After taking my first long exposure water shots the other day at Beede Falls, I knew I needed to head back to the Pothole with my tripod and ND filter to try getting some shots there as well.
There’s no real magic in taking these long exposure water shots, but you do need a couple of items to pull them off. In order to get a nice, blurred effect to smooth out the water, it’s best to have an exposure of at least a couple of seconds, if at all possible. When it’s dark out, it’s easy to get a long exposure – you just lower your ISO and use a small aperture (or f-stop – smaller means a higher number, like f16 or f22). But during the day, or when there is plenty of light in your shooting environment, taking a longer exposure can be more difficult. That’s where a neutral density or “ND” filter comes into play. When you attach an ND filter to your lens its like putting a pair of sunglasses on your camera. It makes everything darker. It is actually a little more complicated than that – they make different kinds of ND filters as well as filters of different strengths – but that’s the basic concept. The filter is a way to reduce the amount of light that gets to your lens, requiring your shutter to stay open longer to get the correct exposure.
Because the shutter is open for so long, it is essential that you have some way to stabilize your camera so not everything in the shot is blurry. I use a tripod, but you could just rest your camera on something solid as well. One other thing you have to watch out for is the way you press the shutter release. If you just push it with your finger as you would for a standard shot, that makes your camera move a little bit and will cause your photo to be blurry. To remove this camera shake you should either a) use a cable release (or remote shutter release), or b) use the timer function on your camera.
The other night as the sun was getting lower in the sky I headed back to the pothole with my ND filter and tripod (I used my timer instead of a cable release).
Once I was there I knew the exposures would make the water look nice and dramatic, so instead I worked on my composition, trying to find those spots in the river that would translate into a nice photo.
I only have one ND filter, and it only fits my 50mm lens, which was both a blessing and a curse. While there were times I would have liked to have a wider or longer lens for a particular shot, I like shooting with a fixed length or prime lens. I find it forces me to really think about my composition, while a zoom lens can allow me to be lazy.
I spent a lot of time on the banks of and in the river, scrambling over rocks and around bends, trying to find interesting shots.
All in all I spent about 2 and a half hours taking pictures and getting eaten by mosquitos – just me and the river and my camera. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night if you ask me.