how to make good photographs in difficult lighting situations? I can ask for as much advice and read as many articles online as I need, but if I don’t practice and experiment, I will never learn. It’s important to know how to use my camera and to have a technical knowledge of it. However, great photos are made from a combination of technical knowledge, experimentation, creativity, imagination and a good eye for detail.
The photo above was shot in TV mode with the shutter speed set to 1/4th of a second. I also had the flash on with the flash exposure set to -2 2/3 and the ISO jacked up to 800 just so I could get the lighting to the level I desired for this photograph.
On Sunday that same month, my mother and I drove out to Roberts Creek and hiked the trail that runs alongside Cliff Gilker Park. The sun was shining brightly that day and it was mild, but since the trail winds through a dense forest, little light filters through.
Cliff Gilker is known for its waterfalls. At that time, the water was raging down the rugged terrain. I took several photos but only a couple of them, including the one above, turned out well. Once again, this photo was shot in TV mode with the shutter speed set to 0″8 of a second and the flash exposure set to -3. For whatever reason I can’t remember whether I had the flash on or off when I made this photo, nor do I remember the exact setting I had set the ISO. Though, I did jack the ISO above 200. It was set to either 400 or 800.
I am so thrilled that I have accomplished what I have wanted to do for so long: capturing those silky waterfalls and during a dreary winter at that! Now, it’s just a matter of continual practice and refinement.