How To Tuesday #29 Understanding Shutter Speed: From Cotton Candy to Frozen Droplets! / by Zack Smith

In this week's How to Tuesday Photography Techniques and Tips, we will splash into a better understanding of the effects of different shutters speeds on moving water. I recently spent a short weekend in the beautiful hills of Brevard, North Carolina shooting a wedding. On my way back I went the long way (duh!) and made a pass through Henderson County to the Dupont State Recreational Forest. There I hiked the .3 miles to Triple Falls Waterfall, one of six beautiful waterfalls on this sprawling nature preserve. What better way to show you the effects of how shutter speed effects a moving object than with a study on a waterfall! 

Recommended Gear for Long Exposure Landscape Photography.

1. A good Tripod with Detachable Plate (read more about these in HTT23)

2. An Intervolometer so you can be "hands free"

3. Notepad or app (Evernote is great for this) for taking notes

4. Circular Polarizers and/or Neutral Density Filters

Faster Shutter Speed - Frozen Motion

Think of a faster shutter speed as you hear a quick click of the shutter...."SNAP"! - Faster shutter speeds, as you know, are all relative...but in this context we we are talking about 1/80th of a second, 1/125, 1/250. After that the water really looks the same - you really do reach diminishing returns on the shutter speed effect after a certain point. 

1/500 - Fast Shutter Speed Freezes the Action
1/80 of a second Shutter Speed Freezes the Action but there's plenty of motion

Slower Shutter Speed - More Motion

This one is always easy to remember, and I like to think of a slow shutter speed as a making a "mini-movie". The reels are spinning, and it's time for nature to act...Lights, Camera, Action! Here is the metadata on some different slow shutter speeds and the effects it has on water. Remember, the camera MUST be stabilized to see the true effects, or your entire image will be shaky. 

1.6 Seconds gives a great soft water where the movement is greater, at the bottom
30 seconds is SLOW! You start to notice soft water beds and the cotton candy effect!
Here's another 30 second exposure - I just love how the water has that 'soft' effect! Give it a try this summer!