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How to Take Pictures of Water Using Long Exposures

Getting that "silky" look when photographing moving water isn't…

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ISO Control

For digital photography, ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera's sensor. The ISO setting is one of…

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Capturing or Freezing Motion in Photos

Learn how to freeze the motion in an action scene or capture a blur to show…

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Understanding Auto ISO

Auto ISO can simplify shooting under changing lighting conditions

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A Basic Look at the Basics of Exposure

The relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO is the basis of every…

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Using Auto FP High-Speed Sync to Illuminate Fast Sports Action

Dave Black on using high-speed flash sync for sports…

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3D Color Matrix Metering II

This system of evaluating light determines the best possible exposure for a particular…

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3.9 Rating
Exposure Compensation When Using i-TTL Gets Easier with the D4/D4s

Exposure compensation and flash compensation can be…

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Understanding ISO Sensitivity

Photography is built on the three pillars of exposure: shutter speed, aperture and…

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High Speed Sync: A Flash Technique To Add a Pro Touch to Your Photographs

Kevin Kubota on auto FP high speed sync flash…

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4.2 Rating
Photograph the Classic Holiday Light Bokeh Effect

Tips for shooting lights as soft globes of color

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Taking Pictures at Dusk and at Night

How do I take pictures at dusk and at night?

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How-To Take Great Photos at the Aquarium

Tips for photographing the fish and creatures that live under water

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Zoom Lens Maximum Aperture: Fixed and Variable Apertures

Zoom lenses can have either a fixed maximum aperture or a…

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Photographing the Night Sky: Star Trails

Astrophotography: tips for making great star trail images

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The Challenge of Bird Photography

Moose Peterson tells why photographing birds in the field is well worth the challenge.

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Using the D810A DSLR for Deep Space and Nebulae Astrophotography

Photographing Nebulae and other celestial objects with…

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Bokeh for Beginners

Have your subjects stand apart from the background with this easy technique

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4.3 Rating
Polarizing Filters Add POW to Pictures

An Easy to Use Accessory, Polarizing Filters Bring out the Color and Definition in…

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Balancing Photo Exposures with Nikon's Active D-Lighting

Bring light to the shadows with Nikon's Active D-Lighting

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One Shot: Are We There Yet?

Gary Crabbe shoots The Subway in Zion National Park

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3.4 Rating
Elements of Photography

Ideal class for those who want to take great D-SLR photos

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Shooting with Remote Cameras

Andrew Hancock discusses the art of shooting sports with remote cameras

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Flash Points: The Control of Light

Color temperature, rear sync, slow sync: Three key elements in flash photography.

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You’re the Guest: How to Capture Unique Photos at a Wedding

Abby Liga discusses getting great photos when you're a…

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How to Photograph Lightning

Storm chaser Jim Reed offers valuable tips for making photos of lighning while staying safe.

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Photographing the US National Parks

Chris Nicholson on photographing in the US National Parks

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Dedicated Time Release Movie Mode and Time Lapse Using the Built-in Interval Timer

Deciding which technique to use with…

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How To Grow Your Garden Photography Skills

Taking great photographs of your own garden is easy with a few simple tips

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A Pro's Tips for the Best Children's Photos

Tamara Lackey on taking great pictures of kids

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Reflex Action: A Surf Photographer's Top Tips

Surf shooter Jay Watson offers tips for getting great surfing action photos

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7 Tips & Tricks to Taking Better Wedding Photographs

Joe McNally on how to take better wedding portraits

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4.1 Rating
New Directions: The D750 Inspires Creating, and Sharing, New Images

Lindsay Silverman shoots with the D750 DSLR

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Take Better Portraits

Tips for taking a good portrait photo

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Destination Latin America:

Blaine Harrington on photographing Latin America

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20 Tips for Great Graduation Day Photos

Tips for taking great photos of your young graduate on their big day

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4.4 Rating
Versatile Views of the World of Wildlife:

Ron Magill field tests the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens

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Marketplace: Step by Step

Taking it easy with the D3200

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Camera Support Tips for Shooting Steady Video

Five tips for steadying the camera when shooting video

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One Shot: See a Puddle, Make a Picture...or Two

Randy Ziegler on the importance of patience while out shooting

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How to Choose Your Next Nikon 1 Lens

Go beyond your Nikon 1 camera's kit lens

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Tips for Photographing Birds

Birds make great subjects for photographs; tips for capturing them with your camera.

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Vibration Reduction

Vibration Reduction (VR) is an image stabilization technology that minimizes blur caused by camera…

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Destination Europe: Do a Little Research, Then Go Light on the Gear

Blaine Harrington on travel photography in Europe

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Taking Better Photographs on the Water

Harbors, bays, oceans and rivers all have one thing in common—interesting and…

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Benefits of Using the AF-ON Button for Autofocus

Three pros discuss using the AF-ON button for AF control

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Image Overlay: Combining Images Together In-Camera

Image Overlay lets you combine multiple images together in-camera

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Better Sports Photography

Which settings should you use depending upon which sport you're photographing

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How to Take Pictures of Water Using Long Exposures

You’ve probably seen photos of streams or waterfalls in which the water looked very silky and wondered, “How did they do that?” Well, it’s easy!

The process employed to get that silky effect is called motion rendition. If you set your camera with a fast shutter speed, say 1/125 to 1/4,000 of a second, you will usually stop motion. By contrast, if you set it with a slow shutter speed like 1/4 of a second or maybe 1/8 or 1/15 of a second, anything moving very fast will appear blurred in the resulting image. If you photograph moving water at speeds from two to eight seconds you will get very blurred or silky looking water.

Since no one can handhold a camera steady at shutter speeds that slow, you will need to use a tripod. Because you’ll be using a slow shutter speed, you’ll want to compensate by selecting a small aperture like f/22 or f/16 to get the maximum amount of depth of field (sharpness from the front to the back of your image).

Water and rocks often reflect light as glare and adding a polarizing filter will help reduce reflections and deepen the colors. The polarizer will also reduce your exposure by one and a half to two stops which will allow for even slower shutter speeds.

Here’s how I do it, step by step.

  • First, I find a scene I like and select the composition I want while handholding my camera.
  • Once I have the composition worked out, I set up my tripod and attach my camera.
  • I set the camera on A for Aperture Priority Automatic and the ISO to the lowest possible speed—usually ISO 200 or Low 1.0.
  • Then, I thread the polarizer onto the front of my lens. I also attach an electronic cable release so I can fire the camera without shaking the entire rig. I also use the Matrix Metering setting.
  • I turn the polarizer until I get a pleasing combination of little or no reflection and the richest colors.
  • I set the aperture to a small opening like f/22 or f/16—the camera will automatically set a shutter speed. These settings can be seen in the read out in your viewfinder. The best shutter speeds seem to be between two and eight seconds, but feel free to use aperture openings that will give you other speeds—hey, this is a good time to learn just what happens!
  • I carefully squeeze the cable release and review my shot in the LCD panel on the back of my camera.

That’s it! It’s fun and satisfying to make those photos you always wanted to make. Check out the images I made in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Glacier National Park. Enjoy!

Bill Fortney has been an NPS member since 1975.

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