Esther Beaton


Waterfall Trickery

It’s great when you learn from your students. The last Day Safari workshop was a big fun day out. We shot wildlife in the morning and waterfalls in the late afternoon. Participants quickly understood how to use different shutter speeds to create various amounts of “silkiness” in the waterfall. But my students taught me something about these waterfalls that I never realized before: the optical illusion of size.

Most people, upon first arriving at a waterfall, try to get the whole business into the frame. After a while, aesthetics takes over and students start looking for better movement, shapes and composition. That’s when they discover that photographing only a small part of the waterfall, even a tiny section a couple of feet high, can result in just as dramatic effect as including the whole lot which could be twenty metres or more in height. Looking at the final shot, the mind can’t recognize the size of the objects: whether it’s a tree trunk or a stick, a huge boulder or a small rock. The mind interprets all of it as magnificently large. Most of the shots were really great, but it was when I saw Frances Cunningham’s that this concept clicked for me.

Thanks guys, I’ll incorporate this new knowledge into next year’s Day Safari to this location. To see the current schedule for this year’s Day Safaris, go to

6 thoughts on “Waterfall Trickery”

  1. Esther,

    You’re great at putting photography, and the “art of photography,” into words. You have to be careful though; if you come up with too many more ideas, you may be forced to write another book! Mark, USA

  2. Hi Geoff:

    Thanks so much for your input. Our group did some tests and had a discussion about correct colour balance – whether it’s what the pixels record, what your mind thinks should be there, or even something completely over the top! Thanks so much for giving us the “neutralized” shot to compare. I’m still not sure which I prefer……


  3. By the way, doesn’t everyone find color management (at the computer) to be a hair-gripping exercise? A workshop with Geoff White (lovely landscape photos) could be a great idea.

  4. Hi Esther,

    I had a look at Geoff’s website, some beautiful shots there. A workshop would be a great idea! count me in.
    You’re so right about perspective and a sense of scale – I love the way things can appear so different from reality.
    In regards the colour cast you taught us some really useful techniques that work well. Photoshop may have slightly overcooked the corrected version. By way of comparison I’ve posted a similar shot, using a grey card to set camera white balance first. You can have a look at

    Best Regards,
    Nick, Umina

  5. Hi Esther,
    Love your blog first of all….
    Latest pic has such a cyan cast I couldn’t help fixing it and sending you a revised PSD file so you can see what I have done.
    I would love to do a day workshop for your group on Colour management….


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