June 30, 2009

I've always been fascinated with Mt. Romelo (also mistakenly known as Mt. Famy). Folks call it the "land of the falls" because of the countless waterfalls you can find there: all within short hiking distance from the camp site. Its a favorite weekend getaway for mountaineers who seek a Shangrila-like respite without the need for an arduous climb.

Early Morning at Buruwisan Falls
Buruwisan Falls after sunrise

I was able to make my yearly pilgrimage there a couple of weeks ago. It was still (officially) summer but we had this crazy and weird weather: it was raining most of the time. So I figured it was the best time to hike up to Mt. Romelo and revisit the falls.

We had to postpone our trip several times and forego with the night trek because of the rain. But we decided on the last minute, one (very) early Saturday morning, to push through. The trails were muddy. Good thing some of the steep muddy trails already have guide ropes that you can use to haul yourself up.

I was pretty happy we went through with the trip, and I was able to get a couple of nice images. I will be sharing some of them together with some tips on shooting waterfalls.

some tips on shooting waterfalls
weather: It is always best to shoot waterfalls during the rainy season for the following reasons:
a) watefalls are "fuller" during this time
b) lighting is even during overcast days. You won't get bright spots on the water

necessary gears:
a) tripod (although you can hand hold it if you are using an ultra wide lens such as a 10-20mm lens. At 10mm you will only need a shutter speed of 1/15s to be sure there is no camera shake. I usually use 1/20 or 1/30s).

b) ND8 filter for slowing the shutter

c) CPL (circular polarizer) for removing glare as well as reducing the f/stop. Sometimes a CPL will be enough to "cut" the light for a slower shutter speed.

d) a dry bag to keep your equipment, well..., dry.

Always make sure there are NO OVEREXPOSED parts of the water, specially on the splash on the catch basin

Lansones Falls
Lanzones Falls on an overcast day

Sometimes there are POVs where you won't need to get the whole waterfalls in the frame. Just move further down stream and you'd we surprised with that you can see. I used the arching trunk of a large fig tree to frame Buruwisan falls from a POV just a few meters downstream.

Buruwisan Falls
view of Buruwisan Falls downstream

If the weather does not cooperate when shooting waterfalls (i.e. too sunny), you can find a wealth of POVs usually downstream from the falls. I went looking for small cascades near Lansones Falls and found this wide one with the "whites" spreading evenly at the bottom.

Milky Stream
downstream from Lansones Falls

Most of these small cascades are usually shaded or under a canopy of trees, thus you can shoot them most any time of the day. With shaded areas, a CPL is often enough to do the job in reducing the light, thus allowing you to shoot with a longer shutter speed.


near the precipice of Old Buruwisan Falls (Binaytuan Falls)

If the weather is too sunny, you may photograph the falls early in the morning or late in the afternoon. It best to scout the area and know the location of the falls (i.e. whether its facing the east or west).

I went to Batya-batya falls right after sunrise. I know that the sun will be rising behind the falls. Since most of the area is shaded, I had a window of an hour or two to capture the falls without the sunlight (through the canopy) hitting the falls directly.

Batya-Batya Falls (Mt. Romelo) aka Guiling-Guiling Falls
Batya-Batya Falls (Guiling-guiling Falls)

One of the biggest challenge in shooting waterfalls is the water spray. It'll always get on your gears and will show on your shots. You may remove these water droplets on your shots using a photo editing software. Or you can just make sure your filters are always clean. Wipe them before and after each shot.

Unless your camera and lens are weather-sealed, moisture will spell disaster. Keep your gears in your dry bag if you are not using them. Use a garbage bag or some clear plastic bag to protect your gears from the spray if you are near the falls.

gettting to mt. romelo
Ride the Raymond buses bound for Real, Quezon (they have a terminal in Legarda St. in Manila). Fare is Php 100.00++.

Get off in the town of Famy (the bus usually stops near the public market). Hire a tricycle to Kilometer 3 mark. Fare is 20.00 per person, 4 persons per tricycle.

The trail head is about 800m
from the highway. You'll see a sign pointing the direction to the registration area (Php 20.00 per person). Its just a 3-4 hour hike, depending on the trail conditions and how fit you are.
All rights reserved Photos by Allan Barredo unless stated otherwise. No photos or any part of this post may be downloaded and reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of the owner. But feel free to share the link using any of the sharing buttons below.
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