To me, one of the coolest things in photographs are when there is a sense of movement, there is an energy or a power in the shot. Examples of that could be lightning, storm clouds, streaking cars or trains. Water does the trick for me. I love shooting running water and by playing around with long exposures you get some pretty neat effects. To me, a tag sharp image of water falling or running is less interesting than if there is a blur to the water. Water in rivers and creeks moves, sometimes fast, sometimes slowly usually depending on the time of year and to me that movement needs to be in a shot of, lets say, a waterfall. In order to get the sense of flowing water or that cool silky look, the shutter speed needs to be slowed down – way down.
Here are a few tips on how to achieve that look.
- Use a good solid tripod.
- Use a cable release or use the timer on the camera.
- Keep ISO low.
- Use aperture mode and choose a small aperture like f/16 or f/22
- Shoot at dawn or dusk, or on an over cast day.
- To cut even more light use a polarizer, which not only remove reflections and boost colors, but also eats at least one stop of light – slowing down the shutter speed even more..
- Or you can use a ND filter also called natural density filter. The will usually reduce the light between 1 and 10 stops depending on which one you buy.
- Your goal is to end up with a shutter speed at around 1/10 sec or slower. It depends on how fast the water moves of course, but generally at that shutter speed the magic starts to happen and you get that silky smooth feel of water running.
Try it out next time you are out shooting running water, it’s very rewarding. Btw, the shot above is from Moose Creek, Levack, Ontario.