Anything Photoshop or Photography

Smoothing Out Those Waterfalls

This is a Photoshop “oldie but goodie” for making your waterfall images smooth and silky as if you shot it in the shade with a slow shutter speed. I was lucky enough to visit the Big Island in Hawaii recently. Waterfalls are abundant. Unfortunately tripods cannot be used in most cases and sunlight can be very bright when shooting at tourist spots, so the only way to get that smooth silky look is to fix the waterfall in Photoshop. That is what you are seeing in the first two images. The first image original (shown on left below) is the tone-mapped result of three photos processed in NIK HDR Efex Pro before processing in Photoshop. The smoothing steps are as follows:

1. Duplicate layer.

2. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur. Turn the angle to the direction of the waterfall, in this case 90 degrees. Set the distance slider to a large amount – for the above it was set to 155, but that may be too much for some images.

3. Add a black layer mask by holding the ALT key and clicking on the Layer Mask icon in the Layers Panel.

4. With a soft brush set to a low opacity like 30% slowly paint in where you want the blur effect on the waterfall.

5. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer to darken the midtones by moving the black and white stops. This image had the black stop set to 5 and white stop to 121.

This lovely waterfall on the road by the golf course (there were several of these man-made waterfalls along this busy road so I had to shoot from the window to get this picture) is similar to the one above but with several small falls going in two different directions. In this case, two Motion Blur filters had to be created to match the water direction. First follow steps 2 through 4 (the first Motion Blur filter layer used settings of a -90 degree angle and 45 distance), create a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top, and do steps 2 through 4 again (this time a filter setting of -51 degree angle was used). Then finish up with step 5. Nik,s Color Efex Pro recipe Detail + Vignette from Matt Kloskowski was added after applying the steps.

Here are the originals of images as they were processed in Lightroom.



In case you area not familiar with how to shoot waterfalls, the basic idea is to set up the camera on a tripod in manual mode using a long shutter speed set to 1 or 2 seconds, a small aperture like F/16 or F/22, and low ISO setting. For one of the best discussions on how to compose and shoot a really good waterfall picture, see Craig Tanner from The Mindful Eye podcast “Scenic Waterfall Photography” – this site is full of great photography information.

That’s it – a pretty convincing result is created and it takes just a couple minutes. This is definitely one to store in your arsenal of Photoshop quick tips!…..Digital Lady Syd

4 responses

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