Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Refresher On Moving Water

Springtime is a great time of year for moving water shots. Most rivers and streams are running full and fast, and make great subjects.

To better represent the flow and movement of water, I prefer a slow shutter speed, resulting in a somewhat silky look as in today's image above. Here are some tips to help you get the best shots:

1. Use a sturdy tripod, emphasis on the word "sturdy." A flimsy tripod will not be rock solid, especially on breezy days.
2. Use a cable release, or a remote control to fire the shutter. If you press on the shutter button, you will introduce a little vibration and your images will not be razor sharp. If you do not own a cable release or a remote control, just set your shutter to a 2-second delay. That will allow the camera to settle down after you have pressed the shutter button, and before the image is actually taken. In addition, you can use the mirror lock-up function to raise the mirror BEFORE you trip the shutter to reduce camera vibration even further. Note, however, that I never do that and do not have any problems.
3. Set the ISO to 100.
4. Set the aperture to at least f/16.  If your lens goes to f/22 or f/32, that is even better. That will provide good Depth of Field so that all parts of the image will be sharp.
5. Try a variety of different shutter speeds. There is no magic shutter speed that works in all cases. Generally a shutter speed of 1/4 sec is a good place to start. Also take some shots at 1/2 sec, 1 second, 2 seconds, and so on if you can. The silky look of the water will increase with longer shutter speeds. Some people prefer a slightly silky look, while others prefer a very soft mushy  look. My personal preference is the look in this image  -  slow enough to show movement but still showing some streaks of water as it cascades over the rocks. The shutter speed needed to produce the look you want will vary depending on the speed that the water is moving.
6. Lens choice  -  depending on what you wish to portray, you can use either a wide angle lens or a telephoto lens.
7. Neutral density filters  -  on sunny days when it is difficult to get a slow enough shutter speed, a strong neutral density filter can be invaluable. These are sometimes called "black" or "dark" filters. They are filters that screw on the front on your lens and are so dark that they reduce exposure (by allowing you to slow down your shutter speed) by several stops. There are two types - fixed and variable. Both work well, but my preference is a fixed 10-stop or 8-stop neutral density filter. (WARNING: do not waste your money on an inexpensive one. The build quality of the low-cost ones are very poor and will degrade your image terribly. It is a shame that manufacturers can even market these inferior products. The ones I am familiar with that have the best reputations and the best track records are these brands:  B + W, Lee, Singh-Ray.) Be prepared to spend about $150 on a good fixed one and significantly more than that on a variable. My advice - get a fixed, and do not spend the extra money on a variable.

So now, go out and find some moving water and practice and play. And while you are at it, allow yourself some time to just sit by the water and enjoy the view and the sounds.

Shutter Speed 2 seconds.  Aperture f/32.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 70mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In every drop of water there is a story of life."  --Leena Arif


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