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Old Jan 6, 2012, 3:22 PM   #1
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Default New here, and with a "noob" question...

Hey All,

So I recently picked up a Canon T3i, and I'm loving it.

However, the other day, I was outside at a local stream and I ran into something that just perplexed me. I was trying to get one of those "blurry water running down the stream but everything else is in focus" shots. So, I turned the shutter-speed way down, and cranked the F-stop. I believe the first settings were 15 seconds at f/36. Well, needless to say, the whole image washed out. So I brought the shutter-speed down, notch by notch, and the image only started to not wash out when it was all the way down to 1 second at f/36. So there I was, quite confused at how I could actually get the shot I wanted. At 1 second shutter-speed, there wasn't nearly enough blur on the water for my liking, and any slower would wash out the image completely. I already had the aperture as closed as it would go, too, so I was stumped. Do any of you have any suggestions on how to remedy this problem? The settings I used are below:

Mode: Tv
W/B: Daylight
F-stop: f/36
SS: 15"-1.4" (washed out), 1" (not as washed out, but not blurry enough)
Lens: Kit 18-55
ISO: 100

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Old Jan 6, 2012, 4:19 PM   #2
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If you try to use a shutter speed that's too slow for the aperture, ISO speed and lighting, you're going to see overexposed (too bright) images, which is what was causing your washed out look.

Also, you're going to start seeing image degradation from diffraction once you start stopping down the aperture much more than around f/16 (f/32 is going to be softer). For best results (contrast and sharpness in the areas you want to be sharp), you'll want to keep the aperture set to around 2 or 3 stops down from wide open (for example, around f/8 on it's wider end, or around f/11 on it's longer end). But, as long as you keep it set to around f/16 or wider, you'll probably get relatively sharp images.

But, you don't want to overexpose the images either. Use your camera's meter as a guide and make sure you have correct exposure.

If you want slower shutter speeds for a given lighting, aperture and ISO speed, get a Neutral Density Filter (a.k.a., NDF) to block some of the light. They're designed for that type of photography (to block some light in conditions where you may want to have blurred water but the rest of the image still sharp -- using a tripod of course)

More about Neutral Density Filters here:


Your kit lens uses a 58mm filter size. I'd probably stick to one of the thinner filter types to reduce any vignetting you may see at wider focal lengths. Also, if you ever needed to stack more than one filter to block even more light, using ultra thin types to reduce vignetting would be a good idea.

If you really want shutter speeds even slower than you were seeing at f/32, something like this one (multi-coated NDF that's ultra thin to reduce vignetting) would give you a full 5 stop reduction (where you'd get the same shutter speeds at f/11 as you would get if you were able to use f/64 for the same ISO speed and lighting without the filter, and you could stop your lens down even more for even slower shutter speeds if really necessary):


Here's a 4 stop model for a bit less (which may be more practical, since you need to keep in mind that your Autofocus ability may suffer if you use a filter that's too dark in less than optimum lighting, because the AF sensors may not see enough light to focus). The Hoya Pro filters like these tend to review well, and I'd avoid cheaper filters (Tiffen, etc.), as you can degrade image quality if you're not using good filters (for example flare related issue due to light reflecting in between the filter and lens optical elements).

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Old Jan 6, 2012, 5:57 PM   #3
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My guess is the lighting was pretty bright... and the water reflects a great deal of light also. You also don't need as much exposure time as many think for the "smokey" effect- especially if the water is running pretty quickly.
If you cannot step down the aperture enough at your required shutter speed(say 1-2 secs) then you'll need a Neutral Density filter. Basically it's a filter that reduces the amount of light coming into the camera- and is available in a variety of strengths.
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Old Jan 6, 2012, 6:53 PM   #4
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Here's what I have, gets the job done. Reduces light by 6 stops.

Steve Owen.
Cameras: Canon G12, and A1200. Sony DSC-H90. Fuji HS35EXR.
"A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words".

Last edited by Steve40; Jan 6, 2012 at 6:58 PM.
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