by Alberto Bregani
Water. It’s open to myriad interpretations, with filters of varying darkness or density for silk effects certain to impress. Long exposures, tripods, timed or remote controlled, whatever the technique success is (almost always) guaranteed. Or what about super-fast shutter speeds for a freeze-motion effect? So long as the fall is bouncing of something like a boulder, otherwise freezing millions of drops of water in flight won’t work. Your interpretation will always depend on the water flow of the river or waterfall, and you may not always be able to pull off the photo you want to attempt. You first need to know which technique is most suited to the situation at hand.
- How is the water falling?
- Is it bouncing off something?
- How is it flowing?
- Is it a wide flow or just a trickle?
- How much light is it getting?
- Is the morning best? Or late afternoon?
- May or September?
Yeah, it can get complicated if what you want is a shot that is truly yours-your waterfall, unlike any other. Unique and recognizable. A work of art. Only you can know that. I can’t tell you myself, unless I’m there with you when taking the shot so that we can figure out what to do together and discuss a few ideas.
There is, though, one factor that is common to all these options and interpretations, and that, of course, is light. When it comes to water, whatever the technique, the time of year, or the type of subject to be shot, you will always need to avoid direct sunlight.
In direct sunlight, there is no way to avoid overexposure or that loss of contrast and depth that makes the scene completely flat. It’s always best to look for cloudy conditions when the sky is flat and milky. Although it may seem to us that there’s not enough light, to the camera it will look like a sunny day. It will be like having a giant bank light perfectly illuminating the entire area, bringing out contrast, giving life to shadow, and illuminating bright areas, water included, without the risk of burnout. And most importantly, exposure will always be balanced.
Try it sometime and let me know how it goes.