how to photograph waterfalls

Waterfall Photography Secrets and Techniques

Waterfall photography is one of the most stunning variations of photos we can create. Learning how to take pictures o waterfalls not only inspires us to become great panoramic professional photographers but in addition helps us to strive to become better photographers in a general sense. There is one trouble with taking photos of waterfalls that many photo enthusiasts battle with. That is the daylight. Sometimes waterfalls can be too dark or overexposed. It seems to be a challenge to get the true exposure.
In this waterfall photography tutorial I will be discussing the foremost problems with exposure. Exposure is a term to explain how much total lighting there is. This means that the brightness of your waterfall must be just right; not too bright and not too dark. This can be tough when you are photographing your waterfall on a bright day.

You can see one of my past photos of a waterfall. This was photographed on the automatic mode ten years ago when I knew very little about photography. Thankfully times have changed and I know what to do now!

waterfall photography tutorial

Mastering waterfall photography depends on light and composition. Photo copyright by Amy Renfrey.

The trouble with this image is that the digital camera exposed for light off the shadow areas of the photo and missed the top section. As a result the crest of the waterfall is not detected because it’s overexposed.

Years later when I invested in Lightroom I made the decision that I’d become familiar with it by attempting to fix some of my previous pictures, such as this waterfall photo here.

Here is the result.

how to photograph waterfalls,

I was not able to improve it, as much as I tried. Why? Because the photo was not taken properly to begin with. I tried to fix the highlights and reduce the brightness at the top to even out the light but it still does not work. I had to forget about this one unfortunately.

When waterfalls are taken on a bright day in the automatic setting we get one of two things. The waterfall is flawlessly exposed and all the surrounding elements, like your mountain range and cliff face is underexposed. (Too dark.) We might also be challenged by the surrounding things being just right and our waterfall being overexposed (too bright.) How do we get the waterfall and the surrounds both looking perfectly exposed?

I  suggest using gentle light. A soft grey light will not only put emphasis on your green leaves and trees surrounding the waterfall, but it will not overexpose anything too much. You will still need to meter off the white water however.

You will observe that when capturing your waterfall in subdued light, it’s quicker to get improved exposure. The brighter areas are reduced and the shadows are not as strong. Light is refracted due to the cloud sand hence we get a subdued look in our photos.

Let’s take a look at some examples of what waterfalls look like in filtered light.

waterfall photography tutorial

This waterfall photography tutorial can help you get stunning waterfall photography- not only good lighting but with vibrant colour and sharp focus as well. Photo copyright by Amy Renfrey.

This photo was a 3 shot panorama. Water is tough when you capture panoramas. You have to have your shutter on extremely fast. I’ll talk about that in a different photography tutorial.

Let’s observe this photo a little more attentively. The light is coming from the upper part of the photo and we see shadowed areas in the rock face below. To be able to shoot this waterfall photo I made certain that I had the correct exposure. I metered off the waterfall. You see your waterfall will be the most luminescent thing in the shot so it is important to tell the camera to meter off that. This works especially well if you are spot metering.

how to photograph waterfalls

How to photograph waterfalls to create stunning shots means getting the right vantage point. Photo copyright by Amy Renfrey.

This photo was taken from a fair distance, at the end of a very high platform, looking across a river. I wished to be able to have a more interesting vantage point but it was not physically achievable, so I made use of what I had.

How to take photos of waterfalls depends on your brightness, where you stand and getting the precise exposure. Once you have all three then you can enjoy going to the next level; editing. Sometimes bringing up the whites and shadowed areas by a fraction will help even out the light even more. You might want to increase the colour vitality, or boost one colour only. Take your time and find the right method that works for you. Soon your waterfalls will be appearing like masterpieces you will want to hang upon your wall.


How To Use A Digital Camera – Wrapping Your Head Around The Basics

There are many great advantages of learning how to use a digital camera, even a point and shoot, or compact digital camera. Simply because you don’t have an slr doesn’t mean you won’t be able enough to take beautiful pictures. The elegance about compact digital cameras is that you can take them any where, fit them in your bag and if you see something worth photographing, you can straightforwardly point and shoot. When you realize a few handy techniques, you can subsequently start getting beautiful photos.

In order to photograph beautiful photos you need to take a few methods into consideration before pressing the shutter. As much as the camera has some  marvelous technology, it can only prove as a rough road map for you, instead of taking the photo for you. It’s you who takes a superb shot due to creative  and technological skills, not the camera.

On the days when you have a few moments to examine what result you are going will get you will be grateful that you didn’t rush and really looked closely at what you are shooting. It is constantly through this assessment and understanding that takes you to the next degree in your photography.

To begin, let’s look at the essential mechanical foundations of your camera. Shutter speed and aperture. Every photo consists of a mixture of shutter speed and f stop. To appreciate this fully think of your shutter speed as the measurement of time the light has to enter the sensor and then be shut out again. The fstop is the quantity of light that the shutter lets inside. Shutter is about shooting at the right moment and aperture is about the amount of light.

When you have a lens aperture that is quite large, you will find you have a quicker shutter speed time. This is so that not too much light floods the sensor and provides you with overly bright photos. (Photos with too much light can ruin your image). Fstop and shutter speed continually work at the same time. Once you feel more confident in your camera and your skills and competencies, you will be able to work out the ideal combination of both.  Once you get the perfect combination you will be able to progress your photography ten fold.

What about the modes on the compact ? There are a a small number of work modes you can use on your digital camera. Most of the time you will most likely shoot in automatic. I suggest to aim to use out the other controls if you can.

“SP” is shutter priority mode. It means that the camera will decide on what it thinks the best shutter speed is for your photo. “AP” means aperture priority. The camera will pick the aperture for you as you decide the shutter speed. You may also find a range of other scene shooting modes such as Portrait, Landscape, Night and Sport.  When you position your camera dial on any of these modes it will mean that the compact  will try to hit upon the best combination of shutter and aperture for these conditions you have chosen.

These diverse settings bring about distinct things to take place within the camera itself. Portrait mode sets the camera to have a blurry background. Landscape sets the digital camera to be able to get sharp focus in the distance. Night Time function sets the camera to have a very long-drawn-out shutter speed and Sports function tells the digital camera to have a very fast shutter speed. Within all of these shooting modes you are unable to manipulate the light sensitivity (called ISO), and at times won’t be able to use the flash. (Based on what digital camera you have.)

Working to get the best image sharpness you can is the ideal way to take pictures.  It’s important to be on familiar terms with what type of subjects needs what kind of focusing. For example, a close up picture of someone’s face needs sharp, close focusing. A mountain range will require sharp focusing all the way in the distance. (This span of focusing is called depth of field.)

To make sure that your shots are in focus at the point you want them to be, you will see a small circle come up in your view finder or the screen. When the picture is in focus the little circle will present. Some digital cameras don’t have a green small dot but may beep quietly when the shot is in focus and it’s time to take the shot.

It’s important not to be careless with the focus. Sometimes it’s hard to keep everything in your head at once which is why digital camera making companies created a useful little mode called “Auto Focus Lock”. This mode allows you hold the focus on your subject while you get the best position, then you can photograph and still keep clear focus.

Otherwise you can point the camera, keep the button down half way (don’t compress it yet) wait for the camera to beep, then take the image. By doing this you will also be holding the focus. This has great advantages because you don’t have to recall to take the auto focus lock off. You can just move on to the next image.

Always keep in mind to observe your light, before taking the shot. Choose which mode you love photographing in and take the photo accordingly. Happy shooting!


How To Do Night Photography

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The Magic Of A 50mm Prime

Every so often you get asked “which lens is your favourite?” I often reply with “the one that gets me the best shots for what I am doing at the time.” But! There is one lens that really does take a priority in my kit, and that’s the gorgeous canon 1.2 50mm.

Not only does this lens perform beautifully in low light, but it’s highly responsive. It’s a very sensitive lens- meaning that when you make a change to the aperture or shutter, it changes significantly. It’s fast and performs beautifully even at an f stop of 1.2.

I thought I’d try the lens out on my cheapo Canon 300D. This camera doesn’t respond very well to highlights or shadows and can’t compute when there are both within the one image. The camera really has no idea what to do!
So I thought I’d put a beautiful lens on a cheapy camera and see what the difference would be in my standard lenses and the gorgeous 50mm prime.

This is what the lens looks like:

And here is what some of the photos look like with this lens:

I love the clarity and sharpness with this lens. I’ll be featuring it in Octobers Ezine which you can find on my website.

www. Digital Photography Success. com

WordPress do not like me placing an active link to my site on my blog, but just copy and paste and remove the spaces and you’ll see what it’s all about!

Flower Photography- What To Do, What Not To Do

Can't Do With Out It

This morning, after a night of heavy rain, the sun shone through the scattered clouds and warmed the cool morning air. As I poured my regulation morning coffee, I shot a glance through my kitchen window and noticed how the sunlight seemed subdued, almost filtered. It was almost as if someone had turned down the intensity of the sun to allow for morning people like me, to get their bearings.

Doing photography for the past 8 years has taught me that subdued sunlight doesn’t happen all the time and is considered a fortunate thing. (It also happens to be Winter morning light too, which is why it looks so beautiful.) So I grabbed my camera and headed out to shoot the rose that’s starting to bloom. The one that I’ve been nurturing everyday so it will bloom for me.

When I lived in cold Melbourne, I never used to pray my roses would bloom. They just did, and abundantly I might add. But here in Queensland? Getting roses to grow is like, well, I don’t know what, but it a major pain in the butt.
It’s the climate change. My roses hated it. If they were people, they’d need a therapist to work out their issues. And they ‘d be peed off with me.

The problem with moving from a cold climate to a subtropical one is that the beautifully delicate, English cottage plants you love so much, wither and die in the intense sun. You are left with nothing but a brown stump where your best rose used to be. Amidst the frustration of this I decided I would not be beaten. Dammit, it I was going to have roses in my garden. So off to Bunnings I went.

(For those of you who do not know what Bunnings is, let me delight you. Bunnings is a gardeners paradise! Just think of anything associated with DIY home reno, gardening, planting, growing, mowing, busting your butt doing something around the house and Bunnings will have something to suit you. And the prices are dirt cheap. Righto, no plugs here, on with the story…)

Bear with me, I am getting to the photography part of all this.

I bought this stuff called “Sea Mungas.” Nope, not straight from the sea, but a brilliant “bring you back to life” fertiliser that seems to resurrect plants who are on their death-bed. Don’t ask me why it’s called “Sea Mungas”, I really don’t know.

“Ok, what the heck” I said pouring this stuff into the base of my beloved dead, brown stump of a rose and waited….

Within 4 weeks I was seeing tiny dark pink shoots spring forth from the dry, brown stick like rose plant. And within 4 weeks of that, look what sprung into life:

Beautiful Rose- Photo Copyright To Amy Renfrey

1/50 shutter speed
ISO 400
Focal Length 55mm
White Balance Auto

Ok so this is not a gardening blog, so how did I take this photo?

Well the first thing I did was examine the light I had to work with, that’s always the first thing you have to do before anything.

Secondly, I grabbed my camera, and thought about what types of shots I wanted. I aimed for nice clear close-ups without too much colour saturation. I can’t do much about the colour saturation because that’s the camera, and fortunately, not me.

Because the light was subdued, (I hope you were taking note of that), I chose a “middle of the road” ISO. Why? Well, simply because the sun was not blaring down and over exposing everything in sight, so I didn’t need to reduce the light sensitivity much. Also, there was sunlight present, so it would have been silly to whack it up to 1600. That would have potentially overexposed the picture.

Thirdly, I wanted detail and clarity so I stood in the way of the sun and shot the flower within my own shadow so the detail would be there. Plus I know how my camera behaves now, and it loves medium close up filtered shots it just likes it that way. Hey, I don’t argue with it, I just work with it.

Fourth and last point, because I was standing over the rose within 30 centimeters of it, without a tripod (because I was being a bit lazy) I knew that focus would be paramount. For this reason I made sure I had a relatively good shutter speed without diminishing the sharpness that a small aperture brings.

Photography is really about compromise sometimes. You gotta work with what you have got- especially outdoors. You can get the best lenses and camera gear in the world that make you look like you know what you are doing, but if you can’t work with light and be intelligent about it, then you are better off buying a point and shoot.

Sorry if you didn’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. People hang a lot of expectation on the camera to do the performance for them, without being smart about working with light first. So do yourself a favour and be smart- work with light first, then get the gear.

This photo is copyrighted to Amy Renfrey

1/100 shutter speed
ISO 400
Focal Length 55mm
White Balance “Sunny”

Oh what the heck, I might as well put this one in too:

Maiden Hair- Picture copyright by Amy Renfrey

1/60 shutter speed
ISO 1600
Focal Length 55mm
White Balance “Sunny”.

And if anyone can tell me what this plant is, I’d be mighty grateful:

Photo Copyright By Amy Renfrey

1/60 shutter speed
ISO 1600
Focal Length 55mm
White Balance “Sunny”.

The Benefits of a Compact Camera

For decades there have been little pocket cameras that made it easy for anyone to take a relatively good photograph under a wide range of conditions. Technology, however, has made the pocket camera, or the compact camera, more high-tech than ever imagined.

Consider that a well-made modern compact will come with everything from optical and digital zooms, dozens of presets and modes, and even the option for taking video clips. The main question for many is – are they suitable for use for an enthusiastic photographer to start getting some good shots? The answer is “yes”.

Just like DSLRs, however, no two compacts are identical, and it pays to understand how they can be used to best effect. For one thing, they are a great way to scout out locations and make photographic notes about the types of settings and equipment that a photo session might require.

For example, let’s say that an enthusiast photographer has been invited to a wedding, but there are some serious limitations about the use of flash in the church. With their compact camera in hand, the photographer can go to the location and use it to capture images of the areas in which they will photograph the couple and the event, and to also take all kinds of metering from the various sites as well.

Of course, a compact isn’t just a tool for weddings or Sunday family BBQ shots; they can take some good images on their own. This is enhanced by the availability of manual settings that allow a skilled photographer to control the camera’s behaviors, but most also make some very interesting presets available too. Consider that many have upwards of twenty preset modes that can allow someone excellent photographic results within candlelight, nighttime, sporting events, and a host of other scenarios. These are especially benefited from the photographer’s pre-existing knowledge about the needs of different settings too.

Where zoom and wide-angle photography are concerned, the modern compact has a nice array of lenses built into their little frames as well. Some go as low as 10mm to allow for a nearly “fisheye” wide angle image to be recorded, and others have a digital zoom of up to 12X as well. While the digital zooms are usually considered somewhat inferior to optical zooms due to their massive amounts of blur and noise, they can still be exceedingly helpful to a photographer out in the field.

It may be helpful to have a compact camera in a modern photographer’s store of tools and equipment.

Taking Sensational Colour Photography In Low Light Outdoors

Photograph by Timo Balk, a very talented Melbournian.

Photograph by Timo Balk, a very talented Melbournian.

In New England there is a very distinct time known as the “leaf peeping” season. This is when the foliage is at its peak and the landscape is full of reds, gold, and many brilliant oranges. This is also a time when dramatic skies can make the colors even more intense or remarkable, but this period tends to last only a matter or two or three weeks. By November most of the region is devoid of leaves, and full of the dull grays and browns that will not be replaced with green for almost six months.

What can a photographer do during the gloomiest parts of this season? How can you head outdoors and photograph blunted stalks of corn against the haunted and leafless woods? Actually, many photographers can find moments of intense “sweet light” during such a season, and make images that are both dramatic and quite inspiring.

What is sweet light? It is usually the hours of dusk and dawn when the lack of brilliant sun makes colors bolder and the overall setting much more photogenic. The midday sun tends to wash out color and cast harsh shadows which tend to be an unpleasant photographic environment. The duller weather months, however, are often overcast and mimic the conditions found in the hours of sweet light. This means that a photographer should be looking for spots of color in their duller surroundings because the conditions for capturing them are at optimal levels.

For example, although the frosts may have killed back all of the remaining green foliage, there will still be fields full of pumpkins and winter squashes. Their brilliant orange and mustard yellow colors will really “pop” in the overcast weather. This is also a time to photograph the gorgeous red barns of the region too.

Another subject that can really shine in between the end of autumn and the beginning of winter are the seasonal birds that seem to burst out of the trees and shrubs. For instance, a male cardinal against a backdrop of dark branches and leafless trees is a truly stirring sight.

There are some considerations to be made before heading out into a duller weather setting, however, and they usually include the intentions of the photographer, the environment, and the actual weather at the moment. The planning on the part of the photographer is crucial to success. It is not good to leave the situation entirely up to chance, and knowing where to go on the day in question is the only way to take a successful image. Scouting out those pumpkin patches or knowing where the frost is going to lie heavily on the long grass is vitally important to creating the best dull weather photographs.

How To Use The Histogram

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Ideal Placement of Background Objects In Your Digital Photography

Last week I spoke about positive and negative spaces in digital photography. To compliment that article I am going to go further into subject placement in your photos to get the ideal composition.

To start with, one of the things that detract from a beautiful digital picture is distraction. I see it all the time. A vase on the table in the background that had nothing to do with the message the photographer is conveying. Or perhaps something sticking out the top of something that ends up being irrelevant and a visual nuisance.

To avoid this I would like to draw to your attention the importance of story telling in photography. In each individual photo you take, when you are capturing a situation, what you are really doing in photography is telling a story. A big, majestic landscape is the photographers way of saying “see how this scene creates feeling of tranquility and calm”. Another picture might show you the adrenalin of a race and another might show you the depth of emotion at a birthday party.

Now what makes these pictures work so well is that every single thing, or object, in the photo has ideal and relevant placement in relation to the story you are telling in the photo. A relevantly placed object can completely increase the nature and feeling of the story. Just as equally powerful, an irrelevant object can ruin or downplay the intensity of emotion in your images and they won’t be as powerful. And don’t be fooled by thinking the space around the subject doesn’t matter just because its space and not an object.

Take this next example:


Copyright by Petr Kovar

I understand what the photographer is trying to do but the Moon is distracting. Where does the photographer want us to look? Is it a shot of the moon with birds? Or is it a shot of birds with the moon? I’m not sure. You see how one simple additional subject can detract from the essence of the photograph? As a consequence it looses a lot.

Since we are using birds, an example of an additional subject that enhances the feeling and story of a photograph is this next one.


This photo works okay because the chimney and the white bird to the left make sense for each other to be there in the same photo. They are linked and we understand that. We can understand that perhaps the chimney is the birds dwelling place and has relevancy in the bird’s life. It makes sense.

Always remember that no matter how big or how small, other objects will really make or break your photo. And the size doesn’t matter, as you have seen in these two examples. Its not about the size of something in the picture, it’s about relevance.

Happy shooting,

Amy Renfrey

How To Get Fast Action Shots Indoors In Low Light