Have you ever wondered how waterfall photos look out of this world? Today you can learn how to perform this type of photography. I am at Rock Island State Park shooting a cascade with a Lee Filters 10 stop neutral density filter. I show you how I photograph a cascade, waterfall, or running water using long exposure and a neutral density filter.
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Today we are at Rock Island State Park and we are going to shoot a cascade with long exposure using a neutral density filter and we are going to go through how we accomplish that. A few things you are going to need. A remote. This is a wireless remote that was $10 on Amazon. A camera that allows you to do manual focus, set your aperture shutter speed in ISO, and of course a neutral density filter. I always use a 10 stop neutral density filter. It’s a Lee filter. It’s called the Lee Big Stopper to be precise and I will leave a link to that below. The thing there is, you have to know what stop ND filter you’re using. So, it’s 10 stop, that’s 2 to the 10th power, which is 1,024. That’s going to be a multiplier we’ll use here in just a second.
You will need the Lee Filter Holder and Lee Filter Holder Adapter (specific to your lens thread) to go along with the Lee Big Stopper. You can watch this video for a visual guide to how the Lee Filter system filter system fits together closeup.
The first thing you’re gonna want to do is you’re gonna frame your shot and get it framed in the camera and I’ve done that. I’ve set my ISO to 50, my aperture to F11, so that I can get a great depth of field and not get too far out there and aperture priority told me that those two settings I needed a 30th of a second for a shutter speed. Now we are going to take that 30th of a second and multiply it by 1,024 and that gives you 34 seconds. So what we are going to do now is switch it over to bulb mode and we’ve got the ISO set up for 150th of a second, the aperture at F11, and now we are just going to use our remote and manually time 34 seconds.
Now your camera may have the ability to have a timer on it that shows. Mine does not. We are going to put the neutral density filter on being very careful not to adjust that focus. So, we’ve got manual focus if I didn’t mention it so you want to make sure your auto focus is turned off on your lens or if it’s handled inside your camera, turn it off on your camera, and you want to manually focus. This is very important because once this neutral density filter goes on your camera has a hard time seeing. Although in my view, most of the time, it will brighten it up if everything is correct.
So let’s go. Here we go. This was a 30 second shot so we got close. One thing to notice. You will have to be in bulb mode to go over the 30 second time exposure for most cameras. I’m fairly pleased with that. I’m not too displeased. What I want to do is take a look at the histogram and I have blown out the sky. The sky is too bright and the cascade where the white is too bright. So what I’m going to do is I’m gonna back it down because you cannot recover detail from blown out, from highlights that are blown out. So they’re too bright, they’re just solid white. So we are going to take down the exposure limit say to 25 seconds, well let’s knock it on down to 24 as it starts to rain. Let’s make it 20 seconds. Here we go. We’ve got our picture back. We’re still quite a bit blown out, although we’re exposing so we’re gonna do this again. We are going to take the shutter speed on down to 10 seconds and that’s part of this.
When you have bright clouds, bright puffy clouds like we do today, you’ve got cascades and really dark water, a lot of times when you set up that aperture priority to get that basic shutter speed, that base shutter speed as I call it, to do this then sometimes it’s off. And this is what you do. You just keep backing it down until you do not blow anything out. So there we go. Still blowing it out. It’s back to F11 and we are going to take that shutter speed on down a little further and review the photo. Its still got a little bit, but our histogram is crunching over to the left and I wish I could get a good view of that. We will get a picture of that for the video. We’re going to drop it down just a little more to 5 seconds.
Now in the meantime you want to be sure that your camera is level when you do your framing. That’s really aggravating. In long exposures, framing is pretty critical and you don't want to have to get back and rotate because then you’re gonna lose pixels and that’s just a big waste of time. So let’s see. Ok, now we’ve got the opposite problem, which is okay. We’ve got some spots that are too dark. Just some very small spots. Not too worried about it. And there you go. That’s how you do a long exposure with a 10 stop neutral density filter of a waterfall or cascade. I hope you enjoyed this.