Waterfall Photography Tips

Summer time is a great time to go explore your local waterfall. Warmer weather, greener trees, and more water from rain and snow melt. Here are some tips to capture some great images on your next waterfall adventure.

Rainbow Falls at Trough Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Biggest Tip

You want to control your Shutter speed. This is how you get the silky smooth waterfall effect or maybe you want to capture the power of the waterfall so you want to stop the action.

First step is to become familiar with how to change your shutter speed on your camera. Shutter speed on a Nikon camera is adjusted using S=Shutter speed Priority. You can pick which shutter speed you would like to use and the camera will adjust the other features to pick an exposure for your shot. On a Canon it is TV=time value on a Sony it is S=Shutter speed.

I will always start by shooting a 1 second image at first so I can view my composition and double check focus. When checking the composition I am looking at the water to see how it looks. From that I will slow down the shutter 3 and 5 seconds or speed up the shutter speed to get a visually stunning image. When using longer exposures always make sure you take multiple images in case you bump your tripod or the wind moves the tripod. I will also try some longer exposures 20-30 seconds if the water is slow. I will use shutter speed priority setting on my camera but if I need to I will switch to manual. I keep my ISO at 100 unless I need that light and will bump it up. Try different exposure bump up the ISO and see what it looks like. I will also try a few faster shutter speeds to capture the power of the waterfalls. Try 1/250 of a second then go faster around 1/2000 of a second. Compare and see which shutter speed you like.

Cucumber Falls at Ohiopyle State Park, PA

Composition

Make sure to always shoot a few horizontal and a few vertical images. Zoom in or zoom out. I always start away from the waterfall and work my way closer. Why? The closer you are the more chances of getting water on your lens.

Change your perspective get lower to the ground. Jump in the water and capture the rocks in the foreground and have the waterfall in the background. Create depth in your image so it seems 3d instead of a 2d image. Walk all around the waterfall looking for a scene that captures your interest.

Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania. You can see the horizontal crop worked out well with this shot.

Camera Gear

I currently use Nikon D780 but any camera today will work great for waterfall photography. The key is to become familiar with how to change shutter speeds on your camera. Next learn how to connect a tripod and a remote release to your camera.

The best camera lens you can use is the one you have. Don’t be afraid to try different focal lengths with your lens. I always start with a longer lens at first so I don’t get my camera too wet at the beginning. Then I work my way close using a wider lens. This is another key to keep your lens dry. What lens do I like? I try and figure that out when I show up to the waterfall and see what focal length creates a great composition.

Connecting your camera to a tripod is the next thing you can do to improve your shots. Using a tripod you can keep your camera steady when using longer exposures to prevent camera shake. You will need a tripod when shooting slower shutter speeds like 1/60 of a second to 30 seconds. This is a big help when you want to shoot 30 second exposures like below at Blackwater Falls State Park.

Elakala Falls at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia

I also recommend using a remote or cable release to use when hitting the shutter button. If you forgot yours try the timer on your camera. I use 5 seconds timer and have the camera take 5 consecutive photos. This will also help cut down on camera shake and keep your images tack sharp.

Filters in front of your lens. I use a polarizing filter or ND filter and sometime a combo of both. The polarizing filter will help cut down on the reflections on the water and darken the image to help extend your exposure to create that smooth silky waterfall look. ND filter are darker and help you select longer shutter speeds.

Your phone or Camera? This is the great challenge. Do you want to travel light? Take your phone and find a nice tree or rock to stand against when taking the photo. They have small tripods now for you to use. I always take my phone and take a few photos or videos.

Be careful and keep the water from landing on your camera lens. I always start with shooting at a far distance and then get closer. The closer you are to the falls the more chance you have of water splashing onto your lens. I always have a few lens cloths to clean my lens when I get drops on it. You can see in the image below I got a water spot in the upper right corner.

Table Falls

Time of Day?

When to shoot waterfalls? Rainy days or cloudy days are the best. Why? Waterfalls are usually surrounded by trees or in gorges. When the sun is out you will find distractions shadows in your images. This can be resolved by shooting early or late in the day when the sun is too low to create shadows. Depending on the falls it is good to go after a rain storm to make sure the water flows is high enough.

Have the right outerwear…..

Stay dry unless it is a million degrees outside and have the right footware. Rocks are very slick when wet, I fell at Ohiopyle last summer and hit my head against a rock because I was wearing flipflops. I usually wear muck boots or NRS watershoes with Yaktracs on them. Prepare for colder temps near waterfalls since they are in gorges. You will get wet so take a rain coat or something that is fast drying. I always have a winter hat and gloves in my car or camera bag. The warmer and dryer you stay the longer you will stay out and enjoy the waterfall. More time equals more photos.

Check out some of my waterfalls on my website https://www.brandonhirt.com or https://www.brandonhirtphoto.com

Happy Waterfall Image Creating

-Brandon

On the Road Again on Earth Day


Who else is ready to go on the road again and explore? I know I am ready for some warm weather adventures. (even though I am super excited to go take pictures off the snow falling right now on the flowers in my yard) Today is Earth Day so enjoy the fresh air the Earth provides us and go for a hike or walk down the street.
Shop On the Road Again

On the Road Again is currently being displayed at Allegany Arts Council’s Allegany National Photography Exhibit in Cumberland, Maryland. Check out the show if you are in the area or view the website.  
https://www.alleganyartscouncil.org/anpce/

Want to celebrate Earth Day? Here are a few great websites to check out
Nature First https://www.naturefirstphotography.org/en/home
Leave No Trace https://lnt.org
Dark Skies https://www.darksky.org

Here are some tips from Nature First for your Earth Day Celebrations!

THE NATURE FIRST PRINCIPLES
Prioritize the well-being of nature over photography.
Educate yourself about the places you photograph.
Reflect on the possible impact of your actions.
Use discretion if sharing locations.Know and follow rules and regulations.
Always follow Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them.
Actively promote and educate others about these principles.



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-Brandon uses the power of photography to inspire adventure and protect our great outdoors. 

Sunrise Tips and Tricks on Delaware State Park’s Blog

I was recently asked by Delaware State Parks to talk about my sunrise images I have been taking at Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore, and Fenwick Island State Parks. I created a tips and tricks on their blog. Check out at https://destateparks.blog/2021/03/05/tips-tricks-to-sunrise-photography/

The shot you see above is from Herring Point at Cape Henlopen State Park shot on a 30 second exposure to smooth out the water crashing into rocks. 

Shop This Image 

-Brandon

P.S. – I am constantly posting little behind-the-scenes updates on Instagram – follow me @brandonhirtphoto

Top 9 Photos from 2020

Kitts Hummock-finally got to visit this Delaware Bay Beach. I heard so many cool stories about this picturesque beach. Now I Need to go at sunset or sunrise

Purple Flowers from Country Dahlias shot in my Kitchen. Zooming in and filling the frame saves you from worrying about the dirty dishes in sink.

Tower Beach at Delaware Seashore State Park at sunset. Probably my favorite handheld shot of the year. I went for a walk on the beach at sunset and I have always wanted to capture the power and peacefulness of a wave

Gordon’s Pond Sunrise at Cape Henlopen State Park. The presidential state park that has an awesome bike path. Just make sure you don’t forget your bug spray in the summer.

Swamp Forest Ferns at Lums Pond State Park. Went for the sunrise photo over the lake and took home a fern photo. Ferns are one of my favorites to shoot

Indian River Marina sunrise. High tide and storm helped give Delaware some waves. Nothing like the Oregon coast but still fun to watch

Rockford Tower one morning after catching sunrise along the Delaware Bay

Lost Road in Appalachia. I have been on this road once or twice before this shot. This was a turn around and go back and shoot this photo. How many of us have turned around because they saw something so cool? Best part of going to the middle of no where is no traffic. Yes I had focus set and exposure set before I even debated about going in the middle of the road

Prince Gallitzin State Park during sunrise in October. We had one of the best fall colors in years here in the Mid Atlantic. This sunrise was perfect with the fog and light hitting the trees.

2021 plan is to finish a book I have been working on and create more images to share. Also be on the lookout for some of my instrctional videos on how to create better photographs.Shop This Image -Brandon

My Favorite 5 Fall Photography Locations

Nights are getting colder and the leaves are turning. Time to jump into your fall photography clothes. Here are a few places I like to travel to take grab some images of the Autumn season.

Maroon Bells, Colorado

Located just outside of Aspen, Colorado you will find one of Colorado’s most famous 14ers. All of the mountains of Colorado are amazing during September. From Breckenridge to Steamboat and down to Durango you can not go wrong in finding spots to shoot. Make sure you show up early to get the morning light and beat the crowds. Next time I go it will be dark when I show up to capture the first light hitting the top of the peaks. Colorado images at brandonhirt.com

Glacier National Park, Montana

Northwest Montana is home to this treasure land of photography and adventures. All my photos are from the second week of September so make sure you get there early in the fall season for the leaves. My favorite spots are Lake Mcdonald, St. Marys Lake, and Avalanche Lake. See images from all these spots on my website brandonhirt.com

Never know where the light will hit. This tree was at a rest stop in the park. It was raining and snowing
South end of the Park
Even the rocks change colors at Lake McDonald on the Western Edge of the park

Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania

Located in the Laurel Highlands of Southwest PA along the Youghiogheny River. One of my favorite rainy day adventure spots. The park surrounds the town of Ohiopyle that is full of restaurants and bike shops. Located along the popular Great Allegheny Passage bike trail. When visiting Ohiopyle must photo spots are Cucumber Falls, Waterslides, Ohiopyle Falls, Ferncliff Peninsula, and Jonathan Run.

Cucumber Falls full of water in this October image. So many compositions to be found with this popular waterfall.

Cucumber Falls and the waterfall area are both with in a nice walk of the town of Ohiopyle. Plus some great spots along the way to capture more foliage on the walk. View more photos of Pennsylvania at brandonhirt.com

Watkins Glenn State Park, New York

Finger Lake region of New York is a hot spot for photography. Lakes, waterfalls, and forest to explore. These shots were all done in early November so this is a great spot to hit later in the fall season. Take a waterfall tour or wine tour you will find great shooting

Rainbow Falls is a favorite in the Watkins Glen gorge
Keep your eyes open you never know what is laying around in the rain
Taughannock Falls state park is not at Watkins Glen but it is a short drive away

Blackwater Falls State Park

West Virginia

Canaan Valley is one of my favorite weekend getaways. From skiing to biking and all the trails to explore. Blackwater Falls is just west of Canaan Valley and is home to some really popular waterfalls. If it is clouds explore the waterfalls of Elakala or Blackwater Falls. If the sun is out check out Lindy Point and Canaan Valley State Park. Shop more photos at brandonhirt.com

View of the Blackwater valley from the Pendleton Point Overlook

Bonus Ricketts Glenn State Park

This park is a must go for fall foliage against the 20+ waterfalls. Check out this images at brandonhirt.com

Also some other favorite places I love to shoot at during the Autumn Season…..

Trap Pond State Park, Lake Dillon in Colorado, and Prince Gallitzin State Park

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Autumn Photography Tips

Nights are getting shorter and the pumpkin spice is brewing at your local coffee shop. That means the leaves will be turning soon and photography options will be bountiful. Here are some of my favorite spots and some tricks for your photography bag

Waterfalls

Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania

Wait for a rainy day and go out and capture a waterfall with leaves still on the trees and covering the rocks and ground. Bring a circular polarizer filter to help with reflections and to slow down your shutter speed to capture the smooth water flow. Try a one second exposure.

Forest

Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Go to the forest like the one above at Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia even during a cold wet morning you can find amazing images in the forest. Look for fog or stay under the canopy looking for those bright color trees.

Go for a hike

Watkins Glen State Park, New York

Go for a hike in the woods and look down on the ground for leaves like the one in image at Watkins Glen State Park. Zoom in and shoot just the one leaf or maybe find one still hanging on a tree.

Back Light

Sunrise at Prince Gallitzin State Park

I always enjoy looking at the fall foliage with the sun behind a tree that makes the colors even more vibrant. This shot at Prince Gallitzin State Park came alive after the fog burned off the lake when the sun rose over the mountains. Go enjoy those sunrises and sunset that create these bright scenes.

Look UP

Nathan’s Divide Nature Center

Looks up and find some leaves above you in front of a blue sky. It took me a few minutes of shooting this tree to find this angle. Remember to slow down and look all around when shooting. Look up, look down, and look all around. That image might be behind what you are shooting.

Upcoming Art Festival Schedule

September 18-19    New Germany Arts Festival
September 25         Ebensburg Potato Fest
October 2-3             Bedford Fall Foliage
October 9-10           Bedford Fall Foliage

Check out more images on my website https://www.brandonhirt.com/

Cheers,

Brandon

Who Loves Sunflowers?

Front Range Sunflower 
This was one of my first favorite sunflower photos I snapped. When I was living in Denver I kept hearing these rumors about the super cool sunflower fields by DIA. So I thought why not stop at one on the way to the airport. I am a late person so being early scares me. Anyone else agree? 

If you ever been to DIA you know you can see for miles since it is flat. You can see a Prairie Dog five miles away to the east and Mt Evans to the west. I got lucky and found a field in time before I had to rush off to the airport. 

So I grab my camera (Nikon f100) with 24-105 macro lens(anyone find that lens yet I lost it a few years ago) loaded it up with Fuji Velvia 50 and started snapping. This was shot during the summer of 2002. 

Why I have always loved this image? The colors I just love the yellow flower with the deep blue morning Colorado sky. The composition I love the focus on the main flower and you can see the party behind it. Kind of a mullet of a photo? Business in the front and party in the back. I love having the top third with the blue sky then the main flower in the middle third and the stems growing up from the bottom third. 

My keys to shooting flowers
Shoot during golden hours 
Focus on one flower that sticks out to you
Get close
Smile

My favorite 5 State Park Beaches

Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware

Sunrise during a warm July morning looking towards the Point. This park is great for sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and sunsets over the Delaware Bay. It has great beaches, bike trails, and a great campground. What more do you need this summer? I can’t wait to jump in this water in a few weeks. Check it out https://destateparks.com/Beaches/CapeHenlopen or view more of my Delaware Beach Images at BrandonHirt.com

Sunrise Bike Ride at Cape Henlopen

Oregon’s Ecola State Park

When you think of the beach this place is the complete opposite of the Eastern Shore. Thinking it is always sunny and warm at the beach right? After waking up at sunrise I tried to make egg in the pouring down rain. That was the best part. Such a cool place.

Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania

I always thought we were landlocked here. I know you hear Erie has a beach but then you show up on warm September day and think screw the crowds this is pretty chill. Find out more at Presque Isle State Park’s website

Lake Erie Photos at BrandonHirt.com

Florida’s Gasparilla State Park

We made sunset just in time at the Gasparilla lighthouse. When you think of January you usually think of white snow not white sand. Discover this beach and make some plans at https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/gasparilla-island-state-park

Florida Seascape Photography

Hawaii’s Hapuna State Park

When you talk about beaches you need to have a Hawaiian beach?
Hapuna Beach State Park

Hawaii Seascape Photography by Brandon Hirt

Pittsburgh Top 10 Photo spots

Since the Three Rivers Arts Festival is virtual this year I thought I would share my top 10 places to shoot in Pittsburgh.

During the virtual show sign up for my newsletter to get entered into winning a print of the Unbrellas from the Three Rivers Art Festival from a few years ago.

Newsletter Print Giveaway

10. Carrie Furnace

Steel Mill=Pittsburgh and this is one you can visit
https://riversofsteel.com/attractions/carrie-furnaces/

9. Three Rivers Art Festival

Umbrellas from the Three Rivers Art Festival
Umbrellas

8. Phipps Conservatory

Phipps is known for its gardens but the light show during the holidays is awesome.
https://www.phipps.conservatory.org

7. Point Park

Sunsetpaloza of spots to hangout in the summer in Pittsburgh
https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/FindAPark/PointStatePark/Pages/default.aspx

6. Penn Station

One of my favorite spots in downtown.
Pittsburgh Train Station

5. Mt Washington

The famous overlook area so many opportunities for unique shots
Shop Steel City Fence

4. Under the Bridge

Multiple bridges to catch unique angles.

Buy a Bridge

3. Market Square

Brandonhirt.com

2. Oakland

Cathedral of Learning

1. West End Overlook

Pittsburgh Twilight

Glacier National Park quick photo guide

Glacier National Park in Montana. This is a great park to view mountain, lakes, waterfalls, and wildlife. All of my images are from September 2010. Check out my website Brandonhirt.com to see more images from this trip

Sign up for my print giveaway of Lake McDonald and get updates on future blog post

Lake McDonald Metal Print Giveaway

Lake McDonald

Look for the colorful rocks in the lake. You will be surrounded by mountains so look for some cool reflections

Trail of the Cedars

A great hike in the woods with multiple tree shots available. Plus a really cool gorge

Many Glacier

You will be on top of the world with multiple mountain tops to shoot. I would love to be here for an awesome sunrise or sunset. Get out of your car like this guy and check out the scenes

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St Mary Lake

Wild Goose Island in the middle of this lake is awesome. Try a wide angle view like below or zoom in onto the island.

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Two Medicine

Problem with only having one sunset is sometimes the clouds come in. Give yourself multiple days so you can chase the light.

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Going to the Sun Road

This road sets the ball on the tee for you to get some amazing shots. The leaves are beside a bathroom and the fog is from one of the pull offs on the west side of the divide. So always keep your eye open for photo opportunities.