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08-22-2021, 08:54 PM   #1
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Silky waterfall photos - how to ?

I recently made a post where I've read that some internet sources say that just a few physical filters can't be reproduced in post processing software....

I wander if this holds true for capturing silky water fall shots. Do folks here recommend using something like a neutral density physical filter or is it easily pulled off using aperture, shutter speed, and ISO adjustments (with a tripod of course)....

08-22-2021, 09:19 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michael Piziak Quote
I wander if this holds true for capturing silky water fall shots. Do folks here recommend using something like a neutral density physical filter or is it easily pulled off using aperture, shutter speed, and ISO adjustments (with a tripod of course)....
Hint...this is fundamentally not a gear issue.

Regardless of how it is accomplished, motion blur always involves shutter speeds long enough to adequately blur the motion. With moving water, that point depends on how fast the water is flowing and how much blur you want and the character of that blur. Sadly, the details are a deep secret held only by the photo masters. Shutter is the magic word. Start from the exposure time you need and work backward with available tools until it is within your grasp.


Steve

(...I suppose it is time for a detailed water blur tutorial?...OTOH, can visualization of water movement actually be taught?...Perhaps, but would require a structured approach...)

Last edited by stevebrot; 08-22-2021 at 09:27 PM. Reason: clarity
08-22-2021, 10:05 PM   #3
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Thanks for your prompt reply....

I imagine myself taking a photo of moving water as I do with taking a photo of the moon....


I basically start off taking pics and keep looking at the image on the cameras lcd, making adjustments until I get some pretty good images....

I am interested, though, if a lot of people like to use physical filters when capturing silky moving water... I believe in the past, I read about people suggesting using neutral density filters....but my mind could fail me....

Regards,

Michael
08-22-2021, 10:08 PM - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michael Piziak Quote
Do folks here recommend using something like a neutral density physical filter or is it easily pulled off using aperture, shutter speed, and ISO adjustments (with a tripod of course)....
For waterfalls in shades, stopping down lens aperture f16, f22, f32.. may be enough to slow down exposure (slow shutter speeds) to create blur from water motion. When not in shades, I don't see any practical way other than adding a neutral density filter in front (or back) of the lens.

08-22-2021, 10:29 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michael Piziak Quote
I am interested, though, if a lot of people like to use physical filters when capturing silky moving water.
As Steve said this is a shutter speed issue. There is no like or not like using filters. You use a ND filter if you need to to get the shutter speed you need to show the effect you want. If its super bright, then you need an ND filter or you cannot get that effect. If its cloudy (the best day to shoot waterfalls IMHO) then maybe you don't need a filter.

Yes, if you read up there are lots of articles saying you need an ND filter to get silky waterfalls. But you really don't, if you pay attention to the environment (shade/sun, cloudy/bright) and shoot when the ambient light allows you to get the effect you want. That said, I always pack my ND filters because they allow a wider range of brightness to be controlled.
08-22-2021, 10:32 PM - 3 Likes   #6
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One way to do it without using filters is to use Multiexposures. Take several correctly exposed pictures and blend them into one. This can be done in-camera or in software.
08-22-2021, 10:54 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Or photograph your waterfall under moonlight: the necessary shutter speed will blur the water quite effectively.

08-22-2021, 10:55 PM   #8
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Years ago, when I first became interested in this, I believe I bought some ND filters. However, after digging through my camera drawer, I have found a Vivitar CPL 58mm, a Promaster 58mm CIR-PL, a Vivitar VMC Skylight 1A 49mm, and a HAZE (UV) 49mm. After getting some sleep tonight, I'll look up what these are - probably some polarizer filters and something else...


If the two 58mm ones are polarizers, I wander if connecting them together and turning one of them for more darkness could achieve a desired affect... I seem to have recalled using them to take pics of the moon - maybe I'm wrong as it's been some time...

I have another camera drawer in the basement - I'll check it out tomorrow & see if any ND filters are lurking...


Regards,

Michael
08-22-2021, 11:28 PM - 1 Like   #9
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There’s a YouTube video made by the ubiquitous Tony Northrup some years ago which shows you how to do exactly this using multiple shots and blending in Photoshop rather than having to use filters. He uses waves at the beach but the technique is the same.

Just search for ‘northrup nd’ to find it - but beware; if you like putting filters on your lenses, you might not like his perspective on them!
08-22-2021, 11:42 PM   #10
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More of a total exposure time, rather than shutter speed, as one could capture multiple exposures and stack them to emulate a long exposure. In some cases, ND filter is not a must have, simple stopping down the lens and stacking images will work.
08-23-2021, 12:10 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michael Piziak Quote

If the two 58mm ones are polarizers, I wander if connecting them together and turning one of them for more darkness could achieve a desired affect...
With linear it works not a circular filter. How do you make a circle perpendicular to a circle?
08-23-2021, 12:34 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Michael Piziak Quote
If the two 58mm ones are polarizers, I wander if connecting them together and turning one of them for more darkness could achieve a desired affect... I seem to have recalled using them to take pics of the moon - maybe I'm wrong as it's been some time...

I have another camera drawer in the basement - I'll check it out tomorrow & see if any ND filters are lurking...


Regards,

Michael


Two circular polarisers will work as a variable ND filter, to a degree, but will (usually?) produce an unwanted "cross" effect at maximum 'darkness'
Two linear polarisers work fine, and if using one of each, fit the circular polariser first. It won't work the other way around, but I never bothered to figure out why.
Trying to adjust two adjustable filters at the same time can be a bit of a juggling act, so prevent the one fitted to the lens from rotating with a bit of tape (or even glue it, if you're feeling brutal!)
08-23-2021, 02:06 AM - 1 Like   #13
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A lot will depend on the waterfall itself. A large waterfall with a lot of water and a rapid flow rate doesn't require a very long exposure to get the silky effect. Conversely, a small waterfall with a slow flow rate will require a longer exposure. I like to try to photograph waterfalls on overcast days or in the shade using a circular polarizing filter. The filter not only reduces the light by 1-2 stops, it more importantly reduces the glare and reflections off the the water, mist, foliage, and rocks.
08-23-2021, 02:49 AM - 2 Likes   #14
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The big thing is you need a tripod. A shutter speed of 1/10 second will start to blur the water, obviously a longer shutter speed will tend to blur it more. ND filters can help so that you don't end up at f22, depending on the time of day you are shooting. The other thing that you can do is use multiple exposures in average mode and this will give you the same effect.
08-23-2021, 04:58 AM   #15
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Motion blur is dependent on the shutter speed. Use the lowest ISO and a small aperture to lower the shutter speed. If you are shooting in bright ambient light, you may still struggle to get a low shutter speed and a correctly exposed image. The ND filter will cut out some of the light thus enabling you to choose a slower shutter speed and still get correct exposure.

As others have pointed out there may be other reasons to use a ND filter in addition to reducing the shutter speed.....ie. to enable you to use a wider aperture (for DOF or diffraction avoidance)
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