Time With Garwin Falls

It Depends. 

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.

8 thoughts on “Waterfall Wednesday

  1. Really great examples Jeff!! I love the swirling eddies of water in the first one and the clarity in the third is spectacular. Photography is totally dependent on so many different factors in the subject matter, the conditions and in the artist’s imagination. You’ve really shown how to explore the environment and imagine the image that can be created in this post 🙂

    1. Thank you Sarah. Sometimes I do have an idea of the photo I want to make, more blur or less, etc, but when it comes to those eddies I have no idea of what’s possible until I take a few test shots. Often there are several different currents and eddies all going at once and it’s hard to visualize how it’s going to look without a test shot or two.

      1. Oh yes I know what you mean and I think that’s one of the most fun things with photography!! It’s sometimes so surprising or unexpected. Other times you get exactly what you had in your mind and that brings a real sense of satisfaction too 🙂 I have to say that I really get a kick out of the unexpected outcomes. We’re lucky now with digital to be able to do test shots for many things. Back in the days of film everything was guesswork and a roll of film with a whole series of one subject shot at lots of different settings. I always enjoyed the moment of discovery when I developed my films!

    1. Thanks! I do love my waterfalls. One of the things I like about capturing those swirls is that you really never know what you’re going to get until the exposure is done. It usually takes me several experimental shots to get just the look I’m going for.

Comments and thoughtful critiques are always welcome.

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