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Why You Need An ND Filter For Waterfall Photography

Waterfalls are a popular subject for landscape photographers and an ND filter is something you'll often find in their camera bag. Find out why here.

|  Landscape and Travel
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When it comes to photographing waterfalls, slow shutter speeds tend to be the way most photographers go as they can help you produce incredibly photogenic and almost majestic shots of these popular landscape subjects. 

Shutter speeds of anywhere from 2 and 25 seconds should give the falls a silky smooth look that's so very popular today. Just remember to use a small aperture (f/16 - f/22 or lower) and don't forget the tripod! 

To gain even slower shutter speeds, you can work in the low-light of early morning or evening but what if you're out on a walk during the day and spot a waterfall you want to capture with your camera? Well, the answer is to fit a Neutral Density (ND) filter to the front of your lens so you can achieve the longer shutter speeds you want without overexposing the scene. You can also use an ND filter even when you don't have overly bright conditions to really, really slow the shutter speed down. Just remember that for every stop of light that's blocked by the filter, you will need to double the exposure time. 

When looking at ND filters, the higher the number, the more light they will block out. For example, In the Cokin range, you'll find 6 ND filters that reduce the amount of light reaching your camera's sensor at the following levels:

Densities available Light Reduction (f stops) Equivalent Optical Density
ND2 0.3
ND4 0.6
ND8 3 0.9
ND32 5 1.5
ND256 8 2.4
ND1024 10 3.0


The Cokin Nuances ND1024 is the strongest ND filter available in the range and when used, a photograph that would normally be taken at a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second becomes a 1-second exposure. The ND1024 actually received a 'Recommended' accolade from ePHOTOzine for the high-quality results it can achieve, demonstrated in the below shot. 


Waterfall photograph with and without an ND filter applied


To further show how an ND filter can change the overall look and feel of a waterfall image, have a look at the following photos: 


No Filter



Cokin ND 2 Filter 



Cokin ND 4 Filter 



Cokin ND 8 Filter 



Hoya ND 1000 Filter



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