We’ve talked a little bit about aperture, and we’ve talked just a little on shutter speed. How can I make this blur from a slower shutter speed really make my pictures shine? Easy, you only blur part of the picture.
Just before I got out of the military my parents moved to the great state of Tennessee. What makes it great? No state income taxes,. scenery for days, and even a small taste or two of some Union County spring water, (that would be moonshine). It just so happens they moved a few short miles from the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. One of my favorite places on the planet. The Smokies Nat. Park holds the distinction of being the most visited, vehicle accessible national park in the U.S. Besides the walking trails, the wildlife, and the moderate climate, the thing that makes the park truly amazing is access to somewhere around twenty named waterfalls. Some of these falls are accessible from the highway, others are from 1 to 4 miles back along the nature trails. It is a remarkable place to visit.
One spring, I took two or three days to go running around the park and learning how to shoot waterfalls. It was amazing. Here are just a couple of pictures from that trip.
See the difference between the two pictures? Photo one is punchy with gaps in between the falling water. Photo two is smooth, flowing, and tranquil. How can you make you capture your images with these effects? It’s too easy.
First, you’ll need a tripod or to set your camera on the ground to hold the picture steady.
Second, you’ll need to slow down your shutter speed to somewhere under 1/8th of a second. (Experimentation is the key).
Third, you’ll need to set your camera’s automatic timer mode to take the picture so your finger on the button doesn’t shake the camera to blur the edges. It’s okay for the water to be blurry, but you want the surrounding scenery to be sharp and crisp.
Remember my earlier post on the three things you can control? Those were aperture, shutter speed, and additional light. well, I did leave on out. That is the ISO setting. The ISO setting is what used to be called the film speed. These were typically available in 100, 200, 400, and 800. The higher the film speed, the less light you needed for the picture. The same applies for the ISO setting on your digital camera. For lower light images, use ISO speeds of 400 or 800. Be careful, the more sensitive your ISO setting (the higher the number), the more digital noise or static will appear in your pictures.
How does this apply to taking waterfall pictures? When you want flowing water pictures of any type, you have to keep the shutter open longer. When the shutter stays open longer you let in more light.
The basic recipe for any picture is this:
Aperture x Shutter Speed x ISO = Picture
So, if you slow down the shutter speed, you add more light, so you need to use a smaller aperture (larger number) f16, f22, … and possibly use a higher ISO setting, ISO 400 or 800.
Does it sound complicated? Stick with me here. If you add more light in one part of the equation, you just take away light in the other two. Your camera will help you get started with this, but you can eventually take control yourself.
A couple more quick waterfall tips. When you add more light to the picture by slowing down the shutter speed, you make the picture too bright. It helps to take waterfall pictures in the early morning (sunrise) or late evening (sunset). Even better if the waterfall is deep in the woods and covered by a canopy of leaves blocking the bright afternoon sun.
Here are a couple more of my favorites…