Nikon D7000, Smooth Water

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There’s little that is quite as satisfying for the landscape shooter as capturing a smooth waterfall shot. 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 7.14). To achieve a great effect, use a shutter speed that is at least 1/15 of a second or longer.

I sat my tripod right in the middle of this creek downstream from these small rapids. This allowed me to get the right point of view while using a slow shutter speed to show the movement in the water.
Figure 7.14 I sat my tripod right in the middle of this creek downstream from these small rapids. This allowed me to get the right point of view while using a slow shutter speed to show the movement in the water.

Setting up for a waterfall shot

  1. Attach the camera to your tripod, then compose and focus your shot.
  2. Make sure the ISO is set to 100 or 200.
  3. Using Aperture Priority mode, set your aperture to the smallest opening (such as f/22 or f/36).
  4. Press the shutter button halfway so the camera takes a meter reading.
  5. Check to see if the shutter speed is 1/15 or slower.
  6. Take a photo and then check the image on the LCD.

You can also use Shutter Priority mode for this effect by dialing in the desired shutter speed and having the camera set the aperture for you. I prefer to use Aperture Priority to ensure that I have the greatest depth of field possible.

If the water is blinking on the LCD, indicating a loss of detail in the highlights, then use the Exposure Compensation feature (as discussed earlier in this chapter) to bring details back into the water. You will need to have the Highlight Alert feature turned on to check for overexposure.

It is possible that you will not be able to have 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 colors, reduce reflections, and darken blue skies, as well as lengthen exposure times by two stops due to the darkness of the filter. It is a handy filter for landscape work. The neutral density filter is typically just a dark piece of glass that serves to darken the scene by one, two, or three stops. This allows you to use slower shutter speeds during bright conditions. Think of it as sunglasses for your camera lens.