SHOOTING THE FALLS – Valley of the Waters

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW.  Camera in point and shoot mode, letting the mist provide the blurring and the magic.

Empress Falls, Blue Mountains, NSW.
Camera in point and shoot mode, letting the mist provide the blurring and the magic.

It was a good day for taking photos of waterfalls yesterday.

I’d read a bit about how to do it, and practised the technique with a bathroom tap, trying to get that smooth, soft water effect that seems to be compulsory for waterfall shots in magazines.

And where better to try it for real than on a hike with my fellow amateur snapper Duncan down the evocatively named Valley of the Waters, in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney? Here’s what we learned…

Long exposure to get the blurring effect.

Long exposure to get the blurring effect.

1. Weather. I’d read that it’s easier to get a good waterfall shot on a cloudy day. Full sun reflecting off the water gives too much contrast and makes exposure hard to control. Perfect- yesterday the mountains were shrouded in mist, with accompanying drizzle.

The National Pass track. On a fine day it gives vistas across the valley. This was not a fine day, so we looked for other attractions. other

The National Pass track. On a fine day it gives vistas across the valley. This was not a fine day, so we looked for other attractions.


2. Camera settings. I’m not an expert in using manual settings and I have a camera (Canon 500D) that knows more about getting it right than I do. So I used the ‘Tv’ (‘Time value’) setting, switched the timer to a one second exposure and let the camera make all the other decisions.

Long exposure, and a little rain on the lens.

Long exposure, and a little rain on the lens.

3. Tripod. I should have carried one. I didn’t. Your hand can shake quite a lot in one second. So I was reduced to improvising a tripod in every shot, perching the camera on a rock, feet sometimes on dry land, sometimes strategically placed in the water. To avoid the inevitable shake while pressing the shutter I set the camera to a two second delay…pressed and stepped back.

The soft water effect works ok, but the lack of a tripod limited my choice of angles and composition.

The soft water effect works ok, but the lack of a tripod limited my choice of angles and composition.

4. You can’t get it all in. Wentworth Falls are 187metres high, in three tiers. So from close up it’s impossible to fit the whole cascade into one shot, with my camera at least. This shouldn’t matter. From where we were the top of the falls was hidden in the mist, and I liked the effect.

Wentworth Falls. No need for the soft water effect here. The spray and mist were doing their own blurring.

No need for the soft water effect here. The spray and mist were doing their own blurring.

5. Less can be more. Some of the shots I liked the most were not of the majestic, pounding, awe-inspiring waterfall kind. I aimed the camera at points where little rivulets were streaming between textured rocks.

Maybe my favourite shot of the day.

Maybe my favourite shot of the day.

Thanks, Duncan, for the company, the jokes and for holding the umbrella to keep the camera dry.

Thanks, Duncan, for the company, the stories, the jokes and for holding the umbrella to keep the camera dry when needed.

Valley of the Waters is just off the Great Western Highway out of Sydney, by the village of Wentworth Falls.

To see the inzoomable details of our route, from the Conservation Hut along National Pass and back across the Undercliff Track, CLICK HERE.

14 Comments

Filed under Hiking, travel photography, Travel-Australia

14 responses to “SHOOTING THE FALLS – Valley of the Waters

  1. Great photos, Richard. Love them all, but especially the third one from the top. It whispers stories to me and I can almost feel the cool mist cling to my skin.

  2. I like your favourite as well!

  3. Some nice shots, Richard. Thanks for your comments on my latest post.

  4. Knuckles

    Richard, liked all your photos, particularly the first.( Perhaps Duncan could have done something about the branch at the very top of it).Also taken by your map information from your Garmin. It doesn’t by chance also do heart rate ?

    • Yes, Knuckles, the Garmin (Forerunner 110) does measure the heart rate, but only if I wear the monitor. In this case it was enough just to know that my heart was still ticking over, both at the start and at the finish of the hike.

  5. I do like your soft water effects…….oh to be able to do that with a simple ‘point-and-shoot’ camera……..

  6. Those are stunning waterfall pictures, Richard – and particularly enjoyed your description of how you went about taking the pics, as I can relate to those problems too.

  7. Beautiful shots, Richard.

    I really like waterfalls, and they provide great opportunities for photography.

  8. The perfect place to practice that technique, your photos look great and you’ve achieved that nice dreamy effect with the water and mist.

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