At the end of last year I discovered Photochallenge.org. This is a small group of photographers who set forth a weekly challenge to other professional and amateur photographers. What I was drawn to with this weekly assignment is that is pushes you to try new techniques and get out and take pictures on a weekly basis. I'm taking part again this year and will also do a quick blog post about each of them. The rules of the challenge do require that these are new pictures, not from your back catalog. With my busy work schedule, I may not be able to get out each week and do this, so I will likely add a few of my older photos on the blog--taking the opportunity to look at the plethora of pictures I've taken and actually do some processing and weeding.
2016 PhotoChallenge Week 26: Outdoor - Water - (Long Exposure)
This past week's challenge was to capture the motion of water using long exposure (slow shutter speed). By leaving the camera's shutter open longer it collects more of the water's motion resulting in a blur of white, while the background (not moving) is kept sharp. I actually took a landscape photography class at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum taught by John Penoyer the day prior to the challenge being posted. The day was brutally hot, windy and sunny so wasn't ideal for these shots. However, the next day was less terrible and I went back out to test out my new skills. As I was walking to my car I checked the PhotoChallenge.org weekly challenge on my phone and was pleasantly shocked to find this particular one waiting for me!
This technique requires a few things and special settings to make work. First off you need a tripod to keep the camera in the same position. Any movement (doing it by hand) will often result in a blurry effect of the whole shot. Also movement by wind can affect things--many of the shots I took looked great but the tree limbs in the foreground were blurry from having been tossed around by wind. You will need to set your ISO low (100 ideally) to keep down noise in the photo, but also to allow for longer shutter speeds. Smaller aperture size will also allow less light in and allow for longer shutter speeds (I used from 16-20 on these shots). There was still enough light on the day I was shooting that most of my shots ended up being overexposed even with these settings so I added a polarizing filter: this will cut glare from sun, as well as darken by up to 2-3 stops--giving me a bit longer on shutter speed.
1) Moss and Falls: This is my favorite of my shots. This is actually a man-made waterfall, but sure looks great! I feel that the cascade of water looks pretty good in this one.
2) Small Fall: This is further downstream from the previous falls and is really only a trickle. I upset a female Cardinal bathing in the pool below this but had my camera settings too weird to get a good shot. I did darken the rock in the foreground with Lightroom since a ray of light was making it way to bright for the shot to look good.
3) Step-Off: This is another tiny man-made falls near the Koi pond. Not my favorite shot but captures the water motion.
4) Wachlella Falls: I took this one in Oregon recently. Without a tripod I actually hand-held this one while crouched on my hands and knees to minimize shake. I'd love to visit again with my new skills and equipment!
5) Abstract Koi: While set up to take pictures of the Japanese Garden waterfall (those didn't turn out) I kept being distracted by the movements of koi in the pond just below me. I aimed my camera down and kept my long shutter speed settings. The trails of fish and things floating on the surface of the murky water ended up looking pretty cool!