Since I started with landscape photography more than 10 years ago I was drawn to flowing water. The coast, waterfalls and rivers have always been among my favorite subjects to photograph. I love the dynamic, which is created by the flow of water, and the photographic opportunities it presents.

Here in Germany one of the best areas to photograph waterfalls and rivers is the Black Forest. Especially in spring, when the forest begins to glow in vibrant greens, I love to visit the area near Baden-Baden, put on my waders and go exploring.

During my last visit I also recorded a tutorial on photographing rivers, which I want to share with you.

Tips & tricks in the field

In the first video, you’ll learn everything I do from scouting to taking the photos. As so often it’s important not to rush and to bring enough time for finding the right compositions. Ironically, time was something I didn’t have when shooting the video. Because I recorded it after teaching a workshop, I had only two hours of daylight left.

But I still managed to find an interesting area to photograph and a good example, through which to share my workflow.

Equipment for photographing rivers

In the video, I mention some essential equipment, including waders, a polarizer and wipes. Finding the right wipes wasn’t an easy task though.

Many of the special lens cloths you can buy are totally useless when photographing near the coast or in very wet conditions. As they soak up the moisture they rather smear the lens than cleaning it. I used many different brands until I finally found the perfect lens cloths, which aren’t even marketed as such.

The Bamboo Crystal Cloths are targeted for use in households to clean windows, mirrors or to polish cutlery. For this reason, they are much larger than the typical lens cloth, which makes them more versatile. Because of the finely structured material, it’s easy to clean smooth surfaces and not leave any smears. This is not only great for cleaning the mirrors in the bathroom.

Tips for Photographing Rivers

Ideas for post-processing

When photographing rivers I try to capture interesting elements throughout the scene. The foreground is important to draw the viewer into the photo, the middle and background should provide further interest to keep his attention.

That’s why I often combine focus stacking and exposure blending to capture all details from foreground to background. The result is usually a mass of photos, which have to be stacked and blended in Photoshop.

In the video below I show my complete workflow for this task, starting with blending the photos to increase dynamic range and get a cleaner result. This is followed by the focus stacking.

As you saw in the videos, to achieve high-quality results, I think it’s important not to rush. Take your time both in the field when capturing the photos and afterward during the processing.

This is not always possible though. If you have a workflow, which you’re used to, this will also help, if things get a bit more hectic. You can then apply a lot of steps subconsciously and increase the chances for a good photo in such situations. You can use the workflow I share here as a guide for developing your own workflow or do something completely different. But creating some kind of routine is always beneficial.

Learn more about photographing rivers

Make sure to check out the articles and tutorials listed below if you enjoyed this content and would like to learn more about photographing rivers, streams and other scenarios with flowing water:

Michael Breitung
Michael Breitung is a freelance landscape photographer from Germany. He started with Photography in 2008 and it quickly became his passion. He always loved to be out in nature and was drawn to landscape photography right from the start. Wide scenic landscapes, waterfalls, mountain vistas and coasts are his favourite subjects. Post processing plays an important role in his photography too. The main focus when editing his photos is for them to reflect the atmosphere as he perceived it. For this he developed a special workflow, which ge describes in his video tutorials