My lady and I decided that Halloween would be a perfect excuse to hike up into the woods to take photographs of a waterfall. Don’t ask me how the two are connected because I won’t have a good answer for you. Anyway, we’ve been meaning to get up to this waterfall because it’s very pretty and secluded. The only problem has been the lack of water. It’s relatively dry up in the mountains of Maine during most of the summer, so any water related photography needs to happen in either spring or fall. During the winter, the falls are frozen. Since we recently had a healthy rainfall, we decided that Halloween would be the day. New tradition? I’m not sure yet.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever wondered how to take one of those silky smooth running water photos? I guess they’re called time lapse photos. It’s when the water is moving, but nothing else in the scene is. In my opinion, these types of photos are very attractive and I’ve enjoyed taking them in the past. They wake up an otherwise common scene. I’ve seen time lapses applied to the ocean, rivers, streams, waterfalls and anything else you can imagine that has to do with water. I really do like them.
Yesterday was the day to experiment with a few different lens filters. My goal was to capture a few decent time lapse shots of Poplar Falls in Carrabassett Valley, Maine. Since we were the only ones at the falls, we had as much room and liberty as we wanted.
In today’s post, I’d like to show you the very simple process I took to take a few different photographs. They’ll be of two scenes and the one I edit will be of one close by scene. Really, I just moved the angle of the camera over a bit. I’d like to write this post for the beginning photographer who wants to walk out into the woods with camera in hand to capture something like this. I’ll discuss the equipment that’s needed as well as the editing that goes into the photo afterwards. For that editing, I’ll be using Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop.
Equipment & Gear Needed For Time Lapse Photography
Believe it or not, you don’t need much to take great time lapse photos. Yesterday, I went out with a Canon Rebel T7i DSLR camera, a tripod and a few lens filters. The DSLR camera was necessary because I needed to have control over the shutter speed, the tripod was necessary because it’s impossible to take handheld time lapse photos and the lens filters were necessary because with many daylight prolonged shutter speed photos, overexposure is a problem. And that’s really it. If you can adjust the shutter speed of your camera, attach an ND filter to the end of the lens and keep the camera still somehow, you can take silky smooth waterfall photos.
Some Demo Shots
In this section, I’m going to show you two different scenes with two different shutter speeds. These photos are straight out of the camera and haven’t been touched at all. The reason I’d like to show you these photos is because it’s helpful to see how a simple shutter speed adjustment can affect a photograph.
For this first scene, I set the camera to auto (Program Mode) and took the shot. I let the camera do all the work. I did have my +8 Neutral Density lens filter attached to the lens. Actually, I had that lens filter attached for all of these photos. I also had the camera mounted on my tripod for all these shots.
F/4, 1/30 second, ISO 800, 18-135mm lens @ 24mm
As you can see, that’s a regular old photo of the water running down the stream and it wouldn’t be too remarkable if I posted it on my blog or social media. People would be like, “Yeah, what’s so special about that?”
For this next shot, I switched the camera into Shutter Priority Mode. I found that two seconds is the sweet spot for photos like this. Anything between one and four seconds is actually really good, depending on what you’re going for.
F/11, 2 seconds, ISO 100, 18-135mm lens @ 24mm
And if I ran this picture through Camera Raw and did a few edits to it (and then cropped it some), I’d end up with a much better photo of a bland scene.
You have to remember, it was totally cloudy and a fairly ugly day. Can you imagine the nice colors I could have had in these photos if it was sunny out?
Here’s another scene that I took. The first photo is again taken with Program Mode and the second is taken with Shutter Priority Mode. Take a look.
F/4, 1/40 second, ISO 640, 18-135mm lens @ 24mm
And here’s the same shot taken with Shutter Priority Mode at one second.
F/10, 1 second, ISO 100, 18-135mm lens @ 24mm
Again, it seemed like the sweet spot for the shutter speed was around two seconds.
Now, let me quickly edit the second shot to see if I can make it look any better than it currently does. I’m sure I can.
Notice that ugly dead tree to the left of the waterfall. That’s got to be removed in this next scene.
The Final Waterfall Scene
I hope you’re seeing how easy it is to capture these kinds of photographs. There’s no special skill needed. All you need is a neutral density filter to keep overexposure at bay, a tripod to keep your camera steady and a camera with the ability to adjust shutter speed. That’s it.
Now, let’s take a look at this last photo. This one is my favorite because it’s so smooth and the bottom of the falls spread out nice and wide. This is the untouched version.
F/18, 2 seconds, ISO 100, 18-135mm lens @ 18mm
If you haven’t guessed by now, much of what makes time-lapse photos look so good comes from post-processing. Photographers and editors add all sorts of filters to these things. Honestly, nature simply isn’t as beautiful as what’s displayed in most photography out there. Some people think this is cheating and others think it’s art. Who’s to say what it is?
The way I go about editing photos for posts like this is to just clean the image up and make it presentable. In this photo in particular, I need to add some contrast, depth and to remove that ugly dead tree that’s next to the waterfall. I’d also like to add a tad bit of warmth and color to the image as well.
Editing the Image in Adobe Camera Raw
For this photo, I’m going to push a few sliders around. After opening it in Camera Raw, all I used was the Basic panel. Nothing else. I could have added some saturation via the HSL Adjustments panel, but I chose to saturate a few of the colors with the Vibrance slider instead. That worked pretty well. Here are the adjustments I made in Camera Raw.
Removing the Tree with Adobe Photoshop
Now, the last thing I need to do with this image is to remove the tree I was talking about earlier. To do this, I used a path and the Spot Healing Brush Tool. I chose to go this route because the tree was fairly straight. Curved a bit, but nothing terrible. To read the post that describes the process I took, please click through below.
The process I used is exactly the same as the one I laid out in the post.
Another good option would have been to use the Lasso Tool to remove the tree. The instructions for that process can be found here:
Finally, let’s take a look at the final image again.
I do like this shot. Especially towards the bottom where the water appears the smoothest.
I hope I clearly explained the basics for how to take a time-lapse photo of a waterfall. I also hope I helped out with the editing of this type of photo as well. As you can see, there are no secrets here, just a few necessary items. If you have any questions regarding this type of photography, please let me know in the comment section below or in the discussion forum. Thanks for reading!