Shooting Waterfalls

ISO 100, 0.25 seconds @ f16………..Cataract Creek photos by Michael Maloney

Just heard reports from friends that Cataract Creek near Mt Tamalpais in Marin County is flowing at near peak levels. If you are like me and enjoy shooting waterfalls, now is the time to go! The past two winters have been tough for shooting local waterfalls as there was little winter rain, but let’s keep our fingers crossed for plenty of rain this winter!

Shooting moving water is fun because you can make the water come alive with just the right shutter speed. The water takes on a silky smooth look with a slow shutter speed. To get that look, a tripod is absolutely necessary. A remote shutter release is also handy although in a pinch, you can just set the shutter delay to 2 seconds. Another necessity is a neutral density filter if you are shooting on a sunny day. Shutter speeds from 1/30th a second and slower are where you want to be so ND filters of various strengths will get you there.

How do you determine what shutter speed you need? Read on.

ISO 100, 0.6 seconds @ f11

ISO 100, 4 minutess @ f20 with 1.8 B+W neutral density filter

ISO 100, 0.3 seconds @ f5.6

Camera Set Up

  • Use either Live View mode or lock your mirror up. When your shutter speeds get slower than 1/30th a second, the mirror movement can blur your image.
  • Turn on the highlight overexposure warning. This helps you determine quickly if your highlights start to clip (blow out). Blown highlights cannot be recovered so you need to make sure you keep them under control. It’s ok however to have a few very small areas without detail. The goal is to have detail in the shadows without blown highlights. Checking your histogram is the only way to accurately tell if your exposure is good.
  • Make sure your camera is set for 1/3rd stop exposure increments. This will allow for finer control over your exposure.
  • Set your shutter release to a 2 second delay or better yet, use a remote shutter release. Pushing the shutter button causes the camera to move slightly even when on a tripod which can blur your image when shooting long exposures. A remote shutter release can allow you to use the Bulb mode to get your exposures longer than 30 seconds for some really interesting effects.

Determine Shutter Speed & Exposure

  • At all times, make sure your tripod legs are firmly locked and positioned. We don’t want any cameras falling into the water! Some tripods tips have aluminum spikes – use them if you have them. If you set your tripod in the creek to get that perfect angle, make sure the current is not moving as it can vibrate your tripod.
  • Watch closely for any unwanted movement in your scene during your long exposures. Things like ferns or other vegetation could move in the wind and be a distraction in your image.
  • Set camera exposure mode to shutter preferred (TV on Canon, S on Nikon and most other cameras) and run through shutter speeds from 1/30th second to as long as you like. Keep checking your meter however because you will exceed the exposure range and may have to adjust your ISO or use ND filters to get slower shutter speeds.
  • Now review your images on the LCD to determine which shutter speed gives you the look you are after. Take note of the aperture.
  • Make sure that the exposure is a good one by viewing your histogram. The correct exposure will be the one that maintains both shadow and highlight detail.

White Balance & Shoot

  • Set camera to manual mode and set your camera to the shutter speed and aperture you determined in the above steps. If you want a different aperture you can change it but you’ll need to change your ISO to maintain proper exposure.
  • Next, include a gray card in one of your images. This will allow you to set accurate white balance in post. Especially important if using ND filters as they tend to create some minor color shifts.
  • I usually like to bracket my exposures, keeping the shutter speed constant. I’ll go 1 stop over and 1 stop under in 1/3rd stop increments. If you are shooting film, bracketing is essential, including bracketing your shutter speeds.

Now through spring is the time to go out to shoot waterfalls – that is if we have a normal rainfall winter. Waterfalls can be found nearly everywhere and don’t have to be the classics like those in Yosemite. Out at Cataract Creek the tallest waterfall is just around 10 feet – most are much shorter, but all are spectacular to witness and a whole lot of fun to shoot.

I am leading a photo walk out to Cataract Creek in February to shoot the waterfalls. If you would like to join me, let me know. More details here.

ISO 100, 0.3 seconds @ f14

February Photo Walk : Cataract Creek Waterfalls

Photos by Michael Maloney

Let’s try this one again…fingers crossed that we have a wet winter!

Take a hike with Michael from Camera West in Walnut Creek on this photo walk alongside beautiful Cataract Creek on the north slope of Mt Tamalpais in Marin County. The winter rains provide plenty of water for tiny Cataract Creek producing a series of small waterfalls that drop through a forest canopy of redwood, Douglas fir, oak, and maple trees.

This photo walk is for photographers of all abilities. Only requirements are a camera that will allow you to manually set the shutter speed, and a sturdy tripod. Michael will show you how to photograph moving water and offer some tips to get that silky smooth look to the water.

This photo walk is limited to just 12 photographers so sign up early!

Saturday, February 21, 2015
10 AM
Cost : $50.00

Call or email Michael at Camera West in Walnut Creek to sign up.

michael@camerawest.com

925-935-1424

 

Waterfalls Along Cataract Creek Photo Walk

Photo by Michael Maloney

Take a hike with Michael from Camera West in Walnut Creek on this photo walk alongside beautiful Cataract Creek on the north slope of Mt Tamalpais in Marin County. The winter rains provide plenty of water for tiny Cataract Creek producing a series of small waterfalls that drop through a forest canopy of redwood, Douglas fir, oak, and maple trees.

This photo walk is for photographers of all abilities. Only requirements are a camera that will allow you to manually set the shutter speed, and a sturdy tripod. Michael will show you how to photograph moving water and offer some tips to get that silky smooth look to the water.

9 am

Saturday, January 25, 2014 

Sunday, January 25, 2014

NOTE : This photo walk is postponed due to lack of rain. We hope to hold hold it later in the spring if we get some significant rain.

Cost : $25.00

Call or email Michael at Camera West in Walnut Creek for more info.

michael@camerawest.com
925-935-1424

Photo by Michael Maloney

June Photo Walk : Night Photography at Blackhawk Plaza

Join Michael on this photo walk to Blackhawk Plaza, the East Bay’s premier shopping and dining destination…and also a great shooting location. This plaza features an aquatic landscaped courtyard full of reflecting pools, waterfalls and whimsical sculptures, making it a fun photographer’s playground which will certainly challenge your creativity.

We will start at dusk and learn how to make waterfalls and moving water look silky smooth. You will learn how shutter speed, aperture and ISO are all related and how to use all three effectively to improve your photos. Once it gets dark, we will continue to shoot under the lights of the courtyard, shooting long exposures with cameras on tripods. This photo walk is tailor made for the novice shooter – although photographers of all abilities are invited to attend.

This photo walk will be limited to no more than 12 photographers so be sure to sign up early before it fills.

Thursday, June 27 & Tuesday July 2

7:30 PM

Cost : $25.00

Please note that this photo walk has filled. Please contact Michael to be put on the wait list.

Call or email Michael at Camera West in Walnut Creek for more info or to sign up.

michael@camerawest.com

925-935-1424

 

Cataract Creek Waterfalls Photo Walk

Thank you to all the participants who joined me this past weekend to shoot the beautiful waterfalls along Cataract Creek in Marin County.

This photo walk was so popular that I led two groups, one on Saturday and another on Sunday. SInce we’ve had such a dry winter, the waterfalls were at less than ideal flows, but we still had plenty to shoot and everyone seemed to have a great time.

If you want to go out and shoot some waterfalls, check out this earlier how-to blog post from last year, and if you are interested in joining us on our next photo walk, click on the events tab to the left of this post.

James sets up a low angle shot along Cataract Creek

Martha and John shoot the upper pool falls - top photo of this post

Ernie checks his stop watch as he shoots a long exposure

Randy composes his shot near a wall of ferns