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Silky Stream

Taken at the base of Snoqualmie Falls, a section of the river most folks ignore since they're busy looking at the falls.



Staff member
There's some softness in the branches, since the leaves were, well, shaking like a leaf, and this a long exposure.

Tom Z

Pretty amazing. These are the kind of images that a knowledge of “how to “ and equipment can produce. And of course the most important artistic vision. Great job Bob.


Staff member
Pretty amazing. These are the kind of images that a knowledge of “how to “ and equipment can produce. And of course the most important artistic vision. Great job Bob.
Thank you Tom, much appreciated. Without bragging, most of what you see here is knowledge.

An image like this can be taken with nearly any camera made. You do need a few special pieces of equipment, but they're not overly expensive.

The first one is a neutral density filter. It reduces the amount of light entering your camera, thus allowing a long exposure.

The second one is a tripod. As solid as you can get it. But with today's lightweight cameras, it doesn't have to be quite the monster they used to be. You can, of course, spend over $1,000 on a tripod and fancy head. But you can get a decent one for much less. Used is even cheaper.

A third tool is a some kind of timer. You can, in a pinch, use the timer on the camera. Typically they go up to 30 seconds, which is often long enough during daylight hours. Some kind of remote or intervalometer makes it much easier. You can get a knock-off for about $50, I think the official ones are about $100, maybe a bit more.

A tripod is a very useful tool for many things, and you may well have one already. The ND filter is expensive, but as camera gear goes not terrible. They'll cost betwen $50 and $100, depending on how picky you are and the lens size.

The timer is optional, you can use the one on your camera. If you do buy one, you can use it for time lapse and long exposure night shots etc, so it's not just a one trick pony.

So, if you're a typical photographer, and already have a tripod, you can get started playing with these for under $100, all you really need is an ND filter. Use the camera's self timer for now. Whatever camera you have will work, as long as you can set it manually. This isn't high ISO or anything, so even a basic entry level camera will do just fine!

With digital, the process is simple. Set up the tripod, aim and focus, then put on the ND filter. Go to manual and experiment.

Step 1 - Set up the tripod and compose the shot.
Step 2 - Focus on the appropriate spot. Then lock the focus, typically by setting the lens to manual focus. Careful to not bump it. Gaffer tape may help.
Step 3 - Put the ND filter on. You will no longer be able to see much of anything through the viewfinder, that's why you have it focus first.
Step 4 - Put the camera on manual. Set a low ISO, typically 100, whatever the lowest you can go without losing quality is.
Step 5 - Pick an aperture, nice and small, since you want a long exposure. You can go for the sweet spot if you want. Or just go tiny, like F18.
(A tip for novices: A "small aperture" also means a large f stop number. f 1.4 means a great big opening. f 22, a tiny pinhole. So they're backwards to one another.)
Step 6 - Guess at an exposure time. Take the photo, check the histogram.
Step 7 - Review the image, adjust brightness by changing shutter time until you get what you want.

Once you've had some practice, you'll dial in quickly and then you can play around with exposure times. For example, you like how 20 seconds looks and like it at f 10. But it's a bit dark. Fine, bump the ISO. Or change the aperture a stop. With digital, you simply experiment and see what you like.

You can also take some test shots without the ND filter, find the right exposure, and do the math. But let's be honest, if you understand your camera and exposures well enough to know how to adjust the shutter speed for a 10 stop change, you're not reading this as you already know how a long exposure's done. :) There are also apps that will do the math for you.
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