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    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    | Photography Tutorials | Tutorials | 09/03/2012 07:00am
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    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Waterfall pictures are some of the most satisfying subjects you can shoot with your digital camera. However, the fast moving water throws up some challenges for photographers.

    Often, exposures end up disappointing – you may have set the wrong shutter speed, for instance, and won’t get the traditional blurred-water effect in your waterfall pictures. Other times the exposure ends up being too dark or light, due to having to cope with the combination of dark rocks and bright, foamy moving water.

    One of the great benefits of taking waterfall pictures is that you don’t need a sunny day to photograph them. In fact, an overcast day is a bonus, as it allows you to use longer shutter speeds and reduces the contrast that’s likely to make getting a decently balanced exposure near impossible.

    Making sure your waterfall pictures aren’t blown out, however, is probably the most important thing to look out for. If moving water is blown out and lacks texture, the shot is effectively ruined. Fortunately, your digital camera’s histogram should save any heartache.

    Waterfall pictures: get set to capture moving water

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 01: Grey days are good days
    Sunny weather is a disaster when you’re shooting waterfalls. The bright light means fast shutter speeds, when you really need slow ones for this effect. Even more importantly, a bright day means a high-contrast scene, with white areas that are in direct sunlight, and shadows that are in complete darkness.

     

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 02: Shoot after heavy rainfall
    Overcast, grey conditions are best, but you also need to look at the weather for other reasons. In dry spells, waterfalls can turn into trickles. You need them to be in spate, a day or so after heavy rain, so that there’s plenty of water to shoot. Check locations and weather reports on the internet before you leave home.

     

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 03: Go slow with the ISO
    We need to set a slow, or very slow, shutter speed in order to turn the flowing water into a frothy, milky foam in our shots. The first setting to sort out on your DSLR is the ISO. Turn this to its lowest sensitivity, which will be 100, 200 or L1.0 depending on the digital camera model you’re using.

     

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 04: Shoot raw files, not JPEGs
    Even in dull weather, bright highlights can be a problem with waterfall exposure. To give yourself the most leeway when editing, you need to set the picture quality to raw. Then, so you can set the longest shutter speed available, switch the exposure mode to A (Aperture Priority).

     

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 05: Three legs all akimbo
    A tripod is essential with slow shutter speeds. A model that enables you to splay out the legs independently is best for working on uneven, rocky terrain.

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    When shooting with a tripod, a cable release or remote control is also useful so you don’t jog the setup at every exposure.

     

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 06: How slow should you go?
    Select the narrowest aperture that the lens allows – f/22 is a great starting point. With this set up, half-press the shutter button and look at the shutter speed the camera displays. A value of 1/4 second is good for fast, flowing water, whereas 20 seconds is good for babbling brooks.

     

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 07: Take it slower with an ND
    If the conditions won’t give you a long enough shutter speed, put an ND filter in front of the lens to block out light.

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    An ND8 or three-stop neutral density filter cuts 87.5% of the light. An ND64 or six-stop cuts 98%. Alternatively, use a polariser to cut out up to 75%.

     

    Waterfall pictures: set up your DSLR to shoot moving water

    Better Waterfall Pictures Step 08: Avoid a whitewash
    Shoot a test shot, and review the picture carefully – it’s easy to get an exposure that’s too dark or too light. Check the histogram. If the shot is too bright, with burnt-out water, set the exposure compensation to about -1EV and retest. If it’s too dark, without bright highlights, reshoot with exposure compensation set to +1EV.


    Posted on Friday, March 9th, 2012 at 7:00 am under Photography Tutorials, Tutorials.

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