How to Click Awesome Long Exposure Waterfall Shot as a Newbie
Landscape Photography Guide,  Long Exposure Photography

How to Click Awesome Long Exposure Waterfall Shot as a Newbie

This post was recently updated on July 17th, 2021

Reading Time: 8 minutes

I highly underestimated Jibhi especially, when I was looking for my very first long exposure waterfall shot.

The Jibhi Waterfall had turned things around & I wasn’t expecting it.

Now, let’s go into the flashback…

The lockdown was a difficult phase for all of us.

But if you had utilized that period in developing your skills. Then the time had come to go out in the field by following the safety measures & rock it.

I had visited Jibhi in Himachal earlier also, but this time the mindset was different.

The reason that you had landed here was that you wanted to learn how to create those smooth and silky-looking waterfalls right. Then please hang on till the last. I had explained in complete detail how to achieve those long-exposure waterfall shots.

But first, we will get to know a little bit about the location that we are heading for our long-exposure waterfall photography.

Jibhi Waterfall

Shot from the Entrance
Shot from the Entrance to the Jibhi Waterfall

Jibhi Waterfall is a small waterfall present in Jibhi, district Banjar in Himachal Pradesh. It would be just a few minutes of walk away from your stay, wherever you will be staying in Jibhi.

Or 

At last, you can take your car to reach the waterfalls because there’s a small hike as well. If you are not comfortable walking up the hill, then you must take your vehicle along. You can park your car outside the entrance of the waterfalls.

There’s so much space outside to park your vehicle also means you will be spotting very few people inside.

Ample of time, you would be having to take a long exposure waterfall shot or small stream, whichever you’ll find fascinating.

More importantly, there are no entrance fees to visit the Jibhi Waterfall.

The small water streams in-between had mesmerized me that I end up staying at a point for about a few hours.

So, this was a little bit about the location.

It’s time to know more, what is Long Exposure Photography? and What equipment or gear do you need to achieve that?

Long Exposure Photography

The long exposure shots of the water stream
Very Small Water stream

Long Exposure Photography is a technique of showing something in movement. A movement could be of anything like clouds, humans, vehicles, water, etc. In this technique, you have to open your camera’s shutter speed for about a few or several seconds. 

Fireworks Photography is also a perfect example of long exposure, in which you can also control the shutter speed using a bulb mode.

Let me just quickly recall you –

You must have clicked long exposure images on your phone (deliberately) but not (intentionally).

For e.x – The shot of a person has been stretched in a way that made it looked like a hazy movement itself.

I hope that you can re-image that scene or what I am trying to convey. The shot was deliberately clicked because you are not aware of the result but, you had a mindset of pausing the person in the frame, correct?

We will be talking about doing it intentionally that it should look neat and clean at the same time.

Things Required for Taking Long Exposure Waterfall Shot

I will be explaining in point the things required for long exposure waterfall Shot –

1. DSLR Camera

This is a must requirement. It could be any DSLR even, basic would work perfectly. If you had a high-end smartphone on which the camera shows the manual options to manage your exposure triangle, Shutter SpeedAperture & ISO. Even then, I recommend having or carrying a DSLR for the long exposure waterfall shot.

There’s no doubt that today’s smartphone has become more advanced. It can almost do everything that a DSLR offers.

Still, there’s a lot that only a DSLR can do because it was particular designed for that purpose as compared to the multipurpose smartphone.

Huff, a long topic speech

A DSLR is a must to carry.

2. Basic Knowledge of the Exposure Triangle

After completing the first requirement of having a DSLR, the next would be to know a little bit about the exposure triangle.

Any hands-on experience would be Awesome. But, somehow, if you are not aware, I would recommend you must hold a little bit of basic knowledge about the exposure triangle. You can self-learn the basics of landscape photography or even photography.

I hope that you will be going to take a read before jumping onto the next step.

3. A Neutral Density Filter (ND Filter)

We had started from the basic requirements, we had jumped onto a little advanced process. But, no need to worry. I will be explaining what is an ND filter and What does it do? And how you can utilize it to your benefit in long exposure.

What is an ND Filter?

In simple words, An ND filter stops the outside light from hitting your camera sensor. The stoppage of light depends upon the type of ND filter that you will be using. They are identified as ND4, ND8, ND16, and so on. With an increase in ND number, the light entering the sensor would proportionally be decreasing.

ND filters are effective in long exposure waterfall shots in the daylight because the conditions will be very bright, and ND will stop the light from reaching your camera sensor. This allows you to bring out the creativity of opening exposure for a prolonged period.

This allows you to shot long exposure photographs even in bright daylight. It also depends upon the ND that you will be using.

For e.x- I will be considering an ND8 for this example

Before using an ND – 

Shutter speed = 1/3 sec

Aperture = f/13

ISO – 400

After using an ND8

Shutter Speed = 2″ sec

Aperture = f/13 (keeping aperture value constant)

ISO – 400 (keeping ISO constant)

In short, this implies that you can increase your shutter speed with ND filters without adjusting any other values.

There are adjustments that you have to calculate while you are in the field. If you know the basics of dealing with the exposure triangle, you will be going to rock it.

4. A Circular Polariser Filter (CPL Filter)

This completely depends upon you whether you need a Circular Polariser filter or not.

What is a CPL Filter?

In simple words, a CPL filter enhances the color of the scene. A circular filter will be circular & it works by rotating the filter after attaching it to the front part of the lens. The rotation of the filter will increase & decrease the intensity of the color.

A CPL also stops some portion of light. (Depending upon which brand CPL you will be using)

A CPL filter can make the sky color blue look more intense.

5. A Tripod

Using a tripod is a must. At least in the cases where you will taking quite long exposure waterfall shots. A Tripod gives your camera stability & support. Especially when you are doing Long Exposure Photography. You don’t want any kind of shake that eventually spoils your scene and efforts.

It’s also a rule of thumb on reversing the focal length and on anything below. You have to use a Tripod. I know it sounded confusing?

For e.x – if you’re using a focal length of 18mm and, on the reverse, it becomes 1/18th. If you’re shooting anything below 1/18th shutter speed with the 18mm focal length, then you have to use a Tripod.

If you will not use a tripod, the chances of the image getting blurry would probably increase.

These are the most essential points in taking balanced Long Exposure Shots.

Optimal Long Exposure Waterfall Settings

The optimal long exposure waterfall setting is depended upon your creativity and what you wanted to showcase.

The best way to start is around 1/2 sec of shutter speed. Make necessary adjustments in shutter speed as you move forward.

Coming to Applying the Long Exposure Waterfall Shots at Jibhi Waterfall

Jibhi Waterfall long exposure shots
Jibhi Waterfall

I was shooting long exposure waterfall shots for the very first time. As I had already told you before in this article.

I was pre-planned in my mind already after checking the images online & visualizing the scene.

One more thing that’s more important is getting to the location and spending some time there before you start shooting. It will help you in analyzing the scene and getting comfortable with the surroundings.

The Stream of the water flowing just near the waterfall - Long exposure shots
Nikon D3500, 18-55mm 3.5 – 5.6G, S – 10s, f/36, ISO – 100, ND8 + CPL

The shot above was from the stream of water that was flowing from the waterfalls.

The surroundings of the waterfalls don’t allow much light to enter the area.

It’s an added advantage that the outside light will be less. That means you can shot even more Long Exposure because of the two situations –

  1. Less Outside Natural Light
  2. Using Neutral Density Filter & Polariser Filter

The exact settings used for the shot above – Shutter speed i.e, S – 10s, Aperture i.e, f/36, & ISO – 100, ND8 & Circular Polariser Filters

In this case, I had used an ND8. It allowed me to reduce the Shutter Speed + a Polariser. It had helped me to decrease the shutter speed by 2-3 stops. And enhancing the colors in the scene.

I will be concluding this in a step by step process now –

1. Trial & Error

The first few shots were going to be trial & error shots because –

  • You have to match the exposure triangle that will suit the conditions best.
  • Actually for how long do you want the shutter to remain open.

You can judge the waterfall speed and available lighting conditions & then you can try shooting the long exposure waterfall shots.

2. Shot & Look Back into the Camera

Are you satisfied with what you had shot? I think these are the questions that you need to ask yourself. I want that you should criticize yourself. Try to find out the mistakes by yourself because the outer world will not do this for you.

The best way to go is to shot at different shutter speeds. Then choose the optimal shutter speed on which the image looks the way you wanted it should look & then experimenting around that Shutter speed.

Sounds Good?

3. Shot with different Angles and Focal Lengths

Shooting with different angles & focal lengths will give your image a viewpoint that you can experiment around. Zoom-in and close-ups would also work if you had something in mind that you wanted to convey with this point of view.

4. Use ND Filter & Polariser Filter Accordingly

You should first try to shot without any filter and take the decision that whether you are getting optimal results or not.

If not, try shooting with an ND filter. You can carry a bunch of ND filters and then shoot and decide if that had worked out for you or not. Try adjusting the shutter speed with other ND filters.

Also, you can combine both ND & CPL filters. They both together will do their work of stopping the light from hitting the sensor.

You could use a Circular filter if you wanted to enhance the colors in the field itself. The CPL filter works to improve the sky and foliage colors. So, you can experiment the way you wanted with the filters.

5. Enjoy your time

Just enjoy your time, do wholeheartedly & with dedication. Whether you’re doing Long Exposure Waterfall Photography or spending some time alone in the peace. I just want you to enjoy the feeling of creating something.

You might have done the Long Exposures before also (If you did). There’s also a possibility that if you are reading this article. You’re a pro in Long Exposures.

Feel the vibes of nature around the Jibhi waterfall or any other waterfall you will visit. Just enjoy your day there and just keep clicking & improving.

Conclusion

In the end, I just wanted to summarise that keep learning. Now keep learning doesn’t mean that you’ll get fixed at one place and reading & reading.

Instead, try to observe the happenings going around your surroundings. How you can utilize your surroundings to your use.

And don’t forget to practice long exposure waterfall shots before you head out in the field. Creating a scene in the head is directly related to getting the optimal result.

I hope that the article had helped you & I solved your problem of learning long exposure photography of the waterfall.

Please share & follow the blog.

Keep Learning, Keep Growing, Keep Practising

Until then, see you on the roads.

A Passionate Traveler who explores to see every corner from his eyes and presents it through Visual and Creative writing. The blog covers Travel and  Photography content.

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