Photographing Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon, Utah can be harder than it looks. You might think I just pulled into the parking lot, grabbed my camera and got some photographs. The truth is a little more complicated. Photography is all about the light and how it changes depending on the time of year. Due to the orientation of Provo Canyon that runs on an East to West axis, the weeks around the equinox are the best time to capture the sunlight setting low on the waterfall. I had been trying to photograph the waterfall in the winter for years but never liked the light. This time I watched the weather and waited for early spring.
Photographing a Frozen Waterfall
Here is a video of the evening's shoot that you may enjoy.
How to Photograph Moving Water
One of the most popular techniques used to photograph moving water is to show the motion in the water by slowing down the shutter speed in the camera. To first accomplish this technique, you need to have your camera on a tripod. You also need a remote shutter release or use the self-timer on the camera. Next you will need to set your camera on Manual or Shutter Priority to control the shutter speed. Last you will need to set your shutter speed at a slow setting so the motion of the water is blurred. There is no set number to use because the water may be moving at a different speed each time, so play around and look at your results on your camera viewscreen to see which effect you like best. I like starting at 1/30 second and working down from there. For this shoot I settled on .6 seconds on all my images. The trick is to capture enough blur in the moving water to show the motion but not so much that the detail in the water is lost.
Icing on the Cake
Keep Your Focus
Focus is critical in every photograph but focusing on moving water can be very difficult. The best way to ensure a good focus in the image is to pick an object that is in the zone you want in focus or towards the center of the image such as a rock and focus on it. Shooting at a smaller aperture such as f/8 or smaller will help keep the depth of field deeper to ensure everything in front of and behind the focal plane is in focus.
Keep on eye on your meter and histogram especially if you have dappled sunlight or the scene is partially lit with sunlight, as the images from this shoot were. Getting the proper exposure so the highlights are not blown out and keeping the shadow detail is key to capturing the best photograph you can.
Pay Attention to the Details
Look for the detail shots inside the big picture. Don't be afraid to just play around and zoom in on things that catch your attention. Look at the composition differently and experiment with perspectives that exclude the big overall scene. I find it handy to zoom in the full extent of the lens and then start scanning the scene watching for compositions that jump out at me. Limiting your field of view as you look through the viewfinder can really help build a better composition. Try both a vertical and a horizontal image of the same scene. You may end up liking one more than the other and it is always good to have variety in your archive for that one client who is looking for something specific.
One of my favorite sayings is "To truly enjoy winter you need to learn to accept its cold embrace". This statement doesn't mean you need to be cold, just that you need to be prepared. If you want to enjoy being outside in the cold invest in good winter clothing and learn how to dress for the cold. I wrote a blog post on this subject. Give it a read, then get outside and breath the cold air, explore a snow-covered forest, leave your tracks in the snow and make memories that will last a lifetime!
Tomas W. Mitchell