Summary: CPL, protective gear, cleaning materials
When photographing rivers and streams, it is important to consider your goal. Are you trying to photograph the water for a smooth textureless appearance? Or are you trying to capture just enough motion to have some texture retained in the water? Here are my tips for photographing rivers and streams:
- Prepare to get yourself wet! Often the best and most dynamic compositions come from in the middle of the river or stream. I often wear waterproof waders and microspikes on my boots so that I can venture safely into streams. Personal safety is paramount –do not attempt to venture anywhere in water where you would not without your camera gear.
- Remember to bring your circular polarizer! This is the ‘must have’ filter for photographing water flowing in forests. With the circular polarizer on, turn it such that it is oriented to cut out glare from foliage and wet rocks. This effect is not replicable in post processing. The CPL also allows you to ‘see through’ to the river bed which may have some attractive features such as colourful stones. A CPL is often all that you need to slow down exposures enough for smooth water appearance as it acts as a light ND filter (of 1-1.5 stops).
- If you need to use an ND filter for completely smooth water, I would use a 3 stop ND filter. In a forest scene, it is highly unlikely that you will need to use a GND (in fact I would strongly advise against this since surrounding trees in the frame will be darkened at the filter’s transition point from light to dark). For this reason, a screw on ND filter may be a good option providing it does not cause vignetting at your desired focal length for the scene.
- Remember that with long exposures of the water, moving foliage can be a distraction in your final image. If you wish to have still foliage, I would take off all filters but the CPL and take a separate exposure at higher iso and at a fast enough shutter speed that the foliage appears still. You can blend the separate images for water and foliage afterward.
- Remember to bring equipment to keep your filters clean from water droplets. My favourite method is to use disposable ‘kim wipes’ which keep the filters clean without introducing smears or lint.
Waterfall Photography with the NiSi V6 Landscape Filters
by Dylan Toh