mai 2012

And After All…You’re My WaterFall…

The Secrets of Stunning Waterfall Photography

Waterfalls are elegant, they have movement and an ever-changing character that make them beautiful to capture,
but they do present a number of practical and technical challenges which can make them difficult to shoot.
Follow some simple tips to master the technical and creative sides of photographing this fascinating subject.

Capture Their Motion

One of the most interesting things about waterfalls is the way they move. From the meandering flow of water across rocks
to the splash and spray of a crashing torrent, they’re always full of energy and excitement.

The key to capturing this movement is choosing the best camera settings before you start shooting.
So put your camera into Shutter Priority or Manual mode and set it up as follows.

Shutter Speed

Every waterfall is different, and there’s no single shutter speed to use, but if you want to capture movement in the water
you’ll need to use a slow shutter speed – generally somewhere from 0.3 seconds up to several seconds.
A good rule is to start with a speed of 1 second and take a test shot. Review it on your camera’s LCD screen and adjust until you get the correct level of blurring. Don’t worry if the scene is overexposed, we’ll adjust other settings to compensate for that.

Tripod

With such a low shutter speed you won’t be able to hand-hold your camera. A sturdy tripod is an essential accessory here.

ISO

Set your ISO as low as it will go (around ISO 100). This reduces your camera’s sensitivity, allowing you to use slower shutter speeds without overexposing the scene. It also has the added benefit of reducing the amount of digital noise in your photos.

Aperture

Using your lens’s narrowest aperture will again let you use a longer exposure time.
It will also give you the maximum depth of field, keeping as much of your scene in focus as possible.

Filters

If you still can’t get your camera to go slow enough you’ll need to use some filters to reduce the amount of light that’s being let in. Nature photographers swear by neutral density (ND) filters, which reduce the light without affecting the colours in the scene.
An excellent alternative is a polarising filter. This does the same job as an ND filter but has the added benefits of reducing reflections (for example from water, wet rocks, and leaves) and increasing colour saturation for a more vivid image.

Shoot at the Right Time of Day

Bright sunlight can easily ruin a waterfall photograph. The intense light casts strong shadows across the scene, making it difficult to get your expsosure right. It also causes hundreds of reflections in the water and wet scenery, which will show up as tiny white dots in your shot.

To avoid these problems, shoot around sunrise or sunset when the sun’s light is less intense and more diffuse.
These times of day make it easier to get a more even exposure, and the reduced light means you can use a slow shutter speed more readily. Overcast days produce excellent lighting conditions for the same reasons.

Look for an Unusual Viewpoint

When faced with a waterfall, most people will stand right on the bank of the river, a short way downstream, and point their camera directly at the waterfall, resulting in uninspiring photos that we’ve all seen a thousand times before. Spend some time exploring the surroundings to find a more interesting composition. Try photographing from high above, through trees or bushes, from behind the waterfall, or from just above the stream for a more unusual and creative viewpoint.

Include Scenery or People

For all their beauty,a lot of waterfalls look very similar to one another, and sometimes you get the feeling that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. A great way to overcome this is to include other elements that add interest to the scene.

Foreground rocks, bridges, and interesting plants all help to give your photo context. This gives the viewer a better sense of the place you were in, and allows them to « explore » the scene visually, creating a more engaging shot.
Including people is one of the surest ways to add interest to a photo. Waterfalls are no exception, and a well-placed person will create a focal point that might otherwise be lacking. People are also a great way to give your photo a sense of scale.

Shoot in Landscape

Because waterfalls tend to be tall and thin, most people hold their camera in portrait orientation without even thinking.
Again, this often produces a shot which is just like all the others. Holding your camera in landscape orientation may seem unnatural, but it will force you to take in more of the surroundings and be more creative with the way you frame the scene.

Waterfall photography can be a tricky subject to master. Getting the perfect shot requires patience, a methodical approach,
and a certain amount of experimentation, but the impact of a well-taken waterfall photo more than justifies the time and effort you’ve put in.

15 Super Sharp Tips!

Achieving super sharp images involves doing lots of small things as well as possible.

Achieving a high level of sharpness is one of the keys to a truly eye-catching picture.
Taking sharp photos is all about reducing camera shake to an absolute minimum. There are many different ways you can do this. Some apply to all situations, while others can only be used in certain circumstances, but each one helps reduce the amount of camera shake by a small fraction. The more methods you can use, the sharper your shots will be. These tips can be applied in all situations, and you should bear them in mind at all times, as they can make a big difference to any photograph.

1. Use the Sharpest Aperture

Camera lenses can only achieve their sharpest photos at one particular aperture. Typically 2 to 3 stops down from the widest aperture, putting it around f/8 on most lenses. Your choice of aperture should be based on other considerations first
(such as achieving an acceptable shutter speed and depth of field), but try to stay close to this optimum aperture wherever possible.

2. Switch to Single Point Autofocus

When focusing, most cameras will try to keep as much of the scene acceptably sharp as possible. This is fine when you want to
see detail everywhere, but it does mean that no one object will be super sharp. Single point focus mode. This tells your camera to focus sharply on just one point (typically in the centre of the frame). Before composing your shot, focus by aiming this point at your subject and half pressing the shutter. This will keep the subject as sharp as possible.

3. Lower Your ISO

The higher your ISO speed, the more digital noise you’ll get in your photo. This causes sharp details to appear fuzzy, affecting the overall sharpness of the image. Wherever possible, use your camera’s lowest ISO setting (typically around ISO 100 or 200), as long as it doesn’t negatively affect other settings such as your shutter speed.

4. Use a Better Lens

Good quality lenses make a big difference to the sharpness of your photos, and more expensive lenses are generally sharper than cheap ones. Obviously, changing a lens can be very costly, but think of it as an investment in better photos.

5. Remove Lens Filters

Filters reduce the sharpness of your lens, affecting the final image quality.
When they’re not needed, take them off to improve clarity.

6. Check Sharpness on Your LCD Screen

One of the great advantages of digital over film is that you can examine your photos immediately. After taking a shot, use your camera’s playback feature and zoom in to 100% to check how sharp it is. If you see any blurring, you can reshoot it there and then.

Improving Sharpness with a Tripod

For the ultimate in sharpness (which is, after all, what we’re aiming for) you need to use a tripod,
even if you’re shooting in daylight. As with lenses, good tripods are not cheap, but they’ll transform your photos.

 

7. Make Your Tripod Sturdy

The purpose of a tripod is to hold your camera as still as possible, so you need to make sure yours is nice and sturdy.
Avoid extending the center column and legs of your tripod more than is necessary. The taller you make your tripod, the more it will wobble, and the harder it’ll be to get pin sharp images. If your tripod has a hook underneath, hang something off it to provide extra stability. Many professionals carry an empty « rock bag » that they can fill with stones to give a good, heavy weight which will hold the tripod still even in strong winds.

8. Use a Remote Cable Release

Pressing the shutter button on your camera can cause minute shaking. You’d think this would be too small to make a difference, but it can be noticeable in the final photo. A cable release or remote control is an inexpensive way of avoiding this problem. Alternatively, use your camera’s self-timer – 2 seconds is plenty of time for any vibrations caused by touching the shutter button
to die down.

9. Use Mirror Lock-up

Vibration within the cameras is caused by the mirror in front of the sensor. When you press the shutter button, this mirror flicks up out of the way, and this can cause the camera to move slightly. Mirror lock-up (MLU) holds the mirror in its retracted position,
so that when you take the shot it doesn’t need to move. Most digital SLRs have this feature, and it can make a big difference to how sharp your photos turn out.

Taking Sharper Photos when Hand-holding

Sometimes it’s not possible to use a tripod. For example, you might be in a church where it’s not allowed, or you might be photographing an event where you have to move around quickly and don’t have time to carry and set up a tripod. In these situations you’ll have to hand-hold your camera, but there are still ways to maximise the sharpness of your shots.

10. Find a Makeshift Tripod

We’re surrounded by objects and surfaces that make perfect natural tripods. Resting your camera on a wall, or wedging your lens between the wires of a fence can help provide a bit more stability, holding your camera still and reducing blurring in your photos.

11. Increase Your Shutter Speed

A faster shutter speed is less susceptible to movement, so increase it as far as you can. As a bare minimum you should stick to
the rule of thumb that says to use a shutter speed of at least « 1/focal length ». So for a 100mm lens you’d want to use a speed of 1/100 of a second or faster.

12. Turn Image Stabilisation On

Although vibration reduction systems can cause problems when your camera is mounted on a tripod, they work wonders when you’re holding it. In optimum conditions they can give you as much as 3 extra stops of exposure, which can make the difference between a photo which is blurry and one which is super sharp.

13. Steady Yourself

When hand-holding your camera, the biggest source of vibration and movement is your body, so try to hold it as still as possible. Tuck your arms into your sides or lean up against a wall or tree for some extra support. When shooting, even your breathing can cause tiny movements in the camera, so try to breathe slowly and gently, and press the shutter button in between breaths when you’re relatively still.

14. Squeeze the Shutter Button

When pressing the shutter button, do so as gently as you can. Make sure your finger is in contact with the button to begin with (rather than hovering over it) and gradually squeeze down on it rather than pushing it quickly. Once the button is down,
hold your finger there until the camera has finished taking the shot.

Sharpening Photos in Editing Software

No matter how careful you are to keep vibrations to a minimum while shooting, most photos can still benefit from a bit of sharpening in a graphics program such as Photoshop.

15. Apply an Unsharp Mask

The unsharp mask is the photographer’s favourite tool for improving sharpness. It works by increasing the contrast along the edges in your image, producing better separation between objects and giving the impression of a sharper picture. To apply an unsharp mask in Photoshop, load your image and go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask. Adjust the settings to suit your scene; try starting with values of Amount 100%, Radius 1.5, Threshold 4 and tweaking from there.