This belated post provides a wrap-up of my learnings from the Ithaca Series of waterfall shots. In that series I explored my [tending negative] feeling towards "silky" waterfall shots with a view to finding a root cause and thus whether there was anything I could do about it.
In the end it is simply one of preference. It's not that all silky-water-fall shots are bad; it's just my tolerance of them exists within a very narrow band. Yet there are some things which I can do to widen that band of tolerance:
- Black & white makes things better.
Why? Black and white tends to simply (which can already be a complicated composition). By removing the colour it removes one variable of distraction from the picture. This results in tending to emphasize the texture of the shot which in turn can be used to manage the overwhelmingly sickly silkiness of a composition if managed properly. What this means is that converting to black and white is not necessarily a single solution; other techniques may need to be applied (see below).
- Contrasting hard and soft
The silkiness of the waterfall can overwhelm a shot with its softness; it's just too smooth. I found it important to balance this with hardness, of rock, or some texture.
This is about finding the right proportion of soft and hard. I'm not sure there is a set ratio; it is likely related to the composition and mood.
- Light and Sparkle
These shot, like all other, benefit from good light. I found those that let out the sparkle of water or did not blow out the silk were more satisfying. Backlighting helped as well and could provide an etherial sense.