I have decided to create a series of photo tips. This something fun for me and I have no idea where it will go. If you have an interest in finding out how specific picture of mine was created or a question on how to take a picture or create a look, please click below and send me the question.
This is one of my favorite pictures. There are a couple of reasons why I consider this one of my favorite shots. First, I just like it. Second it's because I went out to shoot with the intention of taking an entirely different picture and nature gave me this unexpected gift.
The first tip I'd like to offer is: Open your mind to what is around you. It took me a little while to figure out that if what I intend to shoot is not looking so hot, maybe I need to turn around and look in the opposite direction. Instead of fighting an idea that is not working, I stop, take a step back and look for something new. This has worked many times for me. I mostly shoot people and consequently I almost always go out with a specific idea in mind. If things aren't looking good or I feel like the shot is blah, I stop and look around. Sometimes it's the light, or another angle or a different lens. When you are not 100% happy, stop and try something else.
How I made this image. This shot was actually inspired by Michael Kenna. I am a huge fan of Michael Kenna's work. I first saw his work when I was an assistant, way back in the days of film. I was at my eye doctor's office and he happened to have original prints of Michael's work on his wall. I was blown away and became an instant fan. I bought a book of his and I am pretty sure that in the book, he said that he takes many of his pictures before sunrise and after sunset. I thought, “That's a great idea. I am an early riser, this is perfect for me!”
On the morning that I shot this image, 25 years after I read that quote I might add, I got up to shoot before sunrise but nothing looked good to me. The sun was due up soon and I wasn’t feeling like I was going to get my shot. I could see clouds forming on the horizon and I all of a sudden I felt that something interesting might be coming. I quickly realized that my initial plan was not going to happen and I changed plans.
My new idea was to shoot whatever cloud formation arose while still getting a motion blur in the water. For this I needed a few key pieces of equipment. I was prepared with a tripod because I knew that shooting before dawn meant a long exposure and I needed a steady platform. I also knew that in order to get a the water to blur I would need a slow shutter speed and to achieve this I would have to stack a few Neutral Density Filters. With the sun up I would need even more neutral density filters and luckily I was prepared.
Tip 2. Always bring anything that you think you may need and a few things that may come in handy but are not necessary. This can be tricky because gear gets heavy and cumbersome. If you think carefully about what you plan to shoot, the amount of equipment you need to can be reduced dramatically.
On this shot I used a Gitzo Carbon Fiber tripod. It's a small one, It's called the Traveler. This is a great travel tripod, it weighs next to nothing and is easy to take on shoots. I brought along a lot of neutral density filters because I really had no idea how slow a shutter speed I would like and I decided to take all my filters since they are light and small.
I'll explain the shot more but first let me give you my set up info:
The image was created in 2013
Camera Nikon D800E
Lens 21mm Zeiss
Schneider ND filters
Exposure f22, 1.6 sec exposure
Anytime I've done speaking engagements, the first question is always about what I use and I thought I'd get that out of the way. if you have questions as to why I used certain equipment, go ahead and ask. Back to the important stuff.
If you plan on taking a shot like this, you are going to need a long exposure because that is how you get movement in the water. Long exposures with water create the soft, cottony look. Moving water when shot slowly is pretty and you can use it in many, many situations. There are 2 pieces of equipment you will need to take this type of shot. You'll need a steady camera platform (tripod is preferred) and neutral density filters. A tripod always you to set up and compose quickly. In a pinch, find anything steady and set you camera on it. Quick tip, always use your timer for slow shutter speeds and if you can lock your mirror up, do that as well to eliminate vibrations. The physical act up pushing the trigger can easily cause movement which is why I either use a built in timer or remote trigger to fire the camera when using slow shutter speeds. The other important equipment you will need is a Neutral density filter(s). You can buy a variable ND filter fairly inexpensively and it does a good job. A variable ND is sort of like a zoom lens in that it always you to rotate the filter and slow increase how much light is being absorbed by the filter. A variable ND is like having 5 ND filters in one. I have a variable ND filter in my bag at all times and I also have a set of very high end Schneider ND filters which I take when I know I will use ND. To take a picture like this one, that is all you need besides your basic camera set up.
Tips 3. Buy the absolutely best gear that you can afford. I use expensive gear, not the most expensive but the highest quality that I can afford. If you take care of your camera gear, it can last a life time. Just get the best you can afford and upgrade later. A cheap lens is cheap for a reason. You will never regret shooting with very good camera equipment.
To summarize how to get this shot. Pack your gear the night before. Clean all of your lenses and filters ahead of time. Think carefully about what you want to take. Consider how far you have to lug the gear and if you can leave some of it close enough that you can run to get it. Keep an open mind when shooting. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, look around. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get a great shot you can usually go back and try again on another day. Use a steady platform to shoot, use the camera timer or a remote trigger. Use a variety of slow shutter speeds until you find the one that works for you. Put your ISO down as low as you can on your camera. If you have a lot of ND filters, start with an ISO of 100 or 200 and see if you can get the shot. If not lower your ISO. Close your lens down to one or two f stops from completely closed. In most cases f16 would be an excellent choice.
Go out, take some pictures and have fun!
I am more than happy to answer questions about photography. You can write to me in English, Spanish or Portuguese. I will answer in English.