Falling Fairy Tale

I’ve always enjoyed how waterfalls become transformed with slower shutter speeds, with blurring water showing smooth lines and a visually beautiful appeal that we can’t see with our own eyes. I put these images in the same category of “the unseen world” that most of my work fits into, and the equipment to do this doesn’t need to be extreme!

I was lucky that this small portion of the Krushuna Waterfall in Bulgaria was in shadow, since I wasn’t properly prepared for waterfall photography. I’d normally carry a neutral density filter with me to get this effect more easily, but this was shot with only a Lumix GX9 and the 12-32mm compact kit lens. ISO 200, F/18, and the resulting shutter speed was 1/4th of a second. I normally like to get a little closer to a full second-long exposure, but the water was quite calm and cooperative at longer exposures. I’m scratching my head to figure out why I didn’t shoot at ISO 100 though!

A neutral density filter would block some of the light from entering the lens without me having to resort to such a small aperture. This can be useful for video when you want a wide aperture, but a shutter speed around 1/25 or 1/50 sec to match your framerate. For stills, ND filters allow for you to more effectively blur things like water or clouds without compromising on other camera settings. An aperture of F/18 might begin to introduce diffraction and limit my resolution for an image such as this, but you work with what’s in your bag, and I was traveling light!

Any issues with diffraction would be negated by the fact that this is a three-shot vertical panorama. The increase in resolution by shooting it as a panorama would more than make up for any shortcomings elsewhere. Knowing that a certain amount of post-processing would be required, I sat down with the image for a couple of hours and really fine-tuned the look and feel.

Images like this can feel flat right out of the camera. Spending some time with classic dodge and burn tools in Photoshop can help add a little extra depth and contrast to the image, and the more localized you make the adjustments the better the end results. The water textures were enhanced using the Structure slider in ON1 Photo RAW which I am MUCH preferring to the clarity adjustment in Lightroom / Camera Raw. Subtle details pop without feeling overdone, especially in shadow areas. Dial this structure enhancement over just the areas that need it, and you’re on your way to a better image.

On a tripod at these slower shutter speeds, but the rest of the equipment was as minimal as could be. Just a small travel camera and one of the least expensive lenses I could pair with it. Even a more expensive lens would not have avoided the time in post-processing to make this image sing, and I’m pretty happy with the results!

I need to go through more of these Bulgaria photos before they fall off my radar and winter subjects grab all my attention!

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