Focus Editor Philip takes a deep dive into how he captured a silky-smooth long exposure waterfall shot, along with the Lightroom edits to make the scene really stand out
Summary of topics included in this analysis:
- Location research
- Re-shooting technique
- Basic Lightroom adjustments
- Lightroom Gradients and Masks
It's all about location
I can spend hours on Google Maps looking for locations for photography, literally hours. I find the whole process quite relaxing, too; it's a great way to unwind! I'll pick a general area and then scroll intensely across the countryside or coastal areas, looking out for interesting spots that may be good for photography (for example, a rocky area of the coast, a lighthouse, mountain peak, or in this case - waterfall). If there is one, I'll then look at the Google listing or use Google Street View to look at the location and then decide whether it's worth a visit.
The location covered in this feature is Hindhope Linn waterfall in rural Northumberland, which I discovered doing the above. There are several beautiful waterfalls in the area that are already quite popular with photographers. Still, having come across this one for the first time during my scrolling, it was one I hadn't seen before. And as far as I could tell it was also one not very well known. I love these types of places - so often, the most popular photo spots feel overdone (even so, they are still worth visiting at one point or another) - and a lesser-frequented location gives you ample opportunity to get something more unique.
I'm a big fan of the long exposure photography technique - so waterfalls are also an ideal subject of mine to photograph. I was pleased to see the place deserted as expected when I visited. And while not the most dramatic of waterfall shots, I'm still happy with the result - the final image, I feel, gives off a sense of tranquillity more than a sense of drama common in waterfall photography - but that's what I like about it!
Below you'll see my breakdown of how I achieved the final image, along with the methods and processes of how I got there.
If in doubt, go back and re-shoot
My recent visit to this location wasn't actually the first one. I had visited before in August 2021 to photograph the waterfall, but I wasn't particularly happy with the result and had been waiting to go back and re-shoot at the right time.
I feel like the second time round the image is much stronger. Since my first visit I'd been working on my skills (particularly foreground placement) and feel this makes a massive difference to the scene overall, as well as paying a bit more attention to composition and some subtle edits in Lightroom. In my opinion, it's always worth revisiting a location if you can - you can apply newly-learned skills to your shots, or if you're just not happy with the result - go back and reshoot.
After the shoot: the edits
Here is a selection of the most signifiant edits that I applied to my image in post-production. For all of these edits, I used just Lightroom - which is my go-to for pretty much all of my image editing.
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What could I have done better?
I feel that the composition could have been a bit better still (so may be worth a third visit potentially). The rock at the bottom left of the frame (see below) feels a little off balance with the rest of the image and slightly distracting. I've tried my best to crop this out and reduce detail in that area, without it being detrimental to the overall scene. But still, I would rather it wasn't there and wish I had positioned my camera ever so slightly at a different angle.
- See more top tips for photographing waterfalls
- For more framing and spacing techniques see our advanced tips to improve your image compositions
- See our guide on how lens filters can improve your photography