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04-17-2010, 09:44 AM   #1
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shooting waterfalls - need help

Hi guys. Well I went out this morning on my way to the grocery store and stopped by an old mill that has a waterfall. I've been dying to try shooting waterfalls because I love that 'cotton candy' look. Anyway, my shots stunk, with a capital SUCK. lol! In fact, they're so bad I don't really even want to post any! (And I haven't really had a chance to do anything with them yet re: processing.)

I guess I'm still a little confused about what SS and f-stop to use to get the aforementioned affect on the falls.

So, can any of you explain how you get that stop-motion 'fluffy' effect, in layman's terms? What are the 'musts' and 'must nots' of shooting falls?

04-17-2010, 09:54 AM   #2
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You need to take a long exposure- try setting your camera to the lowest ISO (lowest sensitivty), and a slow shutter speed - 1/4 sec is a place to start smoothing out the flow, but maybe much longer, like seconds.
You'll need a tripod to keep the camera steady, and possibly a neutral density filter to cut the light enough to keep you from needing to use a tiny aperture and introducing diffraction effects. (Although you can certainly start with a tiny ap to see what kind of effects the shutter speed will give you)
04-17-2010, 09:58 AM   #3
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A neutral density filter and 1 to 10 seconds exposure usually do the trick. See Flickr: More detail about Golitha Falls (Explored)
04-17-2010, 10:01 AM   #4
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Looking at some of my attempts, you want the shutter speed to be 1/2 second or slower. When I've tried this, I start there and try to get as slow as possible. In daylight, the problem is getting this shutter speed without overexposure, and avoiding camera movement. You can use neutral density filters to help. I have tried polarizers and even two polarizers. The two polarizer trick works but when I attemped to maximize the effect, I just got blue and black, not fixable in processing.

04-17-2010, 10:19 AM   #5
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This sort of picture is not as easy to do with a small frame digital as it is with larger format film cameras.
To get the real cotton candy look, you need exposures in the range of minutes, not seconds.
Lowest ISO, smallest aperture and a several stop ND filter will go a long way here. Polarizers may or may not do what you want since they do more than just offer neutral density.
My best soft water shots were done with the 4x5 shooting at f/64 with Ilford FP4 that I generally found to be an excellent ISO 32 film.
Exposures of several minutes was common.
04-17-2010, 11:18 AM   #6
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As others have mentioned, the issue is one of too short an exposure. You'll do best if you take it late in the day, use a tripod, set your iso to 100 and your f stop to 11. If that doesn't get you an exposure time of about a second, then you need to add a neutral density filter. The key here though is to make certain you use a tripod. This will not be hand holding territory.
04-17-2010, 12:20 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rondec Quote
As others have mentioned, the issue is one of too short an exposure. You'll do best if you take it late in the day, use a tripod, set your iso to 100 and your f stop to 11. If that doesn't get you an exposure time of about a second, then you need to add a neutral density filter. The key here though is to make certain you use a tripod. This will not be hand holding territory.
Lenses have f-stops of 16 or 22.
Going to f/22 isn't a bad idea for this sort of image.
Diffraction is an effect, not a wall.
04-17-2010, 12:42 PM   #8
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Okay I have a tripod and I have a couple of ND filters. I was set at ISO 200 so I'll dial that down to 100 next time. As fate would have it, it was an overcast morning (raining off and on here in CT, USA) so harsh light wasn't a problem. I didn't have my ND on, however.

What lens do you think works best? I only have my K20D kit lens (18-55) and a Tamron 70-300mm (I shot with my Tamron, no filter, no tripod...I was in a hurry. lol)

04-17-2010, 01:57 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Naturenut Quote
Hi guys. Well I went out this morning on my way to the grocery store and stopped by an old mill that has a waterfall. I've been dying to try shooting waterfalls because I love that 'cotton candy' look. Anyway, my shots stunk, with a capital SUCK. lol! In fact, they're so bad I don't really even want to post any! (And I haven't really had a chance to do anything with them yet re: processing.)

I guess I'm still a little confused about what SS and f-stop to use to get the aforementioned affect on the falls.

So, can any of you explain how you get that stop-motion 'fluffy' effect, in layman's terms? What are the 'musts' and 'must nots' of shooting falls?
You already got some good advice. I may add a few other suggestions from a different perspective.

- I work in P-mode,

- I like to take shots with high shutter speed (1/80s or faster) to have crisp pictures where I can observe droplets: PentaxForums.com - hcc's Album: Air-water flows.

- If I have some good light, the P-mode works fine. If the light is not enough, I set manually the shutter with the dials, and adjust the ISO and aperture next; I alaso try to use the flash to assist the high-shutter speed.

Hope that the experience may help...

Last edited by hcc; 04-17-2010 at 05:14 PM. Reason: Typo
04-17-2010, 04:49 PM   #10
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instead of using nd filters and possibly degrading image quality, you can try the bulilt in multiexposure function of your k20.

tripod is a must, though in this kind of shots.

this, for example, was done with multiexposure and a k20:


Last edited by shadeless; 04-17-2010 at 04:57 PM.
04-17-2010, 05:01 PM   #11
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Shooting waterfalls is one of my favorite subjects, particularly because of the smooth water effect that you can make using a DSLR. To make these types of photos you need to follow some very simple steps, once you start using these you will be ready to make great waterfall shots.

Firstly, make sure you have a polarizer or a neutral density filter to darken the image enough in order to get shutter speeds of 2-3 seconds. This will allow you to get that really cool effect with the moving water. Also, I would look into getting some graduated neutral density filters as well. I say this because sometimes the top of the photo will contain some sky or more trees that are being hit with more light. These areas will become overexposed slightly when the camera exposes for the waterfall and the darker areas around the waterfall.

Secondly, put the camera into Av mode and set your aperture accordingly until you have a 2-3 second shutter speed. With me using my polarizer, I can usually set my aperture to f/11 or /13. This assures me that the whole photo will be in focus and I will not have a narrow depth of field. Another very important piece of equipment is a good, sturdy tripod. Since you will be shooting at long shutter speeds you will need to use a tripod to hold the camera still during the exposure. I also use a wireless remote to activate the camera and I use the 3 second delay so that the mirror flipping up does not cause any camera shake whatsoever.

These are the basic settings and equipment that you will need to get amazing shots of waterfalls. It does take a little bit of practice but once you get the hang of things it comes very easily. I hope all this helps you out and I wish you luck on your next outing to the waterfall in your post.

Just to show you what you can do with a little bit of practice here is a shot I took last year of a waterfall near my house.

Cory


04-17-2010, 07:58 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Naturenut Quote
Hi guys. Well I went out this morning on my way to the grocery store and stopped by an old mill that has a waterfall.
I am out here in tumbleweed country. The closest waterfall that appears to be worth wild photographing is a 5 hour drive and a strenuous 9 mile hike (one way). So, if you have one on the way to the grocery store, if I were you, I would go experiment with all the suggestions. The film is free and there is really no processing charge... Heck, I would try it with morning light and late in the afternoon with afternoon light. I am also thinking that in the fall there would also be a lot of extra color available.

Some other ideas would be to stop the lens down to f16 to f22 and try a 5 shot bracketing while the camera is on a tripod (with a 2 second delay). Then, just stack the images with some HDR software. I really do not think that the lens matters that much, so frame the shot to please yourself. I would also, experiment with the lenses to see which one does the best.

The K20 is a very capable camera. There is really nothing that you can't do with it. There is no penalty for experimentation - other than getting a shot that does not turn out.

good luck....
04-17-2010, 08:29 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Naturenut Quote
What lens do you think works best? I only have my K20D kit lens (18-55) and a Tamron 70-300mm (I shot with my Tamron, no filter, no tripod...I was in a hurry. lol)
I have to say... this is one you need to think about logically. You have 2 completely different lenses, with no commonality of range. Only one or the other will work to get the shot.
04-18-2010, 02:42 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
Lenses have f-stops of 16 or 22.
Going to f/22 isn't a bad idea for this sort of image.
Diffraction is an effect, not a wall.
Ah, but sometimes it's an unwanted effect. One quality of waterfall photos is the juxtaposition of the hard and the soft, the sharp and the misty -- contradictory images in one. Diffraction diminishes that contradiction, softens the entire scene. Of course, stopping down all the way doesn't hurt if the picture is for a postcard.

QuoteOriginally posted by Naturenut Quote
What lens do you think works best? I only have my K20D kit lens (18-55) and a Tamron 70-300mm (I shot with my Tamron, no filter, no tripod...I was in a hurry. lol)
If you want the effect of a misty ghostly splash against sharp surroundings, you'll probably want optimal DOF. That would indicate using the 18-55, fairly wide, with aperture a couple stops from the smallest to avoid diffraction. But being wide also requires being close. At 24mm your smallest aperture is f/27; try f/19. At 35mm, the limit is f/32, so try f/22. Way out at 50mm, the limit is f/38, so try f/27. Or maybe one stop wider.

Or better yet, take some test shots at home of subjects with some fine detail -- the brick wall or a filled bookcase are always popular. On tripod, focused on the target, take shots at all the smaller f-stops, with and without ND filters. See which aperture is sharpest, and if the filter degrades detail annoyingly. (I'll bet it won't, unless it's cruddy glass.) You could also shoot some DOF tests -- the camera-on-a-fence trick works. At the sharpest aperture, find the hyperfocal point that keeps a distance in sharp focus.

Review your waterfall scene. How wide is it? What focal length grabs enough of it? Estimate the distance from your shooting point to the farthest place you want to be sharp. Unfortunately the 18-55 doesn't have a DOF scale, and I don't trust online DOF calculators. So think of your DOF test and focus accordingly. If 24mm covers the scene and you find f/16 the sharpest, hyperfocus to about 10 feet, and you'll be good from at least 4 feet to infinity. If you use 35mm and f/19, a 10 foot hyperfocus is good from 5 feet on out. At 50mm and f/22, 15 foot hyperfocus takes you from 8 feet to forever. I'm allowing a bit of margin there.

You're fortunate to have a scene you can return to and try various tricks. Some people spend years shooting the same tree. None of my trees are that interesting, so I don't do that.
04-18-2010, 03:33 AM   #15
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You can also play around with the opposite of the cotton candy effect by using strobe to stop the water, which is a nice change of pace now and then.




Pentax K20D
S-M-C Takumar 35/3.5
Pentax AF200T


Setup was something like this:




Alternately, you can try doing a mix of flash to stop the most rambunctious bits and a slow shutter to blur the slower bits. It gives a weird effect:




Pentax K20D
S-M-C Takumar 28/3.5
Pentax AF200T


Shutter speed was 1/30 on that last one.
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