Tips

8 Inspirational Books By My Favorite Photographers

How do you really get better at photography? Have you found that buying new gear and spending hours reading up on camera specs have you no closer to mastering your craft? You may have, because those methods aren't going to get you there. Spending time out in the field actually making images will surely do it, but what else can you do? The best advice that has helped me improve my images is this: study photographs. Browsing websites and downloading eBooks is absolutely fine, but a well-designed, printed book is my preference - something I can hold in my hand and really study within the context of a selection of carefully curated images (often with a nice whiskey in the other hand). I study every element of the images that most connect with me, the compositions, light, perspective, mood, use of lines, and contrasts and I try to incorporate anything I can gather (taking notes helps) into my own work. It does help, tremendously. Spend hours studying photographs by your favorite image-makers instead of those sharpness charts and new camera specs. Below is a list of books from a few of my favorite photographers. Their work inspires me, and I apply the techniques I learn from them in the field. 

 

ARCTIQUE - Vincent Munier

Vincent Munier is a French photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and was BBC Photographer of the Year in 2000, 2001, and 2002. He travels to some of the most remote and extreme locations on earth in search of elusive, rarely seen wildlife. His images are pure poetry. Often, instead of showing us illustrative, straight-forward shots of wildlife, Munier employs a more abstract and minimalistic approach, showing intimate glimpses of his subjects. In my humble opinion, Vincent Munier is one of the best of the best at his craft. His beautifully designed book, ARCTIQUE, explores the desolate white arctic landscape and the hardy creatures that call it home. 

Chased by the Light - Jim Brandenburg

Jim Brandenburg is one of my all-time favorites. In fact, it was seeing his work in National Geographic Magazine that first inspired me to pick up a camera. He's done it all in 30 years with Nat Geo, and even now at age 70, he's still making waves and creating meaningful work. CHASED BY THE LIGHT was a personal project by which Brandenburg took only one photograph each day for the 90 days of Autumn in the Minnesota Northwoods surrounding his home. These were the film days, and he didn't know exactly what he was getting until the film came back from the lab. He tucked the project away for two years until the Geographic contacted him for an assignment. Brandenburg, instead, gave them Chased by the Light, which the Geographic published (I have that 1997 issue by my desk). The story contained the highest number of images ever published in a single story in the magazine's history using the least amount of film. 

Looking for the Summer - Jim Brandenburg

LOOKING FOR THE SUMMER is Brandenburg's follow up to Chased by the Light. For another 90 day marathon he photographs his Northwoods home. This time, armed with digital gear, Brandenburg doesn't limit himself to one shot each day, and instead shoots many, selecting only one image to represent each day leading from spring to summer. This is a must-have book for nature photographers!

Soul of the Camera - David DuChemin

David duChemin has been writing passionately and eloquently about the photographer's inner struggles for over a decade. His many well written and well-designed books are available in print and digital formats and are published by duChemin's own company, Craft & Vision. THE SOUL OF THE CAMERA is David's latest release. Laced with a series of beautiful black and white images, its pages provide honest advice on how to improve your craft beyond thinking in terms of equipment and technical abilities.

Mountain Light - Galen Rowell

Galen Rowell is a household name and possibly America's best known landscape photographer (somewhere up there with Ansel Adams). Unless you've quite literally been living under a rock, you've seen his work. MOUNTAIN LIGHT is one of my personal favorites, and I reference it often for inspiration before heading out into the mountains. The images are stunning, and the stories behind them are inspiring. Rowell tragically died in a plane crash in 2002, but his vast catalogue of images with subjects spanning the globe is still with us. Rowell wrote several awesome books in his three decades of traveling the globe for Nat Geo, Sports Illustrated, and the Sierra Club (among others). I'd also recommend his books High and Wild and Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography. 

Portraits - Steve Mccurry

Steve McCurry's best known image, "The Afghan Girl" graces the cover of his simply titled book PORTRAITS. You know his work, just as you know Galen Rowell's, even without realizing it. If you're into natural light travel portraits, McCurry is the photographer to emulate. I saw an installation of his life's work at an art gallery last year that blew me away. It's inspiring to discover that most of the images in this book were made using manual 35mm cameras during the 70s and 80s that were much less advanced than the gear we rely on now. 

Polar Obsession - Paul Nicklen

Paul Nicklen has been documenting the great white north for decades. He is a frequent National Geographic contributor and has given us a wealth of images documenting the plight of wildlife and sea life affected by climate change. POLAR OBSESSION contains a collection of Nicklen's most stunning images. (The swimming polar bear on the cover is my current screen-saver).


Bonus Recommendation for All Creative Types:

How to Feed a Starving Artist - David Duchemin

Ever wonder why nobody talks about the business stuff? Isn't that really the most difficult, yet essential, part of becoming a successful pro-photographer? Well, David duChemin's HOW TO FEED A STARVING ARTIST provides a generous amount of advice for creative types for only $10. duChemin tells all, even things that make him feel vulnerable like his own bankruptcy and how he learned the hard way to avoid debt. Complete with tales of personal financial struggle and sound advice from accounting professionals, this conveniently priced eBook provides priceless knowledge for, not only photographers, but anyone in any creative field looking to make their passion a successful business. 


In writing this post I realized that I have listed only male photographers. As is the case with many industries, photography is male dominated, but that doesn't mean that there is a shortage of talented female photographers. My favorite is hands-down Ami Vitale. She is a master, and her contributions are invaluable. Unfortunately, she has no book release yet (as of this writing), though her images are used internationally and by the highest profile publications on the planet. Follow her amazing work here: http://www.amivitale.com

Update 2018: Ami Vitale's book Panda Love will be available this summer! Check out the details by clicking the image below.

How to Photograph Northern Lights

How to Photograph the Northern Lights

Despite having made three trips to Iceland, two of which were specifically to photograph northern lights, I had yet to see the aurora borealis until a few nights ago near my new home. I drove only 30 minutes from my apartment to Elk Island National Park after seeing forecasts that called for moderate to high auroral activity. I arrived that night around midnight to find that the northern lights had already started dancing across the sky in various shades of green and purple. Finally! Northern lights! I was beyond excited to see the light show of the north and spent just over 3 hours photographing the aurora from various spots within the park.

If this was my first time photographing the northern lights what makes me an expert worthy of teaching other people how to shoot it? I did face challenges beyond my control while shooting the aurora that cool summer night, but I got the technical aspects (like exposure settings) dead on. I've been photographing the night sky for years, and shooting the northern lights is not much different that shooting a star-filled sky. The main issue I did have was high winds. I was making long exposures, and the breeze made the tree tops move, causing them to be blurry in most of my images. There was also the coming and going of cars with blazing headlights interfering with some of my exposures. Despite these challenges, I'm pleased with my first northern lights images.  Here is how I captured them and what I learned in the process:

Research Weather & Aurora Forecast

The northern lights can only be seen on clear, dark nights. If you live in a city, you have to get away from the light pollution of traffic and street lights. The farther out, the better. In some countries (like Iceland) the aurora can only be seen during winter months when it is dark enough for long enough to see them. Here in western Canada, especially in the northern parts around Edmonton and up, northern lights can be seen year-round if the conditions are right. It was mid-July when I first photographed them. Check the aurora forecast with one of the many websites that predict northern lights activity (I've listed several below). Then check the weather forecast for the area you want to photograph them in. Keep in mind that the weather can change. The night I made these images, there was a thunderstorm that cleared just minutes before I went out to the national park. Dress accordingly, you may be outdoors for a while!

Northern Lights over Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park, Canada (18mm, f3.5, 13 sec, ISO 800)

Northern Lights over Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park, Canada (18mm, f3.5, 13 sec, ISO 800)

Prepare Camera Gear BEFORE Going Out

Don't wait until you're on location in the dark to fiddle with your equipment. Choose your lens, pop it on your camera, and put in on your tripod (you cannot shoot the northern lights without a tripod!). Then choose your settings. I turn in-camera long exposure/noise reduction off. That's because I don't want to slow the camera's operation down with these features. Because I chose a full frame camera, I wasn't worried about noise and only needed to reduce it slightly in post (shoot RAW for the love of photography). Crop-sensor cameras are fine for shooting at night. You may have a bit more noise in the shadows, but you should be able to fix much of it later. I set my dial to manual mode and set my ISO at 1250 originally, then, on location, I found I could lower it to 800 for most shots. 

You don't need a fancy f1.4 or f2.8 lens to shoot the northern lights like all those other blogs tell you. It helps to let in as much light as possible, reducing ISO requirements, but don't fret if you don't have one. I used my Nikon 18-35G at f3.5 mostly. I even took a few at f4.5. They're fine. As far as shutter speeds, I chose 15 seconds to start, and when I was shooting, I made adjustments between 8 second and 15 second exposures depending on the situation. To reduce camera shake, turn your two second timer on or use an external shutter release. 

The most difficult part of shooting at night, aurora or not, is focusing. The general rule is to focus to infinity. Turn your focus ring to the infinity mark and turn auto focus off. Rarely are lenses actually perfectly focused to infinity even when set at the mark (for example my 18-35mm is focused to infinity just slightly before the infinity mark on the lens). Make sure you know what infinity actually is on your lens before you go out to shoot. I'd recommend marking this somehow in case you accidentally lose focus. If you're set to infinity, then your foreground (treetops, etc.) should be in focus. 

Finally, make sure to set your compensation to "0." While shooting, check your histogram occasionally to make sure your shots aren't way underexposed. My advice is to adjust shutter speed if necessary and leave the ISO as low as possible. Keep in mind that the slower the shutter speed, the more ovular stars will appear, and the less distinct the shape of the aurora will be as it dances across the sky. 

Northern Lights over Power Lines, Elk island National Park (18mm, f3.5, 15 sec, ISO 1000)

Northern Lights over Power Lines, Elk island National Park (18mm, f3.5, 15 sec, ISO 1000)

Look North, Find a Foreground, and Be Patient

The general rule is to look north to dark, clear skies. If the aurora is strong, then it can actually create waves in all directions and be photographed from the south as well. When you arrive on location with all your gear preset, try and find a north facing direction to start with, preferably with a decently interesting foreground (I approach northern lights photography much like landscape). Take a test shot, or two, and make compositional adjustments accordingly. Another general rule is to shoot super wide, but I also zoomed to 35mm for a few shots. Sometimes the northern lights will be the subject of the shot, sometimes the background, keep this in mind while composing images. Use your LCD level between each new composition to make sure things aren't crooked.

The northern lights can appear anytime of night, but usually between 12AM and 4AM. Be patient if you don't see them and keep in mind that they may first appear very weak and not visible to the naked eye. Take occasional shots to see if the aurora is there. If it swells in color and dances across the sky in a spectacular display and then fades away, don't pack up and go home yet. Stick it out. It may come back again even stronger. 

Northern Lights over Hayburger Trail, Elk Island National Park (18mm, f3.5, 8 sec, ISO 800)

Northern Lights over Hayburger Trail, Elk Island National Park (18mm, f3.5, 8 sec, ISO 800)

Recommended Equipment:

Camera and any lens with manual capabilities and built-in self timer
Tripod (with bubble levels if camera does not have built-in level)
Remote shutter release (self-timer works fine though)
Headlamp
Weather appropriate clothing
Water and/or coffee

Post Processing Tips

Like everything else, if you shoot it right in the field, you should have very little work to do in post. Because northern lights images are dark and lean toward the left side of the histogram, my first task in Lightroom was to increase the exposure, blacks, and shadows a bit while still maintaining that it was nighttime. Once deep blacks were recovered, I simply increased saturation, contrast, and vibrance moderate amounts in order to bring forth the colorful aurora and bring out the subtle orange and purple hues that are less obvious than the bright green. Increasing clarity a slight amount (+10 to +20) helped to accomplish this even more. Then, I adjusted white balance more toward the cooler side on both sliders because I wanted to keep the sky a natural shade of blue (I originally shot in daylight white balance, which I found to be slightly too warm). There was no set formula, I edited each image individually. For me, it's all about creating the look that represents reality as well as what I perceived. It's easy to over saturate and push colors beyond natural levels.

As far as noise reduction, I left everything in the default setting except the luminance slider, which I increased to +16. I didn't add any additional sharpening.

I hope this helps you to be successful on your northern lights shoot. I was very lucky to be able to see and photograph them in mid-summer. I definitely hope to have that experience again soon. Feel free to message me with any questions. To find out what's in my camera bag, click here

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in May, Elk Island National Park (18mm, f3.5, 20 sec, ISO 2500)

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in May, Elk Island National Park (18mm, f3.5, 20 sec, ISO 2500)

How to Photograph Fireworks

Canada Day Fireworks over the Alberta Legislative Grounds, Edmonton, AB. (Nikon D600, 18-35G, Tripod - 35mm, ISO 200, f11, 2.5 sec)

Canada Day Fireworks over the Alberta Legislative Grounds, Edmonton, AB. (Nikon D600, 18-35G, Tripod - 35mm, ISO 200, f11, 2.5 sec)

I have to be honest, until Canada Day 2017 I had never photographed fireworks. So, before I hauled all my gear out to the Legislative Grounds here in Edmonton for the big Canada 150 celebration, I scoured the internet for advice on how to best photograph them. I found a lot of conflicting information. About the only thing I could gather for sure is that I'd need to use a tripod - which was a no brainer. As far as exposure settings, I'd just have to make educated judgments and make adjustments on the fly. After the smoke had cleared that hot summer night, I actually came away with several shots I'm happy with. Firework shows are generally short and dramatic, so a photographer doesn't have much time to fiddle around. Pre-show preparation is key. Here's what I learned about firework photography:

Tip 1: Scout the Location

I can't stress this enough. Scouting is often used by landscape photographers. By showing up on location well before the fireworks show, you'll be able to figure out where you should stand for the best composition. I showed up at the Legislative Grounds the day before the celebration and spent about an hour walking around and picking out three possible spots to set up. I knew that this would be much more difficult to do the following day when the crowds arrived. 

Tip 2: Choose a Foreground and/or Subject

Zooming in on the fireworks is fine, but I prefer to have a subject in the foreground. I wanted the historic legislature building in the shot because it provides context, scale, and visual interest. I also chose to include a little of the crowd at the bottom of the image.

Tip 3: Get There EARLY!

My lovely wife and I arrived about an hour and forty-five minutes early for the Canada Day fireworks. The bridge overlooking the Legislature building already had several selfie-takers swarming about and two other serious photographers all set up. To my relief, the other photographers were not in the spot I wanted; they both chose to be dead center across from the dome of the building. Based on my internet research and images from previous firework shows in Edmonton, I knew that a perfectly symmetrical shot wasn't what I wanted. Because the fireworks were being shot from the south-west of the building, I knew that the fireworks were only going to pop up over the right side from that view (see pictures). So, I chose to position myself to the left of center and place the dome on the left side of the frame to create less negative space and more room for fireworks. As time ticked closer to the fireworks show, we found ourselves completely blocked in by hundreds of spectators. Had we shown up only 30 minutes later, I would have never been able to get the location I wanted. 

Tip 4: Use a Tripod

You want a slow shutter speed of around 3 to 6 seconds to capture the spread of the arching streams of light from the fireworks. In order to accomplish this without motion blur, you need to use a tripod. This is another good reason to arrive early, as setting up a tripod in a tight crowd is a nightmare. You should also use an external shutter release (or cable release) to prevent camera shake from pressing the shutter button. The built-in two second timer will work fine, but you risk missing peak action before the shutter opens. 

Tip 5: Choose the Proper Settings

The benefit of using a tripod and a slow shutter speed for firework photography is you don't have to fret too much about other exposure settings. I exposed for the building, which was lit by ugly yellow street lights, because that was the brightest element in the scene. I took a test shot just before showtime to make sure everything looked good on my histogram - no blown out highlights or muddy dark shadows. I treated it as a landscape and shot most of my photos at f11 for sharpness and depth of field. Using f11 also allowed me to narrow the streams of light making them more defined than if I had used a wider aperture. I chose ISO 200 for no particular reason other than lower ISOs will generate less noise in the image and preserve detail and dynamic range. 

Canada Day Fireworks over the Alberta Legislative Grounds, Edmonton, AB. (Nikon D600, 18-35G, Tripod - 35mm, ISO 200, f11, 3 sec)

Canada Day Fireworks over the Alberta Legislative Grounds, Edmonton, AB. (Nikon D600, 18-35G, Tripod - 35mm, ISO 200, f11, 3 sec)

Find out what's in my camera bag here!

5 Tips for Waterfall Photography

Öxarárfoss ("Axe Falls"), Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. (Nikon D600, Nikkor 18-35G, Nisi V5 Polarizer, Lee 0.9 Graduated ND filter,    Sirui   T-025x Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10 Ball Head)

Öxarárfoss ("Axe Falls"), Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. (Nikon D600, Nikkor 18-35G, Nisi V5 Polarizer, Lee 0.9 Graduated ND filter, Sirui T-025x Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10 Ball Head)

If you've browsed through my portfolios, you've probably noticed that waterfalls are a consistent subject for my photography. I live near dozens of them. Some are well-known and famous with photographers and naturalists (like Linville Falls pictured below). Some don't even have names and are rarely seen. I visit many of them every season because they never seem to get old to me. If there is nothing else to shoot and you're in a place like the Appalachian Mountains or Iceland where there is lots of water and it's constantly flowing, then you'll always have a subject. I don't mean to say that these wonders of nature are only fall-backs, only that they rarely disappoint, as long as you know how to make the scene in front of you come to life on film (or digital sensor, of course). I've been shooting a lot of waterfalls this summer on my quest to retake (or at least reinterpret) images that I made when I first moved back to North Carolina from D.C. in 2011. I've managed to reconnect with some old friends that I've neglected to visit in the past 5 years, like Linville Falls and Glen Burney Falls. It's been great to catch up. Here are a few tips and tricks that I've learned over the last several years when it comes to waterfall photography.

Tip 1: Use a Sturdy Tripod

I cannot stress this enough! A solid tripod is a landscape photographer's best friend. Do not skimp on this purchase if you are a serious nature photographer. Carbon fiber is best. I use a Gitzo Mountaineer Series 2 with a Manfrotto fluid pan/tilt ballhead on it. This combination works great and has given me several years of use. A good tripod set up eventually pays for itself (if not in funds, then in convenience and sharp images). Mine has been very reliable despite having been dropped several times onto hard granite. I also use a Sirui T-025x Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10 Ball Head when I need to travel super light. Carbon fiber is lighter and absorbs vibrations better than steel or aluminum. It is also more expensive (though some new manufacturers of carbon fiber tripods are selling them cheaper these days), but to me it's a no-brainer. If you're putting an expensive camera and lens on a cheap tripod, you are nuts. No two ways about it! If you want to get a sharp image at slow shutter speeds and have that smooth velvety look to running water, you need a tripod.

Tip 2: Use a Wide Angle AND a Telephoto Lens

Most people think wide angles when they think of waterfall landscapes. Telephotos are usually an after-thought. Many of my favorite landscape images have been made using a telephoto zoom. When you come to a scene, give it a good look over. Look at the light and the subject and figure out what you want to say about it. Think about its "story" first. Then, choose the right lens for the job. If a wide lens is required to take it all in, make sure to place the elements in the frame so that the composition is simple and lacking distraction. Make sure to have a foreground element to provide a sense of depth and interest. Then switch to a telephoto (focal lengths ranging from about 70mm up) to pick out details, compress the elements, and further simplify the scene.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:12.0pt;
	font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
    150 Foot Tall Linville Falls, North Carolina. (Nikon D7000, 70-200 f2.8 VR II @ 70mm, Nisi Circular Polarizer, Gitzo Tripod with Manfrotto Ball-head)

150 Foot Tall Linville Falls, North Carolina. (Nikon D7000, 70-200 f2.8 VR II @ 70mm, Nisi Circular Polarizer, Gitzo Tripod with Manfrotto Ball-head)

The image of Linville Falls (above) was made using a 70-200mm lens on my cropped sensor D7000 (my full frame camera was at Nikon for a cleaning) at 70mm. The 1.5X crop factor makes the 70mm focal length equivalent to 105mm. This allowed me the ability to isolate the falls and keep the large boulder in the frame while narrowing the distance between them. Notice that the large boulder and the small waterfall in the lower center are about the same size in the wide angle shot (below) as they are in the telephoto image. The 150 foot high fall, however, is much smaller because the wide angle focal length exaggerates the distance between the two. The wide angle shot was taken just a few meters in front of the large boulder, while the telephoto image was made about 15 meters away from it. In my opinion, because the telephoto shot is simpler with fewer elements, it is the stronger image.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:12.0pt;
	font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
    Linville Falls, North Carolina. Nikon D7000, 18-35G @18mm, Nisi Circular Polarizer, Gitzo Tripod with Manfrotto Ball-head)

Linville Falls, North Carolina. Nikon D7000, 18-35G @18mm, Nisi Circular Polarizer, Gitzo Tripod with Manfrotto Ball-head)

Tip 3. Use a Polarizing Filter to Cut Reflections

I think a circular polarizer is the most useful filter for waterfall photography. A neutral density filter will allow you to get slower shutter speeds, but it doesn't do much as far as saturating colors and cutting the reflections from the rocks and water in your image. Because a polarizer is dark, it also helps slow your shutter speed down a bit. I use the Nisi V5 filter system, which comes with a very nice circular polarizer. By rotating the filter, you can change the amount of polarization to suit your needs. Even though polarizers are most effective when the sun is at 90 degrees of the direction your lens is pointing, it will still make highlights and reflections less harsh in any lighting condition. I prefer to shoot waterfalls at shutter speeds of under 1/2 second to get that silky smooth flowing water effect (the longer the exposure, the better). During brighter conditions the polarizer helps me to accomplish this.

Öxarárfoss ("Axe Falls"), Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. (Nikon D600, Nikkor 18-35G, Nisi V5 Polarizer, Lee 0.9 Graduated ND filter,     Sirui     T-025x Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10 Ball Head)

Öxarárfoss ("Axe Falls"), Thingvellir National Park, Iceland. (Nikon D600, Nikkor 18-35G, Nisi V5 Polarizer, Lee 0.9 Graduated ND filter, Sirui T-025x Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10 Ball Head)

Tip 4: Choose the Right Light and Weather

The best times to shoot waterfalls are early mornings, late evenings, or in foggy and overcast conditions. I prefer to shoot them just after a rain or early in the morning when the rocks and moss are damp and the colors are saturated. The benefits of photographing waterfalls under these conditions are many. First, the sun is low or blocked by clouds altogether so getting slow shutter speed is easy. Second, the reflections on the water and rocks are less severe and are less likely to be "blown out" in your images. Third, the scene is probably not going to be so contrasty that the shadows in your image are "plunged" (or too dark) if you expose for those highlights. Fourth, you're likely to have the place to yourself in dreary weather and especially in the early morning. I very rarely come across another person while photographing even the most popular waterfalls in my region. Even though I prefer these conditions, waterfalls can be photographed during the day and in sunny situations. The trick is to use both a polarizer AND a neutral density filter to even out the exposure and allow the ability for slow shutter speeds.

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland. Though this image was made at mid-day, the heavy overcast clouds allowed me to use slower shutter speeds and have no issues with glare or reflections. I used the person in the red coat to show scale. (Nikon D600, Nikkor 18-35G,  Sirui     T-025x Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10 Ball Head)

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland. Though this image was made at mid-day, the heavy overcast clouds allowed me to use slower shutter speeds and have no issues with glare or reflections. I used the person in the red coat to show scale. (Nikon D600, Nikkor 18-35G, Sirui T-025x Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10 Ball Head)

Tip 5: Get Wet

When out shooting waterfalls I often wear water-proof shoes or slip them off in order to go barefoot. Sometimes the best composition isn't on dry land. I have often stood waist deep in rushing water while holding onto my tripod to keep it from being swept away just to get a picture. Be careful. These are slippery conditions and I never get in over my head (so to speak). I make sure that if I slip, I'm not going down a mountain or over a cliff or into a gorge or something. This is another reason a sturdy carbon fiber tripod is necessary. Even with fast moving water pushing against the legs, it is still typically able to absorb the vibrations enough for a sharp image. In order to get the shot below, I was in fast rushing waters up to my thigh with the water line up to the top set of twist locks on my tripod. In order to get the water out, I simply take the the little rubber "feet" off the legs and let it run out. Be sure to have several dry micro-fiber cleaning cloths for your lenses and gear as well; these things tend to get wet when you're in a river.

Normal 
 0 
 
 
 
 
 false 
 false 
 false 
 
 EN-US 
 JA 
 X-NONE 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
    
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin:0in;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:12.0pt;
	font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}
 
    Roaring Creek near the Appalachian Trail, North Carolina. (Nikon D7000, 24mm 2.8D, Hoya Circular Polarizer, Gitzo Tripod with Manfrotto Ball-head)

Roaring Creek near the Appalachian Trail, North Carolina. (Nikon D7000, 24mm 2.8D, Hoya Circular Polarizer, Gitzo Tripod with Manfrotto Ball-head)

For more about the photography equipment I use, check out my full gear list!