Exposing Moving Water: How long is too long?

After going through all my Waterfall Photographs I began to wonder how long is too long when it comes to long exposures of moving water. What is the right shutter speed to use? Well, there actually is no correct answer to that one, it is all up to the individuals preference. Yes, there is a base time frame you need to achieve to get that smooth look, but i learned the size of the body of water you are photographing also has a great deal of influence on that decision.

As an afternoon group activity, we hit up Seven Tubs recreational area out in Wilkes Barre, PA earlier in the summer.  A small little hike in which the water has carved out its own path through the rocks. The swimming holes are littered about and some of them contain enough room on the run ins to be used as a slide. That is if you are brave and skilled enough to avoid the jagged edges.

This was the most photogenic area of the afternoon for me, but it was littered with people. I set up shop and waited for a few to leave. The last family saw what I was doing and were kind enough to step back and let me do my thing for a few minutes.

I came across this little stream that dumps into a pond/wading area and decided it would be the perfect place to try my little experiment that came to mind when I was shooting the waterfalls a few days earlier.  What do varying shutter speeds look like with rapidly moving water. The first photo is a ten second exposure. Nice, but lacking personality. Way too long in my opinion. 

The next photo is four seconds, a little more appealing, but still too long for my liking. 

Two Seconds.  More of the same. 

One Second. Close, but still doesn’t fit. Some shape is starting to emerge, but still lost in translation. 

Half a second. This is where it started to get interesting. The wisps and swirls of water become pronounced.

Quarter of a second. This is my favorite. I needed to catch up to everyone so I did not go any shorter. 

What amazed me was the big difference between 0.5 seconds and 0.25 seconds.  I bet 0.125 would have looked even better. Beyond that though I would have my doubts. I loved how the layers of water started to come out and you can actually see the different directions of movement it was taking.  Experiment, learn, adapt.

I have yet to get into true long exposures, hopefully sometime soon.  Not my thing, but always good to understand.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

The Ricketts Glen Romp

If you are following along – Meanwhile out at Dance Nationals, we had an off day to begin the week. The girls went and did their thing, and I had a chance to go out and do some exploring. Our base of operations was in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, right down the road from Split Rock Resort. The cabin we rented fit all five of our families comfortably and we even talked about what a nice area this would be for a vacation home. And we continue to dream.

Just over an hour north was Ricketts Glen State Park, a destination I had pegged out due to the twenty-two waterfalls located along a seven mile loop. You can’t go wrong with that one. I did enough research of the place to figure out I really only needed to traverse just over five miles to take in all the sights and sounds of nature I could not wait to get a hold of. This place is a photographic gold mine and you can get in a decent work out while wandering about.

Once you figure out your plan of attack grab a snapshot of one of these located in either of the parking areas to help you identify where you are and which fall is which. Unfortunately, I have no idea where my notes went to so I can not remember the names of each of  waterfall that is pictured. Following the advice of the article I took research from I parked in the Lake Rose parking area and proceed to head right at the fork down the Ganoga Glenn side.

My logic heading of in this direction was simple, it was stated to be less steep than other side and I would also get right to it instead of taking the hike cross trail. Right off the bat a challenge presented itself. I have always had a hard time trying to convey the depth of a waterfall when shooting from the top of it. I’ll get it figured out one day. All part of the learning process that goes on every time I press that little button.

I have three different angles on this one. I just could not seem to get one I was very happy with. Being so mesmerized by the landscape and the inability to get a composition I felt good about I did not even pay attention to the small breeze that was blowing. Like, at all. The results from that are blurry branches. Time to bring the iPad for a bigger view perhaps. I am a big proponent of an EyeFi card, this allows me to send tiny images to my phone for the social thing but I am sure it can just as easily be set up with the iPad as well.

This photo looks like it should be Ganoga Falls. A massive beast. If you can zoom in there are a couple of people at the top of the falls to give you some perspective.

On the left of the photo below you can get an idea of what the easy portion of trails are like. Check out those steps though at the top. In many of those cases there was often an alternative route, but it was rarely ever easier. It just looked like it was.

For all the water that was being carried over the falls, I kept wondering where it all went. Just kind of dispersed once it got to the bottom.

My exposures averaged 10 – 20 seconds around f 16. I had 30 seconds on a few of them, this was too long and resulted in the branch blur. I had a polarizer and a two stop ND on the lens. I alternated between the 16-35 and the 24-70 for pretty much the whole hike I believe. I had the grads with me but it does not look like I used them. 

It had been a while since I was out in this element shooting, and you can certainly rehash your knowledge and skills very quickly with the amount of scenery on the hike. We went to one other place during the week and I will go over what I found when I used varying shutter speeds. Thus, when is long to long. It will all come down to personal preference I am sure, but it is going to be interesting for certain. 

If I am remembering correctly, this spot was one of the three on the lower trail and one of my favorite. A narrow stream of water busting out over the top and widening once it started getting to the bottom.

There were not many people in the water which I was thankful for, but there were a few locations where a dip looked doable.

My favorite image of the day, and the one that has made its way to my wall, blurry branches and all. I am glad I go here, learned a great deal.

Thanks for stopping by!!

Phil