One Year Of Photography by Howard Haby

116/365: Water Falling

I woke up early-ish this morning, feeling a little better than I have the last few days. I looked out the window, saw that it was overcast and for some reason the water falls in the photos below popped into my head. I’ve been thinking of trying my hand at taking photos of running water, making it look blurry and smokey like you see so often. Like most things, I had an idea of how to do it, but never really tried it before. Actually, that’s not true. Early in my experimenting with photography I did try it, but didn’t get it to work. At all. That was before I understood some basic concepts.

Here’s a quick, basic guideline on how to get a blurry water effect. You will have to set your DSLR on manual. In manual, you’ll be able to decide what shutter speed you’ll need, as well as aperture. Set your shutter speed to a slow setting like 1/30th or 1/8th or even slower. You will need a tripod at this point, trust me. You will not get a sharp photo at these speeds (I know, you are ridiculously steady handed, and this isn’t a problem for you – I had myself convinced of this for years). Or you can just find something to lay your camera on.  Take a photo of your subject.What do you see?

If it’s in the day time, say between 7am – 9pm, and if it’s a sunny day,  your photo is probably severely blown out (overexposed). This is because your shutter speed is so slow, and a slow shutter speed increases the amount of time your camera sensor is exposed  to light. You will have to set your aperture. Your aperture is the size of the hole that limits the amount of light in through your lens. Most lenses will have an aperture of about f 3.5-4.0. This is the widest that hole can be. Make your aperture as small as possible to restrict the light coming in. This will be about f 22 – 32. Now take a photo. It’s probably a little closer, but if it’s a sunny day, it’s probably still over exposed.

Now, here are a couple things that will help you here. You can get up early on a dark or an over cast day, and take a photo of your subject (or later in the evening) or even in the night, or you can buy a neutral density filter. A neutral density filter can cut the amount of light coming into your camera by half, or even quarter it. This way you can take a photo with this type of blur effect during day light hours.

Here’s how I got my blur effect: I noticed it was overcast, it was still kinda early, and I was going to be in the woods surrounded by trees and it would be a little darker in there. I made my aperture as small as I could, dropped my shutter speed to 1 full second and noticed that I was still going to be slightly over exposed. I don’t have a neutral density filter, but I have a polarizing filter. It’s not the same thing, but it does cut back on some of the light. I put it on, took a photo (using a tripod) and I got a proper exposure. Now, I didn’t have to use the polarizing filter, but I really wanted to get to 1 second. The slower the shutter speed is, the more blur effect you will create.

Anyway, that’s how you do it. I was able to take photos for about 10 minutes or so, and then the sun began to break through (third day in a row, amazingly enough!). I took a couple more quick photos while the sun was weak, but then it just got too bright.  And here’s some ideas. Once you get this effect down, you don’t have to use it for water falls. You can find a beach and take photos of waves breaking on the shore, or you can find a field with tall grass on a windy day. That might give you something cool. You don’t have to limit yourself to what you see everywhere else, experiment.

Take care, all.


2 responses

  1. Natasha

    WOW…JUST WOW. They are amazing!!

    June 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    • Howard

      Thanks tash!

      June 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm

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