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Making Water Fluid

There’s nothing quite as satisfying for the landscape shooter as capturing a silky waterfall shot or putting motion in the ocean. Creating the smooth-flowing effect is as simple as adjusting your shutter speed to allow the water to be in motion while the shutter is open. The key is to have your camera on a stable platform (such as a tripod) so that you can use a shutter speed that’s long enough to work (Figure 8.13). To achieve a great effect, use a shutter speed that is at least 1/15 of a second or longer.

Figure 8.13

Figure 8.13 Using a tripod combined with a small aperture, I was able to use a 25-second exposure to make the water look silky smooth.

ISO 100 • 25 sec. • f/18 • 16–35mm lens at 35mm

Setting up for a waterfall, ocean, or river shot

  1. Attach the camera to your tripod, then compose and focus your shot.
  2. To allow the longest exposure, set the ISO to 100 or slower.
  3. Using Aperture Priority (A) mode, set your aperture to the smallest opening (such as f/22).
  4. Press the shutter button halfway so the camera takes a meter reading.
  5. Check to see if the shutter speed is 1/15 of a second or slower.
  6. Take a photo and then check the image on the LCD.

If the water is blinking on the LCD during playback, indicating a loss of detail in the highlights, then use exposure compensation to bring details back into the waterfall. In order to see the highlight warnings, or “blinkies,” you will need to ensure that your playback display is set to Histogram mode.

There is a possibility that you will not be able to use a shutter speed that is long enough to capture a smooth, silky effect, especially if you are shooting in bright daylight conditions. To overcome this obstacle, you need a filter for your lens—either a polarizing filter or a neutral density filter. The polarizing filter redirects wavelengths of light to create more vibrant and accurate colors, reduce reflections, and darken blue skies (Figure 8.14). Neutral density filters are neutral-colored filters that serves to darken the scene by one, two, three, or even ten stops (Figure 8.15). This allows you to use slower shutter speeds during bright conditions. Think of it as sunglasses for your camera lens.

Figure 8.14

Figure 8.14 Using a polarizing filter puts definition in the clouds and darkens the blue skies so they really pop.

ISO 100 • 1/250 sec. • f/11 • 16–35mm lens at 16mm

Figure 8.15

Figure 8.15 Neutral density filters cut the exposure without changing the color of the scene.

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