Photographing Waterfalls, Part 2: Composition

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Cascade Falls, Avalon Area of Patapsco State Park
My first article on this blog was on how to photograph waterfalls and cascades.  I looked at it recently only to notice that that post dealt almost entirely with exposure.  So I thought it fitting add a second about composition.  Waterfalls are often so beautiful that almost any photograph of a waterfall properly exposed will look pretty great.  But there are some strategies you can use to build on the natural beauty of the waterfall.
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Cascade, Avalon Area of Patapsco State Park
  1. Timing.  Obviously, the look of a waterfall will change throughout the year through the seasons, with late Spring, Summer and early Fall giving you the bet colors.  Nothing beats a photograph of a waterfall in fall colors.  But the look of the water fall can also change almost daily depending on the amount of rain your'e having.  So if you don't like the look of a waterfall one day, it may still be great on another.
  2. Rule of Thirds.  Sometimes photographers zoom in on a waterfall and fill the frame with it.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with that, but consider backing off the waterfall and compose your photograph using the rule of thirds.  Use the surrounding rocks and trees to frame your photograph.
  3. Design.  Look for diagonal lines and curves in your frame, and use them as compositional devices.  You'll find that they enhance your compositions tremendously.
  4. Angle of View.  Most people look at waterfalls with their eyes 5-6 ft off the ground.  Try putting your tripod low to the ground to catch a small cascade or stream in the foreground.  Or, if you have access, try looking down on the waterfall.  Do anything you can to make your angle of view out of the ordinary.
  5. Rocks and Trees.  Rocks and Trees often add interest to the waterfall.  Of course, I have to say this, since I studied geology in college, but I think they add to the image.  
  6. Sky.  I personally prefer photographs of trees and waterfalls without the sky is not in the photograph.  If you want the sky in, try both ways and see which you like better.
  7. Room.  I often prefer waterfalls where the water in the falls has some place to go.  If you put the waterfall at the very bottom of the frame, the water has no place to go but out of it.  I like to give it some room in the image.
  8. Early Morning.  I know I said this in my last post, but let me reiterate that, generally speaking, waterfall photos look much better in the early morning, especially if you're lucky enough to get there when there's fog or mist adding separation between the trees.
  9. Water shoes.  I often bring water shoes with me to take photographs from in the stream.  Obviously, you'll need to watch your step and ensure you don't drop any of your camera gear in the water.  Also be careful about causing added erosion.
Cascade, Potomac State Forest
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Cascade, Alberton Area of Patapsco State Park
Cascade, Potomac State Forest