Monday, 5 October 2009

Waterfalls – hundreds of them (Part 1)

One things you can’t help but notice in Iceland is waterfalls. They’re everywhere you look. Some of them take your breath away with their power, others just make you stand back and gaze at their beauty. Some are internationally known, other don’t even have a name. Most of them shout out ‘photograph me, photograph me’ to the point where the real challenge is finding a different angle or a new take on the scene.

The other challenge, for me at least, was that being on a touring holiday means you have to accept the light as it is when you get there – you have to be somewhere else tomorrow. This means finding ways of coping with flat lighting conditions, grey skies, backlight, limited time and, of course, other people.

Here’s a couple of examples with some commentary on what I tried to achieve at the time.


Godafoss was quite a challenge. As you can see from the above it is quite a large waterfall – actually a pair of waterfalls with another of similar size to the left of the one above. No surprise that there were lots of other photographers there, and I waited until the single person was stood on the rock to the right to emphasise the scale.

To add to the fun, the sunlight, coming through broken cloud was into the camera. To catch the scene I used 1 and 2 stop neutral grads to retain some detail in the cloud. I also bracketed the shots and used a slightly underexposed version to fill in the detail in the waterfall itself.

If you think Godafoss is big (which it is by UK standards), next up is Dettifoss. To get there is a 25 mile drive up a very rutted dirt road, and when we got there the light had already turned flat (after a good start to the day). Here’s my first reaction to it – a straight shot which shows the canyon it falls into:


I’d managed to leave the NDs in the car, so this is as good as it gets sky-wise, but I felt this didn’t really do the power of these falls justice. Next up then is this one – with another couple of small figures to show scale


For me, at least this seems to catch the power of the thing more effectively, in spite of not seeing the whole waterfall. I deliberately kept the exposure as short as possible because I’m no fan of blurred water, and in this case ‘pretty fog’ was never going to be my reaction. My final take  is below. I tried, by allowing the water to blur a little, to capture the speed of the falls, but overall I think it is less effective than the shot above – it lacks scale for one, and there isn’t enough water in the scene.


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