In the case of my shot of Proxy Falls below, I do have quite a few compositions without water droplets, but there is something about showing an extra element of really being there that can add to the overall effect of a photo. In this case, I kept being drawn to a few of my shots that were the most covered in water spray. After all, if you were to really visit that location, it would be part of your experience!
Copyright Laura A Knauth, All rights reserved.
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Proxy Falls, Oregon
Tokina 11-16mm Lens, 16mm
f/22, 8sec, ISO 100
Caveat: Many cameras will run into problems if they are exposed to water spray or rain. I used a Canon 50d for this shot which has a moderate amount of weather protection (sturdier materials, sealing, …) compared to earlier models, and was fortunate that I didn't experience problems this day. I think it is a bit like playing roulette though; two other photographers in our group had fancier cameras (featuring enhanced weather protection) that stopped working due to water issues. Fortunately, once they let their cameras dry completely (I think it took a whole day of air drying), they came back to life. There is a limit somewhere though, and it is definitely a risk to let your gear get drenched. I take at least a plastic bag with me at all times to cover the camera if need be. I am also usually using some kind of attached filter to protect the lens.
As a side note: So far, it hasn't been water, but sand that has mangled my gear the most. Between getting in the gears of telescope-type lenses (and messing up my autofocus) or scratching my filters to smithereens, sand has been my biggest environment-related challenge. If sand is on your lens or filters, definitely avoid rubbing them or storing them unprotected in a pocket or something. I found dousing the filter in clean water helped get the sand off without scratching. If your filter doesn't have weather sealing though, something like Giottos Rocket Air Blaster might be your safest bet.
More Waterfall Tips
Cloudy days or shady locations make for beautiful waterfall lighting. A circular polarizer can add even more magic: try turning the filter until the greens are vivid, or the rocks are black. Even without direct sunlight, the subtle water spray from the falls adds thousands of small reflective surfaces that can dull the potential colors in the waterfall scene; it's amazing to see the effect of the circular polarizer in these shots. You might play around with spinning the polarizer through the different angles to see if you like some reflections more than others. And for just about any moving subject in a landscape, I'm a huge fan of the 6-stop ND filter. (I didn't use it here though.) It's fun to see the effect of different shutter speeds on the water.
by Laura A Knauth