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Waterfall Photography: Accentuating Your Photo with a Rainbow

Instead of the usual waterfall photographs, I wanted to create something different. When visiting a waterfall in between winter and spring one day, I realized that I could make use of a rainbow that appeared in front of the waterfall to portray the change in seasons. Here, I shall share 3 techniques you can use in such scenes. (Reported by: Yuki Imaura)

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 170mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/10, 30 sec, EV-0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: 4,750K

I wanted to capture the two contrasting elements in this scene: The rainbow that appeared in the soft sunlight of spring, against the shade that was reminiscent of the chill. Making sure that the existence of the shadows were not overly suppressed, I positioned the rainbow such that it would not dominate the picture.


Technique 1: Use a high angle to shoot the rainbow and the plunge pool together

I thought that the fallen rocks on the lower right of the picture were unique. Wanting to capture both the rocks and the plunge pool in the picture, I climbed a little up the slope in order to get to a higher position, and waited for about 40 mins for the rainbow to move into the view of the camera.

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 105mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/11, 1.3 sec, EV+1.0)/ ISO 50/ WB: Manual

This frame was taken when I located the rainbow in my screen. As the rainbow was in a position that did not seem ideal, the upper part of the rock cliff ended up being the background, which resulted in a rather bland picture.


Tip: Capture the rainbow where it appears at the waterfall, when sunlight is reflected at angle of approx. 41 degrees

A rainbow is a phenomenon that can be seen when sunlight shines from behind the viewer onto vapour or rain, and is reflected on the waterfall at approximately 41 degrees. Taking this angle in mind, and adjusting your shooting position accordingly, enables you to capture a rainbow on the intended area of your screen.


Technique 2: Depict the contrast of light and dark using a 50/50 composition

When I took this picture, it was the period in between winter and spring where the ice was melting and the warmth of spring approaching, but still not yet warm enough for cherry blossoms to bloom. In order to depict this period in between seasons and the subtle changes that occur with it, I used a 50/50 composition to show the contrast of the shade against the rainbow in the sun. I set the white balance to 4,750K to bring out the coldness of the shade.

I arranged a composition with the left side of the picture being dark, and the right side being bright.


For more ideas for waterfall photography, check out:
Photographing Waterfalls: To Freeze or to Blur?
Capturing the Dynamic Flow of a Huge Waterfall


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Yuki Imaura

Yuki Imaura

Born in 1986 in Saitama prefecture, Yuki Imaura is a landscape photographer. From editing magazines, he now works freelance, photographing various natural landscapes throughout Japan, and wildlife animals with vigor. He also writes for magazines and is a lecturer in photography.