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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 vast and 108 meters excessive, they mix to type the biggest single sheet of falling water wherever on earth.

It’s right here the place your complete quantity of the mighty Zambezi River – which types the pure border between Zimbabwe and Zambia – features pace and plummets down into the Batoka Gorge, a slim zigzagging channel carved out over thousands and thousands 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 pictures of it. That isn’t 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 will need to have been gazed upon by angels of their flight.”

The angels in flight in all probability didn’t take any pictures both.

It isn’t recognized who did take the primary pictures of the falls, however whoever it was, he (or she) was within the lucky place to seize a novel composition with each single publicity. Today, Victoria Falls are visited and photographed by hundreds of individuals every single day, which implies that we at the moment are compelled to work so much more durable to search out and seize our personal distinctive and fascinating compositions.

The Problem

Not solely are we challenged to search out never-seen-before compositions, however we’re additionally challenged in quite a few 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 individuals to call the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya – translating to “The Smoke that Thunders” – and which may be seen from as much as 48 kilometers away.

Preserving your digital camera and lens dry underneath these situations is kind of a problem when the falls are at their smallest in the course of the dry season. Preserving your gear dry in the course of the wet season is virtually unimaginable.

You may assume that an umbrella could be a useful software to take care of a dry lens, however in actual fact, it’s fairly ineffective. As you strategy the sting of the cliff reverse the falls the spray shoots upwards like inverted rain, soaking the whole lot and everybody in its path.

There’s merely no technique to hold your lens dry right here – you could as properly be taking pictures in a drive-through automobile 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 seem to be an important thought to time your go to to coincide with the wet season (from late November to early April) in order that you could possibly seize the falls at their peak move. However you’ll in all probability be very disenchanted in case you do. There’s 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 technique to {photograph} the falls throughout these months is from the air, by chartering a helicopter, which in flip gives extra challenges like the problem of taking pictures via the highly-reflective Plexiglas home windows.

Though they may not be as spectacular in the course of 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 pictures turns into potential as soon as once more.

There are happily a number of advantages to planning your go to to coincide with the tip of the dry season. It’s only at the moment of the yr when the course of the dawn and sundown aligns completely alongside the size of the gorge, which implies that that is additionally the very best time of the yr to see rainbows.

In the event you plan your journey to coincide with the total moon, you may have the ability to e-book 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 total moon and is the one time when the gates to the rain-forest park on the Zimbabwean facet 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 facet, visiting the falls from the Zambian facet does have some benefits. The tickets to enter the park are so much cheaper on that facet, and the lodging within the close by city of Livingstone can be extra different and usually inexpensive.

In the event you resolve to go to the falls in the course of the wet season it is best to positively contemplate staying on the Zambian facet. Not solely is the spray much more manageable on that facet, however it’s only 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.

Throughout the dry season, nonetheless, the falls usually dry up fully on the Zambian facet, 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 nowadays you’re issued with a day move so that you simply received’t want to use for a visa prematurely.

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

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

Whereas many of those accommodations 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 personal transport.

Capturing Distinctive Compositions

So now that we all know the very best time of yr to go to the falls and the place to remain, how can we go about capturing lovely pictures 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 couple of meters again from the sting of the gorge, so your view of the falls will at all times be restricted. Happily, there are nonetheless a couple of spots the place you’ll be able to look down into the underside of the gorge.

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

So how does one go about discovering and capturing distinctive and fascinating compositions right here?

Probably the greatest methods to attain that is if you place your self the place the least variety of different individuals stand after they view the falls. Though a lot of the viewing factors nearer to the sting of the gorge have protecting stone obstacles, there are nonetheless a couple of nice spots with superb views that most individuals don’t hassle 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 may seem to be a really harmful spot for me to be standing, however there was a big ledge proper beneath me and simply out of the body. Reaching this actual location is barely potential in the course of the dry season.

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

One other method to make sure that you benefit from your photographic alternatives is to have a variety of focal-length lenses in your bag. It is perhaps tempting to make use of your widest lens in an try to seize as a lot of the falls as potential, however the perspective distortion in wide-angle lenses implies that distant objects at all times look so much smaller via the lens than they do in actuality. And since we try to seize distinctive pictures 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 could possibly contemplate becoming a zoom lens to make the falls look even larger than they are surely, however then your area of view turns into extra restricted as you zoom in, thereby proscribing your view to a mere slice of the falls.

One of the best ways to seize a novel composition of Victoria Falls is to assume outdoors the body. Don’t restrict your self by what you’ll be able to see via the digital camera’s viewfinder. Slightly select the very best focal size for the scene that you’re making an attempt to seize, after which take as many pictures as obligatory to completely seize that scene. Stitching a number of photographs into one panorama is fast and straightforward nowadays, and you’ll at all times find yourself with a a lot larger decision picture with a panorama than you’ll with a single picture taken by the identical digital camera.

Extra pixels = extra particulars = larger 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 wholly distinctive composition, however the longer focal size utilized in an try to precisely seize the dimensions of the falls, together with the wide-angle view, has helped me to create one thing just a little bit completely different from the whole lot else.

So now that you’ve discovered the least-trodden place to arrange your tripod, and have spent a couple of moments serious about which of your lenses could be greatest to seize the scene, all that continues to be is to mount your digital camera to your tripod, press the shutter, and seize the photographs.

To guard your digital camera from the inevitable spray issue, it is strongly recommended that you simply place it inside a plastic bag (with a gap minimize in it for the lens to level out). Your lens will get moist, that’s inevitable.

Even on the very best days in the course of the dry season you may solely have a window interval of 5 or ten seconds earlier than the primary drops begin wetting your lens. This is perhaps sufficient time so that you can take away the lens cap, take a single picture and change the cap, however if you’re taking pictures a number of photographs for a panorama, you’ll have to settle for that you may 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 fascinating 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 dimension.

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 often 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 may wish to contemplate a game-viewing drive via one of many close by nature reserves or discover the bush on a horseback safari. These actions all supply an abundance of fascinating issues for anybody to level their digital camera at.

Different Actions

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

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

This pure rock pool can solely be accessed from the Zambian facet, and solely in the course of 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 can 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 purchasing 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 few photographic exhibitions, workshops, and excursions world wide. His pictures have additionally received quite a few competitions and awards and have been revealed in calendars, magazines, and books. You could find extra of his work on his Flickr and Fb.

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