How do you get the "silken" look on flowing water?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by copake_ham, Oct 10, 2007.

  1. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Some of the shots I always enjoy seeing here are those of "babbling brooks" where the water flowing over the rocks has a soft "silken" appearance. Even though everything else may be in sharp focus - the water flows over the rocks in a soft silk-like fashion.

    How is this done? Is it by exposure settings? Or is it done in during processing?
     
  2. noblebeast

    noblebeast Member

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    Loooooonnnng exposures. Well, they don't have to be real long, but a few seconds at least. I know others here have a lot more experience with this than I do, but I have found that neutral density filters are often employed in the technique. Not to mention a good, steady tripod!

    Joe
     
  3. walter23

    walter23 Member

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    Yeah, it's just a long exposure thing. You can use neutral density filters to slow the light rushing through your lens if you're shooting in daylight and want longer exposure times than you'd get stopping down all the way.
     
  4. KenM

    KenM Member

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    This photograph:

    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=9379&cat=500&ppuser=520

    was, I believe, about a 45 second exposure. The length of exposure was driven by a few things: the aperture size (small, to get good DOF), and the low light level.

    There are quite a few things that need to be taken into account, as mentioned above. Wind, DOF, speed of the water, etc. all need to be taken into account. Your best bet is to experiment: find a stream (or something similar), and make images using different exposure times. Try and remember how fast the faster was moving; once you have the negs in hand, you'll be able to draw your own conclusions about what shutter speed will give you the 'look' your after :D

    Good luck!
     
  5. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

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    Expanding on what Ken said, if the water flow is too heavy and your exposure is too long, you get a really nice picture of a white blob. Of course, none of my pictures have ever looked like that....
     
  6. mark

    mark Member

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    The secret is a small aperture and a tripod. Next time you are in Tucson go out to Tanque Verde Canyon in the morning and practice on the water.
     
  7. MikeK

    MikeK Member

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    Long exposure is the way to go, but you also might try long multiple exposures - gives a bit more of a punch to that silky flow.

    I believe our Les Maclean has posted some examples of this technique in the past.

    Mike
     
  8. dmr

    dmr Member

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    That's the "bridal veil" look, no photoshop required. You will need a tripod. You do want a bit of sunlight as a highlight on the flow you wish to feature. Slow exposure, just enough to subordinate the detail of the flow. Moderate DOF, keep some of the still stuff in clear focus. Try exposures from maybe 1/8 or so to a couple seconds.
     
  9. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    In Les' book, he breaks an indicated 4 second exposure into 32 exposures at 1/125, so it's more what I'd consider multiple short exposures in that particular instance. Of course you can go with any combination of multiple exposures of any length that sum to the proper exposure length, and get a variety of effects in doing so.

    The best way to get what you want, as always, is to make some tests and see what gets you where you want to go.

    The longer the exposure, the "silkier", up to the point of overexposing.

    Lee
     
  10. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    I've seen a couple of examples of water done this way, I think by Les and/or Barry Thornton. They do give a sense of motion, and not so "silky". I prefer them myself.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I spent on Fall taking photos of waterfalls and fall colors in the Finger Lakes region. What I learned:
    1. Use a tripod!
    2. 1/4 to 1/2 second gives a good look. You can go up to 4 seconds, but then bracket the exposure time.
    3. Going much longer usually does not improve the photo, in fact it can over do it. Try a few shots at 10 to 20 seconds and you will see what I mean.
    4. If leaves are falling and you can catch enough in the air, take an exposure 1/60 second or shorter and then take a 1/4 to 1/2 second exposure. You can decide at home which you like better. I have discovered this is usually not something that can be correctly guessed every time when you are in the field.
    Film is cheap! Go for it!

    This is for waterfalls and flowing rivers or streams. I have not tried lakes or ocean tides enough to give recommendations.

    Steve
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2007
  12. Thanasis

    Thanasis Member

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    From my experience, anything above four minutes will make the water in a fairly still body of lapping water (such as a swimming pool) look like glass. The more turbulent the water, the more of that delicate "misty" effect you will get on the water. It's definitely worth doing a few experiments to see how these effects can be controlled.
     
  13. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Slight typo? 1/125 sec. is 8 milliseconds. 32 times this is 256 milliseconds. Mathematically, it would take 500 exposures of 1/125 to make 4 seconds, without allowance for reciprocity failure. It would of course also be possible to make multiple exposures, some at 1/125, some at slower speeds.

    Regards,

    David
     
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  15. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    The direction of the flow also is important. If it is flowing perpendicularly to the camera, 1/4 sec (or longer if that's the desired effect) will do the job. If it's moving directly toward the camera, you may need longer minimum exposures to get that flowing look. In the end, the look you like the best is the best. It takes some experimentation.

    Peter Gomena
     
  16. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I would agree with Steve above. However, I would probably go as slow as 1 second. Anything more than that, and you start losing detail, and the water just becomes a blob.
     
  17. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Sorry, it was late and I made a mistake. The indicated exposure was 1/4 second, not 4 seconds. So Les did his math correctly and I should have been asleep in bed rather than at the keyboard. :smile: Thanks for the correction.

    There are two other waterfall photos in Les' book. One used a single 4 second exposure and the other used 20 one second exposures for an indicated 20 second exposure.

    Lee
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2007
  18. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I'll add my preference for 1/4s to 1s as my favourite range as it retains the look of water whilst giving the swirling effect. Longer exposures can make it look like milk, loosing much detail which I do not find as attractive. That of course is just a personal preference.

    Bob.
     
  19. Travis Nunn

    Travis Nunn Member

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    I generally stick with either 1/2 second or 1 second, depending on the conditions of the water. Like Robert, I try to avoid the "white blob" and keep the detail in the water.
     
  20. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    Tripod+slowfilm+small aperature+ND filters
     
  21. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    This waterfall was taken at 2 seconds. A large falls from a long distance. Might be too "silky" for some folks, not enough for others.

    http://www.apug.org/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=28426&cat=2

    As with any "special effect", the image should not depend on it to carry it...but instead add to the over-all image (or one runs the risk of creating another example of a cliche).

    vaughn
     

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  22. djkloss

    djkloss Subscriber

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    Steve Sherman's photograph of Farmington River is an amazing example of slow water. I saw this on his website quite some time ago. I'm sure he'd be happy to explain how he did it. These are just some of the details he gave with the image. Like I said... amazing! Way to go Steve!

    5x7 Deardorrf Camera 210mm Symar S lens. F32 @ 15 minutes. Dev. HC110 Normal....
    Look for Farmington River.....
    http://steve-sherman.com/newengland_main.htm
     
  23. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    It's a great picture, although I am certain the 15-minute exposure was dictated by (very low) light levels and not by the desire for blur. It would take a braver man than me to feel confident that the leaves on the far bank were going to render sharply and not start waving in the wind after a few minutes, whereas the blur is no more than could have been obtained with a few seconds' exposure!
     
  24. Maris

    Maris Member

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    There is an old rule that indicates the best shutter speed for moving water is determined by the reciprocal of the fraction of the picture that consists of water. If water is 1/100 of the picture use 100seconds. If water is 1/2 of the picture then use two seconds.

    I always use this rule when I just can't think of the right shutter speed. At other times I guess.
     
  25. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Welcome to my world!

    Photographing in the redwoods usually means exposures of 15 seconds to 30 minutes. One's hair on arms and legs (I usually wear shorts) become hypersenstitive wind meters!

    Mid-day, as the down slope winds reverse themselves and become up canyon winds, one can often sneak in a photo or two during the stillness of the change.

    Vaughn
     
  26. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Interesting rule of thumb. I'll will have to look through some old photos and see how this rule plays out!

    Vaughn