Long Exposure Shot To Create Silky Water Effect

When I saw the first image with silky water effect, I thought it was some skillful task accomplished using Photoshop rather than something produced on the camera itself. I was just getting into photography and didn't have much knowledge about various types of photography. After I got my first DSLR, Nikon D60, I started learning the basics of photography; Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture and was enjoying whatever I could shoot. Actually for the first few months, my expensive DSLR was just a point and shoot camera in Auto Mode. It was only after I learned about various shooting modes and how it works in different light condition, I got interested to dial into them and experiment with the subjects and (objects).

Soon after, I upgraded my DSLR after realizing the limitations and the features that my camera offered. When I bought Nikon D90, I started using external flash units, configured them into remote flash units into group using built-in commander mode and learned other advanced camera settings. Everything was working great but knowing more about different DSLRs and what could it offer enticed me to upgrade myself to my first full frame DSLR, Nikon D700. It was probably one of the best camera I ever owned. It never failed me and always exceeded my expectations. I learned so much about long exposure shots, variety of landscape shots using combination of full frame sensor and wide angle lens and many more other small but very useful photographic techniques. I also learned that the very first silky water image I saw was not any tricks done using Photoshop but the long exposure shot done very carefully by using the combination of camera, wide angle lens, filters and tripod.

After learning about the technique, I went to the nearby falls in Washington DC Metro area to test my knowledge. It was a fail! I learned a very important lesson and that is reading about the technique and actually doing it in practice are two different things. There are so many variables that could contribute to the final image. Our gears and it's setup is what we can control but the ambient, finding good vantage point and getting the right composition is equally important. After many attempts in nearby small water streams, I gained my confidence and went to the Great falls park in Potomac, Maryland last year only to find out that the bridge that I had to cross to get to the fall was closed due to the construction. As soon as the construction was completed and the bridge was opened, I went to the park last Monday (on the Presidents day) and got the shot below. Let me explain in details about how I got this shot.

Long Exposure Effect on Water Falls (click the image to view full size)

When I went there, I tried composing and taking shots on my phone from different angle. Once I found my angle, I setup my camera on the tripod and took one shot. I was shooting in Aperture priority (A) mode at f/11 and since it was a bright daylight time, camera automatically bumped the shutter speed up to compensate the light and froze the water motion. I wanted smooth running (silky water) effect and the only way to get that effect at that time was by using the filter. I attached ND 3 filter (which is 10 stops filter letting in only 1/1000th of the light and requiring 1000 times longer shutter speed to get the same exposure as without the filter) and then the shutter speed got reduced to 6 seconds with an Aperture being fixed of course. After I got home, I exported it to the Lightroom and adjusted the exposure and the color tones little bit. This is one of the main reason I started shooting in RAW mode which gives you an option to adjust settings later on the computer that you missed on site. I hope you like my post and if you have any questions or suggestions, please comment them below.

Happy Shooting!