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ND Filters and Soft Water Effect

10 Aug 2013 12:24PM
I have seen many photos with the soft water effect as of late, where the water looks more like a mist due to slow shutter speeds. I understand there are a lot of variables but could someone give me a good starting point as to how many stops I would have to reduce my camera by to get that effect using an ND filter? Say the exposure was for .8 sec and was shot in sunlight.

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joolsb 14 27.1k 38 Switzerland
10 Aug 2013 12:52PM
Why shoot in sunlight? Shoot in lower light and you won't need an ND filter at all. All the ND filter does is to reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor so that you need a longer exposure to get an adequately exposed image. It seems a bit self-defeating to head out in sunny conditions to do the sort of long-exposure photography that's best left until dusk. But if you are intent on jumping on this particular bandwagon then a minimum of 8 stops of ND filtration are what you need. People seem to swear by the Lee Big Stopper.

Me? I would wait for dusk and if I still haven't got a long enough exposure (and, depending on the amount and range of movement in the water, an exposure of 10 secs would be a rough guide), I'd slap on a polariser for an extra 2 stops.
Andy_Cundell 8 1.1k 5 England
10 Aug 2013 1:23PM
Hiya Jeff

Thats all part of the fun!!! Playing with the setting to achieve the look you want!!!Grin

All you really need if a good tripod, filter and play away!!
Gundog 6 629 Scotland
10 Aug 2013 10:10PM
...and following on from what Andy said, remember that with digital (as opposed to film) extra exposures don't cost anything. You can fire off several hundred experimental shots at no cost. Go for it.
MarkBroughton 11 286 1 United Kingdom
11 Aug 2013 12:15AM
As a rough guide, I use a 3 stop cokin filter and generally go out in dull weather to do longer exposure waterfall shots, using a tripod and manual settings and meter for the light at the time. But like the others said its all about experimentaion, I remember asking the same question when I first started and joined here, after a few attempts using different settings I got what I like Smile
Gundog 6 629 Scotland
11 Aug 2013 11:27AM
...again just to add to what has already been said...... there is no such thing as a "standard" shutter speed for this type of work. Amongst other things, getting any given effect will also depend upon the speed of the water flow, the "roughness" of the water tumble, etc., etc.
billip 15 414 United Kingdom
12 Aug 2013 12:21PM
And also of course being ready to adjust the ISO downwards if you need to, as this will tend to allow a longer exposure time too.
MalcolmS Plus
14 1.2k 13 England
12 Aug 2013 2:52PM
And adding a polarised filter to reduce reflection and also slow the exposure by a couple of stops.
billip 15 414 United Kingdom
12 Aug 2013 5:01PM
MalcolmS: are you suggesting a polariser and an ND or just the polariser ?
joolsb 14 27.1k 38 Switzerland
12 Aug 2013 6:33PM
Obviously it all depends on desired shutter speed and ambient light levels - which is why I recommend being at your chosen location at around twilight and then experimenting.

Getting the results you're after is more about 'feel' than anything and trying out the effects of different shutter speeds will help greatly. As has already been mentioned, a polariser is handy as it kills reflections and lengthens the exposure. It may be all you need.

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