In addition to capturing the grand wide vistas we all love, the intimate details in a scene can provide some exciting photographic possibilities. Streams and waterfalls are perfect subjects for this.
Spruce Flat Falls in the Tremont area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park cascades over many rock outcroppings that cause the water to splash over and flow around the rocks creating a variety of patterns in the water. I isolated part of Spruce Flat Falls as shown below with a telephoto lens at 130mm showing its “mini” waterfalls within the larger waterfall. The yellow and orange fall leaves and wet green moss create a nice background for this image. You can see all of Spruce Flat Falls in my gallery here and blog post here.
When it comes to photographing steams, sometimes it’s not possible to capture a pleasing image because of distracting branches covering parts of the stream or the trees along the stream may be too dense to allow you to get a good composition. This is another situation when looking for smaller details can give you the opportunity to go back home with some nice images on your memory card! Indian Run, not far from my home is an example of this situation. Along most parts of the stream above Indian Run Falls, the trees are very dense and there are many low hanging branches that obscure the steam making it impossible to get a good photograph of the stream. In the image below I was able to isolate a small cascade in the steam with just enough sunlight at the right angle to make the water sparkle a little at the top of the cascade.
When photographing streams and waterfalls, some exposure compensation is usually necessary to make the water look white. I typically spot meter the water and add 1 to 1½ stops of exposure to the camera’s meter reading to make sure the water looks white. If you go with the camera’s meter reading the water will look gray. It’s also helpful to use a polarizing filter to reduce or eliminate distracting reflections.
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