One of the questions I’m most often asked when it comes to photographing waterfalls is what camera settings I use, particularly what shutter speed.
And my answer is always the same, “It depends.”
It depends ~ On the look I’m going for. If I’m trying to capture the shapes and swirls created by bubble caught in an eddy, I know I’ll need a longer exposure time. The image above required 8 seconds to achieve the look I was after.
It depends ~ On how fast the water is flowing. The stronger the flow the shorter the shutter speed required to capture the silky smooth look on the water.
A few weeks ago Mossy Glen was flowing very quickly due to recent spring rains, therefor I only needed a half second exposure time when making the above photo.
It depends ~ On the amount of ambient light you’re working with. This next photo, of Middle Ammonoosuc Falls in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest, was made well after the sun had gone down. It was getting quite dark in the deep gorge the falls flows through so I knew I was going to need a very long exposure. The exposure time on this photo is 180 seconds.
So as you can see there is no one set rule I follow when deciding on what shutter speed. Generally speaking I do try for at least half a second, but if the light is right or I really want to capture bubbles or leaves swirling on the currents I’ll experiment until I’ve captured the look I want.