There are two things I find to be the most relaxing, stress relieving sounds in the world. One is the sound of waves rolling up on the beach, and the other is a waterfall. Photographing waterfalls requires a little bit of effort and thought to really create a nice image. The look of the water can be dramatically changed by the shutter speed used. A fast shutter speed freezes the action or motion of the water and gives it that time stood still look. I prefer the long exposure shots that make the water smooth out and go to that cottony soft look. To me this implies motion even though you are looking at a still photograph.This requires a tripod and a long shutter exposure. Normally between 2-4 seconds will create this soft effect on the moving water. The great thing is you can find small waterfalls almost anywhere.
I was at a conference at the Opryland hotel in Nashville, TN. last year. The giant indoor atrium of the hotel is pretty amazing. It is like a giant botanical garden complete with a man made river and numerous waterfalls. By carefully framing and composing your shots, you can create some beautiful images. These two waterfall shots on the left are from inside the hotel atruium.
This waterfall on the right is Laural Falls in Smokey Mountain National Park. It is about a 1.5 mile hike up to capture this photo. I was there in the fall, and it had been very dry.The water volume of all the falls was low compared to their normal flows. But even a small trickle of water can be transformed into a beautiful scene with a long exposure capture.
I just seem to have bad luck when I stop to photograph a natural waterfall. It is always a dry spell and the water volume of the falls is much lower than normal. This photo on the left is Rainbow Falls, located in Hilo HI. It is an 80 foot high fall that at full volume can be as much as 100 feet across. Now Hilo is one of the wettest places in the United States. But, the short time I was there, it had been extremely dry. So I still managed a nice watefall shot, but It would have been much more dramatic to have about five times as much water flowing over that lava shelf. So I guess I will just have to go back and try again!
Just have your camera on a sturdy tripod and use a cable release. A low ISO setting and stop down to between f11 to f22 will usually give you a 2-4 second exposure even in fairly bright daylight. If you need a longer exposure, add a polarizer filter to your lens and it will darken the scene and force your camera to use an even longer exposure.