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help me out w/ shutter speed.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by bubz, Jun 27, 2007.

  1. bubz


    Jul 5, 2006
    Oklahoma City, OK
    i was taking pics of a waterfall, and i wanted the water to look smooth, so i threw the d80 in Shutter Mode and set the shutter priority to 1/20, or somewhere around there, and exposure 0.0. and when the picture was taken the image was wayy blown out.. everything was white. i set the exposure down to -3, then -5..and still looked the same. any idea what i was doing wrong??

    I shoulda taken a picture in Auto, and just looked at the EXIF and see what the shutter speed was and turned it down a notch.. but i didnt think of it.

  2. You need a neutral density (ND) filter to get down to the real slow shutter speeds without blowing the scene out.
  3. bubz


    Jul 5, 2006
    Oklahoma City, OK
    ahh what do you suggest?
  4. Johnny Yuma

    Johnny Yuma

    Jun 27, 2007
    SE MI
    Or take the picture at or after sunset.
  5. wbeem


    Feb 11, 2007
    Sanford, FL
    William Beem
    It's a matter of understanding how exposures work. As you found out, there's more to it than just a shutter speed. You didn't mention a couple of other important factors, like your aperture, ISO, and where you took your meter reading.

    The suggestion of a ND filter is excellent, since you need to reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor. However, I believe you can get your best results with a manual exposure instead of shutter priority. It's not that hard.

    Set your lowest possible ISO speed. With the camera in manual mode, select the shutter speed you want based upon the metering position you took. Personally, I'd start with 1/4 instead of 1/20 for the effect you mentioned. Next, look to see where you're taking your meter reading. Are you metering off the sky, the water's reflection, or what? Is there some greenery around the water? Meter off of that with a -2/3 EV. From here, just dial the aperture setting until the meter indicates a correct exposure.

    So what if you've done all of this and the exposure is still too harsh? Well, now you know where the ND benefits you. If you don't have a ND filter, a polarizer will cut the light by two stops and remove glare.

    It'll take time and practice (and a tripod), but the results are pretty much worth it.
  6. You've got a couple of options. The first thing to remember is that you want a shutter speed of something like 1 - 3 seconds (personal preferences can vary the number a little). Less than this and the water won't look smooth, more than this and you can get a very exaggerated effect but it's a diminishing return (30 seconds doesn't look much different than 5 seconds for most water flows). Now you have to figure out how you're going to get those long shutter times. My first suggestion would be not to do this on a bright sunny day if you can help it. That way there's just a lot less light around. Shutter priority probably didn't work for you because it was so bright out that no matter now stopped down the lens was (the camera probably maxed out your f-stop) too much light was getting in at 1/20 of a second. To make sure you're getting the setup right, I'd reverse the process. Set the camera to aperture priority and then stop the lens way down. See what kind of shutter speed the meter comes up with. If it's short of 1 second your going to have to either wait for less light, or take matters into your own hands... this means filters. A circular polarizer will give cut your light a bit (2-3 stops) which may or may not be enough. If it's not enough, you're going to need to get a neutral density filter, or, as has been mentioned already, wait for dawn or dusk when there is less light. Good luck, and be sure to post some shots once you've got it down.

  7. DBrim


    May 30, 2007
    Boston, MA
    Just a question while we're on the subject of ND filters. Is there a difference between the Tiffen and the B+W ND filters? There's a significant price difference, and I was wondering if there was a reason or not.
  8. bubz


    Jul 5, 2006
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Thanks alot.. I'll have to look into that.

    I had a Hoya CP Filter as well, I shoulda tried that. Thanks!

    Thanks for the advice.. I'll try to pick up a ND Filter or just wait til sundown.
  9. Billy Ng

    Billy Ng

    Jan 22, 2007
    Hartsdale, NY
    This is wrong. There is nothing that you can do in M that you can't do more easily in the other modes. M is a specific mode that allows you to "lock" the exposure in for cases where you will be shooting multiple objects with different luminocities under the same lighting conditions ... a motorcycle race for instance. M is also useful for weird flash situations where ETTL is just not possible. Other than that and maybe 1 or two very specific uses, M is just a slower way to the same things A and S allow you to do.

    How did you come upon teh -2/3rd EV reading?? Simply because something is green? You failed to mention that metering off of the a green grass that happens to be shadowed by a tree is useless since the waterfall will have no such shadow ... and where does -2/3rds come from? The correct answer here is to point the OP to a tutorial on camera metering


    That was was written by me so I have a quick link to it, but any decent explanation of metering would have sufficed.

    For the OP ... the correct settings would depend on what you want. Let's assume that you want the creamiest water possible (lowest shutter speed). The correct method for this is to use Aperture priority mode.

    The shutter on my D200 offers me 14 stops of exposure (from 30 seconds to 1/8000th of a second) ... the aperture on the average quality lens allows you only about 6 (from F/2.8 to F/16). For all intents and purposes though, you can only really use 5 of those since after F/11, diffraction comes into play and ruins image quality.

    What this means, is that if I use Shutter priority ... there are over 9 stops worth of shutter speeds that can potentially throw me outside of the Exposure Value (EV) that my aperture, in a perfect situation, can actually handle. Factor in that you want a large depth of field and you're limited to working with even less. If I'm in a dark area and really low on light .... the number jumps to 11, 12, even 13 stops of light that the shutter can be set to, but the aperture just can't handle.

    For this reason, we use Aperture priority. With its already limited EV range, there are extremely few instances where you will fall out of the shutters available speeds. Yes, the in-viewfinder display should blink if you have exceeded the limits of the aperture, but I, like many others, miss this fairy frequently. I would recommend setting your aperture to the smallest opening possible while retaining quality ... this would be F/11. Now, since we want a low shutter speed, we lower our ISO to the lowest possible, ISO100 for my D200 (and I think your D80).

    Now we have to meter off of the correct object if we don't have a handheld incident meter. Without knowing the exact scene you were shooting, I can't even begin to tell you where you should have pointed your camera. If there was something in your scene that was close to a middle-gray in luminocity, then you can throw your D80 into spot metering (or partial if you don't have spot) and meter off of that object ... use your exposure lock button to lock that exposure in for 7 seconds or so giving you enough time to recompose and fire. Or if you can't find anything middle gray, you can select Matrix metering and hope that the total scene renders itself to something along the lines of middle gray. Since the waterfall isn't going anywhere anytime soon, you should have enough time to chimp if necessary, add or subtract some EC, and fire again.

    Oh, another note ... post a photo. Let us see what you are talking about. Any photo with the EXIF data attached will tell us EXACTLY what you were doing wrong and how to fix it. In the process, you'll learn how to read the EXIF data, understand what was wrong, and fix it next time on the fly.

    As far as other's recommendations for filters .... it is rare that this happens to most of us non-landscape shooters, but it sounds as if you had too much light. Most of my Nikkor lenses have a minimum aperture of F16 ... on a bright-sunny day, if we follow the "Sunny 16" rule .... ISO 100 and F16 means a correct exposure of 1/100th of a second shutter speed. When you selected 1/20th of a second, you exceeded the physical boundaries of the camera setup. The greater problem is that no amount of EC would have done anything at all since EC would have had to close the aperture down further which would not have worked (since we are already at the limit of the aperture).

    In your case, you needed less light. In a pinch, you could taken off your sunglasses and if they are big enough (think Paris Hilton sunglasses), you could have put them in front of your lens to reduce the light getting in. This is crude, extremely subject to failure, hard to meter, and will give you a color cast if your sunglasses have any color to the lenses at all (most do). An ND filter is a neutral density filter, they sell them in varying degrees of darkness and they do an excellent job of lowering your shutter speeds. What should also be considered is a circular polarizer.

    A CP redirects light as it passes through the filter in such a way that it will remove glare and reflections from surfaces. There are limits, such that you have to have the filter rotated correctly and the the filter works best if you are facing 90 degrees from the sun (either of your shoulders is pointing in the direction of the sun). What most people don't realize is how much objects like leaves and grass reflect sunlight in the form of glare. If you don't already have one and you plan on doing landscape photography, get a circular polarizer, it is money very well spent. A CP reduces light by about 2 stops naturally. For many waterfalls, this isn't enough, so stack a CP and an ND filter together to REALLY lower those shutter speeds.
  10. Billy Ng

    Billy Ng

    Jan 22, 2007
    Hartsdale, NY
    I just read your note about owning a Hoya CP ... ignore my CP stuff.
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