Last spring we had over 12 inches of rain in the Hill Country the month before the Texas Landscape Safari. This year’s forecast looks a bit more like hard drought and there’s been little rain since the beginning of the year. But don’t you fret one bit. The Texas Hill Country is still an incredibly beautiful place even during the worst of droughts.
In fact, some of my best images were taken back in late 2009 when the region was experiencing the worst drought in a decade. The shot below is a great example of what we can expect from this year’s Texas Landscape Safari.
I love taking long exposures using the Singh-Ray Vari-ND neutral density filter. This wonderful little device is an absolute miracle worker when it comes to long exposures and is worth every penny of it’s $340 (USD) price. You turn the filter element to the “min” setting to compose and focus and then to the “max” setting to take your shots.
Singh-Ray also offers this in a version called the Vari-ND-Duo which includes a built-in circular polarizer and the Vari-ND-Trio which includes a built-in circular polarizer and color enhancer. Whatever model you choose, no other neutral density filter comes close to the functionality of this little beauty.
Quiet Falls – Pedernales Falls State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM tripod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 47mm, f/11 for 8 seconds using a Singh-Ray Vari-ND neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.
Click on the image above for a larger version.
How to Get This Type of Shot
- The key to this shot is the long exposure (greater than 1 second) that creates the smooth, silky look of the flowing water. You have two choices in how to achieve the long exposure; a) use a very small aperture like f/22 or b) use a neutral density filter. Given the the fact that small apertures can create diffraction blur I tend to use a neutral density filter whenever possible.
- A good sturdy tripod is a must in a situation like this. Even the best image stabilization offered today can’t prevent blur in a shutter speed over 1 second. I prefer Gitzo carbon-fiber tripods because of their light weight and vibration damping characteristics. They’re a bit pricey but last a lifetime.
- A final key for this type of shot is setting your camera’s long exposure noise reduction to “ON”. Long exposure noise reduction is a great little technology that eliminates noise in exposures over 1 second by taking two exposures; one with the shutter open and one with the shutter closed. These two exposures are then compared and any digital noise found (usually in the shadow areas) in the first exposure that is not present in the second exposure is “subtracted” from the final image. A neat little trick that almost completely eliminates any noise from your image.