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Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Sharon G. Duran


Hello again!
I wanted to know what type of filter I should get for photographing waterfalls or runnimg water to get that really soft almost mystical looking effect I've seen in photographs? As well a filter you might reccomend for shppting sunsets.
Thank you for your time!

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3/12/2003 3:10:28 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001

The first type of photograph you're asking about with waterfalls is sometimes called a "bridal veil" effect. These are made by using a very long shutter speed; typically 2 to 4 seconds and sometimes longer. The basic problem with making these during the day is getting a proper exposure with a shutter speed that long. Even with the slowest films at ISO 100 and ISO 50, there's too much light; anywhere from 10 to 1000 times too much (shade versus direct sun, overcast sky, etc.). The solution is a "neutral density" filter. These are neutral gray filters that reduce the amount of light entering the lens without affecting color balance. They come in various strengths which allows you to get your camera into the desired exposure range for the long shutter speeds you need to do this. Obviously, with shutter speeds that long you're not going to be able to hand hold the camera. You will also need a very sturdy tripod and a remote shutter release (so you don't shake the camera tripping the shutter). These photographs are also best made on very still days. Even a mild breeze will flutter leaves on trees and bushes, and wave flowers around.

I've never bothered with any special filters for sunsets (or sunrises). If it's the sky you're really after, meter exposure for that and let the ground and horizon sihlouette. If you try to expose for ground detail, the sky will usually become too pale. The sky is much more brightly illuminated than the ground at sunrise and sunset.

One of the special "trick" filters used for sunrises and sunsets is a "graduated" filter, usually a neutral density type (they also come in colors). They're not simple to use and require some practice to master. A graduated filter is darker at one edge than the opposite edge and the transition between the two is gradual (hence the name: graduated). For a sunset or sunrise, it would typically be oriented with the darker part reducing the luminance of the sky to bring it closer to that of the ground. Those who know what they are can almost always spot photographs made with them immediately. It's even more obvious if they're colored and not neutral.

-- John

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3/13/2003 8:32:30 PM

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