Most waterfalls are photographed as waterfalls. I find them more expressive if they can be photographed as part of a landscape. After shooting this one head-on, I soon realized that all I had was a descriptive picture of a waterfall. To make a more expressive image of this subject, I began working the angles, until I was able to create a series of layers, which are essential to any landscape. Layers add a third dimension to an image. We not only have width and height, but can imply depth as well. As I worked on this image from the side, I saw that I could create a flow of small rocks along the bottom of the image that became progressive smaller as they receded into the distance. I also saw the outline of what appeared to be a huge cave just behind the waterfall, and when I used my spot meter on the light water, the cave behind the waterfall became ever darker and more mysterious. The darker the rocks became, the richer the color, which adds still another expressive dimension to this image. Another question I needed to answer here was the amount of blur in the water. The slower the shutter speed, the more silky-smooth the blurred water becomes. Most photographers blur flowing water by shooting from tripods. It gives them complete control over the amount of blur in the water, without risking blurring the surrounding rocks due to camera shake. However, I prefer to always shoot “hand-held.” I like to move when “working” a shot, and I move a lot. I don’t want to have to keep replanting a tripod, leveling it, etc. The technical side of photography tends to sap spontaneity, so I eliminate the use of such encumbrances as tripods, fill flash, and filtration from my approach. Using my image stabilized Leica lens, I can hand hold a shot as slow as ¼ of a second, which is equivalent to about 1/15th of a second exposure time without using image stabilization. Shooting this particular waterfall, I found that the slower exposures gave me too much blur in the water. It just did not look “real” to me – whereas this shot, made at 1/15th of a second, gives just enough blur to imply swiftly moving water. Light plays a huge role in landscape photography. But sometime the light is just not there. Such was the case here. It was a heavily overcast morning, and I had to work in flat light. Yet I was able to draw on heavy shadows to abstract the background, and add a layer of mystery to the image. Shadows are part of any cave-like setting, and I stress them in this image.
The effect of my vantage point is very important here. You can see where I was shooting from in a wideangle view of the whole scene shot by our tour's co-leader Winn Krafton by clicking on the link at bottom. I used a medium focal length to compress background and foreground.