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April 2016 Issue
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Photo school: Silky-smooth waterfalls


Use a slow shutter speed to create silky-looking waterfalls

Location: Tawhai Falls, Tongariro National Park

Camera settings: 35mm lens, ISO100, f11, 1/2 second

Special tools: Tripod

Frame the waterfall

Include ‘still’ subjects like rocks in your composition, so the whole shot is not just moving water. A strong foreground of rocks and flowing water can also add depth to the photograph, leading the viewer’s eye to the waterfall behind.

Capture the movement

To freeze the water and capture its dramatic power; use a fast shutter speed (1/500 second or shorter). To achieve lovely flowing, silky-looking water; use a slow shutter speed (1/4 second or longer).

Embrace the clouds

Photographing a waterfall on a sunny day can be hard. Direct sunlight on the water can result in an uneven exposure; cloudy days offer better conditions with the use of longer shutter speeds. When waterfalls are in the bush, they will often be in complete shade in the early morning and late afternoon.

Only blur the water

If you are using a slow shutter speed to blur the water, you will need to use a tripod. If you don’t have one you can improvise by resting your camera on top of a rock or your pack.

– Richard Young is Wellington-based photographer running photography workshops in Tongariro National Park