This October, rather than our regular Eastern Sierra Fall colors trip, we are planning a trip to Oregon for waterfalls with fall colors. Part of the issue is that for my son and I the Eastern Sierra are becoming cliche; we know where a large number of great shots can be taken from, not that there are not more, new and different ones, but the obvious shots have been collected, in my LR catalog I have over 33,000 fall color frames, clearly not all of outstanding quality (LoL, 🙂 ). I have only done the waterfalls twice, one in the spring and once in the fall, it is still new.
There are the usual logistical issues of where to stay so that we can maximize photo time and have the greatest possibilities. Then there is the question of what places should we plan on stopping at? In this case, a guided book is invaluable, and I like Photographing Oregon, the whole ‘Photographing <state>’ series is designed for photographers. But, beyond the logistics of the trip there are other challenges that should at least be given some consideration. In sunny California, water, and in particular waterfalls are not common, blue skies are. How should we shoot a waterfall? High noon doesn’t work! Waterfalls are difficult to shoot because of the high contrast between the water, shade and sky. The high contrast makes it difficult to capture an image that matches the experience of the waterfall.
There are several ways to deal with the high contrast so often found when shooting waterfalls;
- Make sure that everything in the photo is in the shade (implies no sky). The picture below violates sky clause, however most of the photo is in the shade , but even then the contrast in the water is still large.
This usually means knowing the right time of day for each scene that you want to shoot. (not 2PM like this one)
- Do not include the sky even if there is direct sun on the scene
Can require great creativity in composition to make this work.
- Use HDR with bracketed exposures (Usually need 3 to 5 stops on a sunny day)
- Shoot with overcast skies so that the light is more even, less contrasty, and the colors are richer
Although I like HDR for the increased range, I have not yet had great success with waterfalls when I include the sky.
I couldn’t resist using this picture of my wife and I. Multnomah falls is a popular wedding location. 🙂 Luckily the Oregon weather tends to cooperate with this aspect!