Waterfalls are a favorite subject of photographers everywhere. Ever wonder how they get the water to look so silky even in the middle of the day? First, they use the lowest ISO on their digital camera around 100 to 200 depending on the camera. Second, they select small apertures like f/16 or f/22. This gets them the slowest shutter speed possible. Slow shutter speeds does require the use of a tripod to keep everything sharp.
That is what I did below. The water is still too detailed for the look I wanted. A longer shutter speed would be needed.
Canada’s Rocky Mountain Waterfall without an ND filter.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/60s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.
To cut down the amount of light for longer shutter speeds, I used Neutral Density (ND) filters in different strengths. If you recall, ND filters act like sunglasses.
Canada’s Rocky Mountain Waterfall with ND filters.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.
Leaving the aperture and ISO the same, you can see above the effects of each Neutral Density filter I used.
- ND2 (or 0.3) filter cuts 1 stop of light and increased the shutter speed to 1/30s.
- ND4 (or 0.6) filter cuts 2 stops of light and increased the shutter speed to 1/10s.
- ND8 (or 0.9) filter cuts 3 stops of light and increased the shutter speed to 1/3s.
Do you see how the water got silkier the slower the shutter speed became? Not bad for a mid-afternoon in central Florida. But…I wanted more.
Canada’s Rocky Mountain Waterfall with stacked 2 & 3 stop ND filters.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 2s, f/22, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.
To get the shutter down to a whole 2 seconds, I stacked my two strongest ND filters, the ND4 and ND8, to create one 5 stop filter. When you stack filters, you may get some vignetting which was the case here. I simply cropped that out.
You can get stronger ND filters or photograph in the early morning, late in the day or when the weather is cloudy and/or rainy.