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05-13-2019, 10:36 AM - 3 Likes   #1
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ND filter or Stacked interval Composite

Hi all,

So my good buddy and I went out to Niagara Falls over the weekend and took some shots of the falls.
He used a 6 stop ND filter and a 3 stop soft grad ND filter.
I stacked 30 images with an interval of 3 seconds between shots with no filters.

Since we used different techniques to achieve the same type of image, it made us wonder.
So! We're curious if you can tell which is which, which one you prefer and why?
Obviously the editing was left to ourselves.
In case you're wondering about the gear used...

Me: K-3, Sigma 17-70 F/2.8-4 DC Macro HSM
My buddy: K-3 II, Sigma Art 18-35 F/1.8

Image 1


Image 2



Last edited by Kobie; 05-13-2019 at 03:28 PM.
05-13-2019, 11:29 AM   #2
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ND filter: Image 2
Stacked: Image 1 (ND filter CANNOT get that kind of turbulence in water)

I like both, but I prefer the Image 1 because the "movement" feeling at the bottom

Last edited by carabez; 05-13-2019 at 04:18 PM. Reason: Oops... Can vs CANNOT
05-13-2019, 12:00 PM - 1 Like   #3
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I would say the opposite, a 6 stop in normal daylight isn't going to result in that long of an exposure and the lack of movement of the slower river (compared to the falls themselves) in the first image would go with that, and the sky seems crisper.
I prefer the more blurred version of the river in the 2nd to match up with the movement of the falls, though there seems to be a repeating stuttered pattern that bothers me a bit, presumably from the 3 second delay between images if this is indeed the composite one.
If I'm right I think I would prefer a longer pure ND shot when there is relatively slow moving water involved.

ND, 1st image
Composite, 2nd.
05-13-2019, 01:16 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by graeme83 Quote
ND, 1st image
Composite, 2nd.
Agree.
I normally like longer exposure vs stacking on falls, but the 30 shot stack looks good, and avoids the blurry turbulence of the longish exposure. A ten stop filter might have lengthened exposure time enough to smooth the river turbulence. Almost looks like CPL was used in the first pic.

05-13-2019, 01:40 PM   #5
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First one looks like ND + Graduated to me.
Both have their merits but I like the look of the first better (particularly the waves) except the colours a little bit too saturated for my liking (but I know high saturation is quite popular and sometimes do it myself!).
05-13-2019, 02:00 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Nice comparison!

Both do a decent job.

Interestingly, the ND filter (image #1) makes the falls a bit too smooth and leaves the river a bit too rough for my taste. Maybe a longer shutter time would have helped but that can be a challenge.

The interval-composite shot (image #2) leaves some nice texture in the falls and blurs the river better but it suffers from stuttered ghost patterns in the river where patches of floating foam were captured at 3 second intervals. Maybe a longer interval time would have helped but that can be a challenge.

Regardless of the approach, good long duration shots often require a a bit of trial and error to balance the under-blurring and over-blurring effects in different parts of the image.

Last edited by photoptimist; 05-13-2019 at 03:33 PM.
05-13-2019, 02:32 PM   #7
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I have no idea - both are pleasing.

But I do have a question: Why do we always want to make waterfalls smooth? They don’t look that way in real time.
05-13-2019, 02:39 PM   #8
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based on water surface I would say ND is the second one; stack is the first picture

05-13-2019, 02:50 PM   #9
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Looks like different seasons to me, but I quite like image 1
05-13-2019, 03:20 PM   #10
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I find it interesting to see how people view the two images and their thoughts on which is which... I'll reveal which is which later on. Some good input though so far!

---------- Post added 05-13-19 at 06:25 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by AggieDad Quote
I have no idea - both are pleasing.

But I do have a question: Why do we always want to make waterfalls smooth? They donít look that way in real time.
In all honesty, when we got there, we realized that we've never actually seen anyone do this with Niagara Falls. Smaller waterfalls yes, but not Niagara, so we decided to give it a shot and see what happens. The one thing was that we couldn't over do it because of the mist from the falls.
That's really the only reason. Also, I guess when you're trying to re-create the motion of something, being able to have the micro contrast details between the waterlines and then the soft curtain mists may add to that. You can't do that with a fast shutter. But at the same time, I know what you're saying. I've done both, but as I said, we just wanted to try something different for this scene.
05-13-2019, 03:47 PM   #11
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Image 1 filters (I think use of grad filter is evident)
Image 2 stacked.

I'm usually wrong though.
05-13-2019, 04:47 PM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by AggieDad Quote
I have no idea - both are pleasing.

But I do have a question: Why do we always want to make waterfalls smooth? They don’t look that way in real time.
Because they can look appealing artistically, I'd say (although not everyone appreciates a certain look). We do this in other areas too... For instance, shallow depth-of-field in portraits doesn't deproduce backgrounds the way we see them in real time either - but it can look great. There are many other examples. They're all part of creating an image - a piece of art... not necessarily duplicating exactly what the eye perceives. Of course, commonly-used approaches can become cliched, but if the overall image is strong, we shouldn't shy away from using certain techniques because others may not like them...
05-13-2019, 08:05 PM - 2 Likes   #13
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As I said, this was interesting... So, which image is which?...
Image 1 is ND.
Image 2 is stacked.
I find the perspectives of peoples thoughts on the images interesting. 2 different techniques aiming to create the same thing (style of image) and there isn't a major definitive difference that would hands down show which was which. Some did get the images correct though. But overall it's pretty split. Was an interesting spur of the moment experiment.
Thanks all who chimed in with their thoughts and opinions!
05-13-2019, 09:10 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kobie Quote
As I said, this was interesting... So, which image is which?...
Image 1 is ND.
Image 2 is stacked.
I am late to this little game.

I always stacked my daytime long exposure, and like the water effect from #2 more but I think it was using ND filter!
05-13-2019, 11:03 PM - 1 Like   #15
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Of the two I prefer #2, the smoother river doesn't distract my eye. I've only tried interval composite a few times and I guess it depends on what happens during the exposures. Had there been no wake in the river, l might have preferred the ND shot.

A good filter system with a variety of ND filters is a substantial investment, interval composite is really useful technique to have in a camera.
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