Monday, January 24, 2011

How I Got The Shot #6 - Smooth Look For Moving Water

Had a chance to get out to the great state of West Virginia.  Boy, it did not disappoint.  If you ever get to the Blackwater regions, I recommend it.  Just make sure that you don't ignore the smaller trails or you might miss out on some great shots.  This blog post will cover techniques on getting that smooth water effect in landscape pictures that have moving water.

Check out the details after the break...
Creative Process:
Getting this effect is actually quite simple once you have a good grasp of how exposure works.  In order to get the water to be smooth we need to (a)keep the camera still on a tripod and (b) have along enough shutter speed to not freeze the motion of the water, but to allow it to blur.

Location:
Blackwater Falls, West Virginia(Elekala Falls)

Gear:
Nikon D50
Tamron 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6
Tripod
Hoya Polarizing Filter

EXIF Info:
Shot in Aperture Priority at 1.3 seconds  - f/22 - ISO 200 @ 28mm
Shot in RAW - converted to JPG in Camera RAW

Lighting Setup:
Who says that gray and gloomy is a bad thing?  The day we were shooting, it had just rained that morning and  in the afternoon it was partly cloudy.  That is OK with me as the size of the trees in this area would have given us sporadic hot spots all over the frame.  So, I waited until the clouds blocked the sun.

We also used a polarizer.  What for?  Well a polarizer serves the same function as polarized lenses on sunglasses.  It cuts down on glare on objects.  In this case, it cut out a lot of the highlights you would get from light reflecting off of waxy leaves and it also takes a lot of reflection off of the water.  Polarizers are adjustable, so the amount of the filtering is variable.  Just remember, that getting a good quality filter is important.  Why spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on top quality lenses only to put an inexpensive and potentially flawed piece of glass in front of all that?   You also lose light going into the lens as well, you lose more light the stronger of an effect you use from the filter.  Don't worry though, the cameras meter can still get an accurate exposure.

When we talk about "losing light", I am referring to the fact that the generally, the exposure will require more time because the polarizer is allowing less light to get to the sensor than normal.  So if you're exposure for this shot is say, 1/4th of a second at f/7 and you are working in aperture priority mode, you could experience a 1/2 sec to one full second exposure time.  This could be good if you need a little extra time to get the water smoothed out.

Post Processing:
Basic Camera RAW adjustments and boosted the saturation a bit and there you have it.  Most of the heavy lifting was done in camera with the longer shutter speed and the polarizer.

Another great nature shot.  A word on composition - I intentionally used the trees as a way to frame the waterfall and give the image a sense of depth.  I wanted to do this because of the aperture being stopped down so much(f/22), the majority of the image would be in focus, so other visual queues would be needed to be able to give the viewer a sense of depth.

Also, remember that these shooting numbers are for the shot in question that day.  While they might be a good reference point to start your own shots of this kind out at, every shooting condition is different and you may need to adjust your exposure settings accordingly.

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