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The Panorama Photographer’s Information to Victoria Falls


Whereas the Victoria Falls are neither the widest nor the best waterfalls on this planet, they’re undoubtedly the biggest. At 1,708 meters extensive and 108 meters excessive, they mix to type the biggest single sheet of falling water wherever on earth.

It’s right here the place all the quantity of the mighty Zambezi River – which types the pure border between Zimbabwe and Zambia – features velocity and plummets down into the Batoka Gorge, a slim zigzagging channel carved out over tens of millions of years alongside a fracture zone within the basalt plateau.

Scottish explorer David Livingstone might need been the primary European to set eyes on the Victoria Falls on the sixteenth of November, 1855, however he by no means took any images of it. That’s not very stunning although, since he “found” the falls a mere 30 years after the primary everlasting {photograph} was produced by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. After naming the falls in honor of Queen Victoria, Livingstone wrote that “Nobody can think about the great thing about the view from something witnessed in England. It has by no means been seen earlier than by European eyes, however scenes so pretty should have been gazed upon by angels of their flight.”

The angels in flight most likely didn’t take any images both.

It isn’t identified who did take the primary images of the falls, however whoever it was, he (or she) was within the lucky place to seize a novel composition with each single publicity. As of late, Victoria Falls are visited and photographed by hundreds of individuals day-after-day, which implies that we at the moment are pressured to work rather a lot more durable to search out and seize our personal distinctive and attention-grabbing compositions.

The Problem

Not solely are we challenged to search out never-seen-before compositions, however we’re additionally challenged in quite a lot of different methods, most notably by the water spray, which billows up from the gorge and rises to a peak of over 400 meters. It was this spray that impressed the early Batoka folks to call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya – translating to “The Smoke that Thunders” – and which could be seen from as much as 48 kilometers away.

Holding your digicam and lens dry below these situations is sort of a problem when the falls are at their smallest through the dry season. Holding your gear dry through the wet season is virtually unimaginable.

You would possibly suppose that an umbrella can be a useful device to keep up a dry lens, however in reality, it’s fairly ineffective. As you strategy the sting of the cliff reverse the falls the spray shoots upwards like inverted rain, soaking every little thing and everybody in its path.

There may be merely no solution to hold your lens dry right here – you could as properly be taking pictures in a drive-through automotive wash.

When to Go to Victoria Falls

The very first thing to think about when planning a photographic journey to Victoria Falls is when to go. It would look like an excellent concept to time your go to to coincide with the wet season (from late November to early April) in order that you may seize the falls at their peak stream. However you’ll most likely be very dissatisfied in case you do. There may be a lot spray within the air throughout these months that it’s unimaginable to see the underside of the gorge. In exceptionally moist years the spray is so heavy that it could not even be potential to see the highest of the falls.

The one solution to {photograph} the falls throughout these months is from the air, by chartering a helicopter, which in flip gives further challenges like the issue of taking pictures by the highly-reflective Plexiglas home windows.

Though they won’t be as spectacular through the dry season as they’re within the wet season, if the aim of your go to is to {photograph} the falls, then you’re greatest suggested to plan your journey for October or November, when the spray ranges turn out to be extra manageable and taking first rate images turns into potential as soon as once more.

There are happily an a variety of benefits to planning your go to to coincide with the tip of the dry season. It’s only presently of the 12 months when the path of the dawn and sundown aligns completely alongside the size of the gorge, which implies that that is additionally one of the best time of the 12 months to see rainbows.

When you plan your journey to coincide with the complete moon, you would possibly have the ability to ebook a guided tour to witness the fragile lunar rainbows, created by the sunshine of the moon reflecting within the water particles of the misty spray. This distinctive occasion can be seen on the nights earlier than and after the complete moon and is the one time when the gates to the rain-forest park on the Zimbabwean aspect of the falls are opened to the general public after sundown.

The place to Keep at Victoria Falls

Whereas the views of the falls are undoubtedly extra spectacular from one of many 16 viewing factors within the nationwide park on the Zimbabwean aspect, visiting the falls from the Zambian aspect does have some benefits. The tickets to enter the park are rather a lot cheaper on that aspect, and the lodging within the close by city of Livingstone can be extra different and customarily cheaper.

When you resolve to go to the falls through the wet season it’s best to positively take into account staying on the Zambian aspect. Not solely is the spray much more manageable on that aspect, however it is just right here the place you’ll be able to safely stroll proper as much as the sting of the falls, enabling you to seize photographs of the water cascading down into the gorge.

In the course of the dry season, nonetheless, the falls typically dry up utterly on the Zambian aspect, forcing you to cross the border into Zimbabwe if you wish to get a correct have a look at them. You’ll have to current your passport when crossing the border, however as of late you’re issued with a day go so that you just gained’t want to use for a visa upfront.

Whereas it could be a bit dearer to enter the park on the Zimbabwean aspect, this aspect positively gives many extra photographic alternatives. It isn’t potential to acquire a multiple-entry go, nonetheless, so in case you do plan to spend a number of days taking pictures within the park, be suggested to funds accordingly.

Additionally, you will be requested to current your passport when buying your park entry tickets, so don’t go away that in your secure again on the lodge when visiting the falls. A lot of the lodging on the Zimbabwean aspect of Victoria Falls is located within the city of Victoria Falls (the city and the falls each have the identical identify, which does generally get a bit complicated). It is possible for you to to search out all kinds of resorts right here, from funds backpackers to the luxurious 5-star Victoria Falls Lodge.

Whereas many of those resorts are inside a brief strolling distance of the falls, there are additionally loads of taxis to take you there if it’s too far to stroll and also you don’t have your individual transport.

Capturing Distinctive Compositions

So now that we all know one of the best time of 12 months to go to the falls and the place to remain, how will we go about capturing lovely photographs and distinctive compositions of the world’s largest waterfall? A lot of the photographic alternatives current themselves on the 16 viewing factors, that are strategically located alongside a round path across the park. All of those viewing factors are set a number of meters again from the sting of the gorge, so your view of the falls will all the time be restricted. Luckily, there are nonetheless a number of spots the place you’ll be able to look down into the underside of the gorge.

On busy days when extra folks enter the park than regular, you may also have to attend patiently behind a giant group of vacationers in your temporary alternative to take {a photograph} or two. Regardless of the breathtaking views of the thundering waterfalls, sadly, the fixed spray, the restricted compositional potentialities, and all of the vacationers jostling for place imply that capturing nice photographs of the falls is rather more troublesome than you may think.

So how does one go about discovering and capturing distinctive and attention-grabbing compositions right here?

Among the best methods to realize that is once you place your self the place the least variety of different folks stand once they view the falls. Though many of the viewing factors nearer to the sting of the gorge have protecting stone obstacles, there are nonetheless a number of nice spots with superb views that most individuals don’t trouble to entry.

The picture above was taken from a small ledge inside spitting distance of the “Satan’s Cataract” – probably the most highly effective a part of Victoria Falls. This would possibly look like a really harmful spot for me to be standing, however there was a big ledge proper under me and simply out of the body. Reaching this precise location is simply potential through the dry season.

Because of the fixed spray, the grass and rocks are very slippery, so it’s best to stay a secure distance from the sting always. Victoria Falls has claimed many lives in previous many years, with the numbers growing lately because of Instagram and all the opposite social media platforms that appear to encourage selfies taken in harmful locations. Just one fortunate individual has ever survived a plunge over Victoria Falls.

One other manner to make sure that you take advantage of your photographic alternatives is to have a variety of focal-length lenses in your bag. It could be tempting to make use of your widest lens in an try and seize as a lot of the falls as potential, however the perspective distortion in wide-angle lenses implies that distant objects all the time look rather a lot smaller by the lens than they do in actuality. And since we try to seize distinctive images of the biggest waterfall on the planet, it appears a pity to scale back the importance of these falls by taking pictures them with a wide-angle lens.

You would take into account becoming a zoom lens to make the falls look even greater than they are surely, however then your area of view turns into extra restricted as you zoom in, thereby limiting your view to a mere slice of the falls.

One of the best ways to seize a novel composition of Victoria Falls is to suppose exterior the body. Don’t restrict your self by what you’ll be able to see by the digicam’s viewfinder. Quite select one of the best focal size for the scene that you’re trying to seize, after which take as many images as vital to completely seize that scene. Stitching a number of photographs into one panorama is fast and simple as of late, and you’ll all the time find yourself with a a lot greater decision picture with a panorama than you’ll with a single picture taken by the identical digicam.

Extra pixels = extra particulars = greater high quality.

The above {photograph} was created by combining two (landscape-format) photographs – each captured with a 50mm lens – and stitching them one above the opposite right into a single vertical panorama (or vertorama). This won’t be a completely distinctive composition, however the longer focal size utilized in an try and precisely seize the scale of the falls, together with the wide-angle view, has helped me to create one thing just a little bit completely different from every little thing else.

So now that you’ve discovered the least-trodden place to arrange your tripod, and have spent a number of moments desirous about which of your lenses can be greatest to seize the scene, all that continues to be is to mount your digicam to your tripod, press the shutter, and seize the pictures.

To guard your digicam from the inevitable spray issue, it’s endorsed that you just place it inside a plastic bag (with a gap lower in it for the lens to level out). Your lens will get moist, that’s inevitable.

Even on one of the best days through the dry season you would possibly solely have a window interval of 5 or ten seconds earlier than the primary drops begin wetting your lens. This could be sufficient time so that you can take away the lens cap, take a single picture and substitute the cap, however once you’re taking pictures a number of photographs for a panorama, you’ll have to settle for that you’ll be wiping your lens dry between each single {photograph}.

Shoot, wipe, shoot, wipe, shoot, wipe, shoot, wipe — that ought to turn out to be your mantra whereas photographing Victoria Falls.

The picture above is a horizontal panorama, made up of three landscape-format photographs shot at 24mm.

Different Photographic Alternatives

Even when your major motivation for visiting this area is to {photograph} Victoria Falls, there are additionally loads of different attention-grabbing issues for panorama photographers to level their cameras at. The calmer sections of the higher Zambezi present ample alternatives to seize reflective photographs, particularly in direction of the tip of November when the primary storm clouds of the season are beginning to collect and develop in measurement.

A number of native tour operators additionally host sundowner cruises alongside this stretch of the Zambezi, which ought to enchantment to each panorama and wildlife photographers. These cruises normally have an “all you’ll be able to eat and drink” coverage – so be warned – they could turn out to be a bit rowdy in direction of the tip.

Apart from the sundown cruises on the higher Zambezi, you would possibly wish to take into account a game-viewing drive by one of many close by nature reserves or discover the bush on a horseback safari. These actions all provide an abundance of attention-grabbing issues for anybody to level their digicam at.

Different Actions

Extra adventurous (and fewer photographically-inclined) guests may entertain themselves by tying their legs to a bungee twine and launching themselves from the 111-meter-high Victoria Falls bridge which spans the gorge proper under the falls. Alternatively, they might expertise the complete power of the raging river under the falls by operating the rapids in giant inflatable rafts. They might additionally strive the gorge swing and/or the flying-fox zip-wire, or they might take to the air by chartering a helicopter or microlight.

After which there’s the “Satan’s Pool”.

This pure rock pool can solely be accessed from the Zambian aspect, and solely through the dry season. It’s no bigger than a small swimming pool, with solely a skinny rocky ledge stopping you from plummeting over the sting. These of us who’re bordering on the insane can be a part of a guided tour to this small pool, to leap from a rock and hopefully not get sucked over the sting. You’ll be charged properly in extra of $100 for the pleasure of practically dying.

Much less adventurous guests can keep away from the adrenalin rush and spend their time looking for curios on the native markets, stress-free subsequent to a fishing rod, or taking part in a leisurely spherical of golf. No matter your thrill, you’ll positively discover it at Victoria Falls.

This really is among the seven pure wonders of the world.


Concerning the writer: Paul Bruins is a semi-retired South Africa-based skilled panorama photographer. The opinions expressed on this article are solely these of the writer. For the previous 20 years, Bruins has labored to discover and {photograph} each nook of his hometown and nation. He has organized and hosted quite a lot of photographic exhibitions, workshops, and excursions world wide. His photographs have additionally gained quite a few competitions and awards and have been printed in calendars, magazines, and books. You could find extra of his work on his Flickr and Fb.

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