For the last few years I have been taking waterfall photos and always seemed to be limited on where I could set up my tripod and camera. I really hated that I either needed to be on the side of the water or had to find a few good rocks that I could position myself on, usually requiring some special ninja like balancing skills. I could always just walk into the water, but most of my waterfall shots are taken in the early spring or early fall so the water is usually on the cold side. I had read a few internet posts about other photographers using fishing waders to get into the water, allowing them to position themselves pretty much anywhere they wanted. The waders also allowed them to stay in fairly cold water for extended periods of time. Well last spring I finally decided to pick up a pair and have just recently been able to utilize them. Here are some recent results.
I found that there was at least one additional piece of gear required when using these. I usually carry a few ND filters with me and a circular polarizer. Well when you are standing in waist high water, you are limited on where you can store stuff. I went back to my local fishing catalogs and found they made a cool chest pack that is designed to hold fly fishing flys. I just removed the insert for holding the flys. It provides easy access, is water proof and is large enough to hold my Lee Filter system, along with a snack or two.
Walking around in the stream and not being limited on my setup location was fantastic. There was no way I would have been able to get some of these shots without being able to do that. There were two things that I did realize though, first was the obvious, be extremely careful when walking in the water. There could be hidden little holes and rocks under the water that you might not see and could throw you off balance and the last thing you would want to do is fall into the water, bringing all your gear with you. I tried to use my tripod as a balance stick as much as possible. The second thing was that because you are not really limited on where you can setup, you might try to get closer to the waterfall then you should. If the water is flowing very strong, you’re going to end up with a bunch of water spray on your lens, so just be careful and carry a lens cleaning cloth, you are going to need it.
One very last note, the waders I bought are ones with built in boots and you wear your clothing and socks inside of them, they make other versions that are more like a wetsuit and also have separate boots. Either way, when you change into your waders at your car, there really is no way of not looking like a complete nerd, but once you get into the water, and you see other photographers trying to get photos from the side of the stream, Trust me, they will be envious of you, and you will feel fantastic.