Waterfall white water color (simple version)

Ken Rennie

Well-Known Member
This is a simple technique to get your white water in rapids, cascades and waterfalls looking white(ish) irrespective of the type of water. My example is from Wailing Widow falls in NW Scotland and the water is peaty brown. I have tried this with duck egg blue glacial run off and the same technique works. Note it works best if you have captured the original image in RAW but it does work with jpegs.
This is the original image, it has a very wide dynamic range much more than can be captured in one shot, it is very dark as I tried to capture it in one shot but didn't manage it as the sky is slightly burnt out.
1.jpg


1A.jpg

I am going to perform some basic edits on the image, brightening it, lifting the shadows some and darkening the highlights. I am also applying much more saturation than I would normally use so that you can see the color balance shift. Note if you just look at this image (against a white background) it looks fairly normal apart from the blown highlights AND THE VERY BLUE WATERFALL
2.jpg

2A.jpg


Now the simple trick in ACR or lightroom draw an ellipse around the waterfall and change the color balance so that it looks correct. It is up to you and your eyes ( later, in another post, I will describe a mathematical way of doing it and getting it "correct" but your eyes will get it right for you.

3.jpg


3A.jpg



ALTERNATIVE METHOD GETTING THE WHITE WATER IN THE GORGE ACTUALLY WHITE.
This is the same as step 2 above but this time I have used the White balance dropper by clicking it on the central white foam 1/3rd of the way into the image( NOTE the sky will look overly yellow but correcting that is simple) Look at the previous images, they now look very blue don't they.

4.jpg



The gorge floor white water looks better but the actual waterfall still looks too blue
4A.jpg

Simple in ACR or lightroom draw the ellipse and alter the color balance until it looks correct
5.jpg

5A.jpg


This is the simple version but it gets it close. This is a more complex image than many as the white balance is different on the gorge floor and the waterfall. In the final version you can see that the water is fairly brown although the very white foam is white. If you look closely at the waterfall you should note that the waterfall changes colour in 3 stages. The very top is slightly yellow where the sunlight is just catching it, white(ish) in the middle and slightly blue at the bottom where it is falling into deeper shade.
With an adjustment brush I could "fix" this but I will not at the present time. More to come later and happy Independence day when it comes. Ken
 
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Ben Egbert

Forum Helper
Staff member
Thanks for posting this Ken. I can tell what you are doing by looking at the sliders. I have been working with radial filters and gotten somewhat familiar with the technique. I had already applied most of these to the Calf Creek image I posted elsewhere except the added saturation which I am thinking you did here to illustrate the changes.

Your comments that my Calf Creek waterfall seemed to be off on white balance, yet I made corrections with a radial filter and my eye as judgement. Can you give me an idea what seems off (what color shift seems required?)

Here it is to refresh your memory.
150402-2284-5dm3B.jpg
 

Ken Rennie

Well-Known Member
Thanks for posting this Ken. I can tell what you are doing by looking at the sliders. I have been working with radial filters and gotten somewhat familiar with the technique. I had already applied most of these to the Calf Creek image I posted elsewhere except the added saturation which I am thinking you did here to illustrate the changes.

Your comments that my Calf Creek waterfall seemed to be off on white balance, yet I made corrections with a radial filter and my eye as judgement. Can you give me an idea what seems off (what color shift seems required?)

Here it is to refresh your memory.
View attachment 40899
Indeed Ben, the increased saturation was just for illustration purposes.
Back to the above image. I am having a problem understanding this image. The very top of the waterfall is close enough to white. The right hand main fall looks orange to me but as it hits the green mossy rocks it turns white. The left hand fall all but disappears, I guess that it is approx the same orange color as the rocks. I am trying to understand why the color shift. If it is a shaft of sunlight then the middle part of the image would be super bright, but it is not. I would have thought that it looked like this.
202875346_10226159320066841_6928511000477771877_n-1 kr.jpg
 

Ben Egbert

Forum Helper
Staff member
Wow, now that I see I can't unsee it. Thanks a lot Ken. This casts some doubt on my color judgement. Probably well founded. Anyway, it is not a matter of technique, its simply judgement. Or perhaps refinement.
 

Ben Egbert

Forum Helper
Staff member
Ok Ken, I had a shot at this. My original problem was to select the falls as an entirety with the radial filter. I went back and did three other areas and fixed the white water. I attempted to bring out more detail in the upper left water and was not able to do so, I just could not find a way to bring it out, so I will post what I did do.

150402-2284-5dmC.jpg
 
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