How to Shoot HDR Waterfalls

Final Image
Final Image

There is something about shooting waterfalls that is a lot of fun…Maybe it is because I like to hike around in the woods, and the waterfalls themselves are the endpoint, or maybe it is just the pure beauty of the falls themselves. Whatever it is, I do enjoy it. There are plenty of guides on how to do shoot waterfalls and HDR, so I felt I’d combine two and add my two cents to the collection of wisdom.

First, a little jargon: A High Dynamic Rance image contains more information than image sensors are capable of collecting. The dynamic range of a sensor refers to the range of light intensity a sensor can detect. For any given sensor, any light brighter than the range the sensor can detect is interpreted as white, and anything darker as black. You may have noticed that when taking pictures indoors during the day, windows appear to be white in a picture, but with your eye you can distinguish objects outside and inside. This is because the dynamic range of the human eye is greater than that of a camera. An HDR image is a combination of multiple images taken at different shutter speeds that are then combined to create an image with more dynamic range than the sensor can detect in any single image. HDR softeware combines the well exposed elements of each photo while removing the overexposed and underexposed elements. After the HDR is created, software then attempts to tone map the image–that is compress the HDR image into a form that is usable for print or on-screen display, as both print media and screens like sensors can only display a limited dynamic range less than what the human eye can see.

Waterfalls offer a particularly great opportunity for using HDR, as it is often times difficult to properly expose waterfalls such that the water is not “burned out” or “blown out” (that is completely white) and the content around the water fall is not utterly black or so dark one cannot see it anyways. HDR’s offer a great solution to this as you can expose the white water and the surrounding content and combine these elements for some beautiful landscape photography. So with no further adieu, we’ll begin.