Nocturnal Image for the Night – Light-Painted Waterfall & Star Trails

It’s hard to think of a better subject for a nature photographer than a waterfall. I’ve been shooting them for nearly 30 years, so when I started getting serious about night photography a few years ago, it was only natural that I would work on ways to incorporate waterfalls into my night shooting.

Light painted waterfall at night

Light painted waterfall and star trails. Nikon D700, Nikon 16mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, 28 exposures at f/4, 5 minutes, ISO 400.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be showing you some of these waterfalls at night. I’m embarrassed to say how many unprocessed RAW files I have sitting on hard drives that I never seem to have time to get to. I’ll be working on some new waterfall shots next week for a Wild Photo Adventures TV show, but in the meantime, I’m going to show you some old ones.

I shot this one with a fisheye lens. That’s why the star trails around Polaris are egg-shaped instead of circular, and why the waterfall looks skewed to those who know this waterfall. As I do with most night shots of falls, I light painted the white water with an LED flashlight, using a blue gel filter secured in a GelGrip™. You can use any color you like for light painting, of course, but I find that for waterfalls and cascades that shades of blue look best. It makes the waterfall look more natural.

This is a stack of 28 5-minute exposures. I light painted the waterfall during only one of the exposures.

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