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Old 22-03-2012, 01:56   #1 (permalink)
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What am I doing wrong?

This evening I was at a local pond with some natural waterfalls and I was hoping to take some different kinds of shots than I'm used to. I have read a lot about exposures because I'm going to antelope canyon in a week and would love to get some amazing shots. So today I was taking pictures of a sunset over the water with a reflection. I wanted a long shutter speed like 5-10 seconds to start off with and just go from there getting longer as I went. The problem was all I got was a white picture. I know that if I lengthen the shutter speed then I need to change the iso and f stop. I couldn't even get past 2 seconds without it being all white. I set my iso at 200 ad my f stop at f 22. Everything I've read made it sound simple which leads me to believe I'm doing something wrong. I did have a tripod invade that matters. I did the same thing with the water fall and when I zoomed in a little I could get to f 29 and f 36. I don't know of this is too big of a number or not. But the pictures came out a little better, I still couldnt get passed 3 seconds though and it's making me worried that I'll get to the canyon and ruin a once in a life time opportunity. Please help me. Much appreciated
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Old 22-03-2012, 07:59   #2 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

To get a long shutter exposure shot you need to have relatively dark conditions - either naturally (cloudy, dark shadows, darkness, etc) or using artificial means by sticking on a filter.

The filter used is often an ND Grad (Neutral Density, Graduated) or ND - personally, for years I never used anything beyond a CP (Circular Polariser which'll drop exposure by two stops) for waterfalls but occasionally now use an ND Fader (a variable ND filter, allowing between 2-8 stops). So your answer to your immediate problem is a filter of some sort (or shorter shutters!)

Having said all that, I believe Antelope Canyon is relatively dark so you may not need any form of additional filter - but, TBH, I didn't know there was moving water there!

My recommendation is to search the internet for images of the Canyon with a view to, hopefully, seeing what exposures other people have used
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Old 22-03-2012, 08:21   #3 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

basically what mark says, its all about the amount of light you let in to the camera, if there is too much ambient light in the first place you are limiting your shutter length before you do anything else.
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Old 22-03-2012, 09:24   #4 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

I'm wondering why you wanted to use such a long exposure at sunset. I can only think that the foreground was very dark but the sun was still visible.

Dynamic range is limited on a camera. The human eye can see much more of a dynamic range. If this is the issue you will have to use a tripod and bracket your exposures so that you have all of the bases covered. This might mean having 5 or more exposures. Then you have to blend them using software to give a balanced picture.

If you wanted the long exposure to blur moving water you should be able to get this using the same technique but with fewer exposures. However, in the processing you might have to mask the water in some of the shots to allow the movement to show.
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Old 22-03-2012, 11:27   #5 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Like most photograhers I have taken many sunsets (and even a few sunrises). Any image that has the sun in it (even if very low in the sky) or a reflection of the sun will be quite light and you should not need to be using exposures of several seconds. I have just randomly checked a sample and the exposures were typically betweem 1/10 S and 1/125 S at f4 to f8 range all with an ISO of 100. I did use a tripod and also used exposure bracketing so taking at least 3 exposures two stops apart with Raw. In most cases I probably used HDR software but you could just use separate layers in photoshop and combine.

While I make a decision on exposure and use manual settings for sunsets, if a low red sun is in the picture, you may actually find that an autoexposure setting will not be that far out.


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Old 22-03-2012, 11:59   #6 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

You're going the right way to get a longer exposure. But as has been said you can't push it too far.

To ensure you get a roughly correct setting set your ISO to as low as it will go, set your required aperture, and put the camera to it's aperture priority mode. This will in most cases give you a correct exposure time. With your digital you can take a quick shot (or bracket) and see. This will avoid the white image.

To get a longer exposure time increase the F number eg from F8 to F16. Also as Mark suggested filters such as ND's/Polarisors will help add longer time if you wish. With these you can still meter through the lens in AV mode. If you have graduated ND's then you have to meter different for them.
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Old 22-03-2012, 13:21   #7 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

The effect I wanted was to smooth the ripples in the water because I sply wanted to try it out to help better my understanding on exposures. Today I am going to get a polarizing filter and a neutral density filter for my lens. Do you think this will help me?? And would it be less difficult to do this of just the pond with out the bright sun/sunset? And any suggestions on settings, techniques, and/or tips for long exposures in antelope canyon? That is if you have ever taken pictures there before.
Thank you
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Old 22-03-2012, 16:47   #8 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

To smooth the water it will be less difficult without the light. The faster the ripples - the easier they are to smooth ( blur ).

I've never been there, though am wondering why you are wanting a long shutter speed. (I believe the canyon is dry). I would recommend a tripod. Set your Nikon to whatever there equivalent is to AV (I use a Cannon )...I googled it....

Aperture Priority Auto - A

In this mode you select the aperture and the camera will calculate the correct shutter speed depending on metered exposure, exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity. Aperture is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and on the top LCD, turn the command dial to select different apertures. The exact range of apertures depends on the lens used.


Shoot your shot (set ISO to it's lowest (200 for you I think)). Review your image / histogram - adjust the EV + / - as necessary. Looking at other images taken there should be ok with what the camera meters on most ( and certainly by checking the image you should be able to adjust ). You could always autobracket the shots. Oh and shoot in RAW - you'll have a bigger room for error with that as you can adjust a bit later on the PC.
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Old 22-03-2012, 16:51   #9 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

I would also recommend on your canyon trip you try to not use the highest numbered F numbers - F29 F32 - as I suspect your lens will start to soften at those apertures. Try F11 - F22.
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Old 22-03-2012, 17:22   #10 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Okay thanks! And the reason for the long exposures is because reading a lot on how some people got great shots with unique light, they said it is best
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Old 22-03-2012, 19:23   #11 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

I did not understand from your first post that you were trying for blurred water. For this you will need a neutral density filter and can thus use long exposure on a tripod but do not use aperture settings above f16 as diffraction will seriously reduce image quality. I do not think a pond is ideal for smooth water effects but a fast flowing river/stream, waterfall or the sea are good.

I have not been to Antelope Canyon but have seen many photographs and would certainly take multiple exposures and use HDR techniques as the dynamic range is very high for some of the most well known shots.

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Old 28-03-2012, 21:46   #12 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

No luck. I still can't get long shutterspeeds. It is full light outside(as it will be in the canyon) have a neutral density filter on my lens and it still won't work for me. I tried all sorts of settings ad no luck.
10 seconds
20 f stop
200 iso (this I did not change at any point)
And wb cloudy

5 seconds
Both 22 & 36 f stops (the 36 was just to see if it would work. I don't plan on using that f stop)
200 iso
Sunny wb

3 seconds
22 f stop
200 iso
And every wb I had

I Was within 10 feet if a red brick wall, focused in on a zoomed in section, and had my tripod tightened so there wouldn't be any shaking. I tried this with and without a visor for the lens( I don't know what it is really called) and I tried it with me pushing the button to take the picture, putting it on a time delay, using a remote, and using a remote with a time delay. I can't even figure out what I'm doing wrong. Any help you can give would be deeply appreciated. Thanks for listening hope to hear back soon
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Old 28-03-2012, 21:47   #13 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

And the reason for the long shutter speed is because it helps capture the unique and beautiful rays of sunlight that make it into the canyon. I would also like to use it for waterfalls and such.
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Old 29-03-2012, 07:39   #14 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

try less than a second, although it doesnt sond a particularly long shutter speed compared to what you are trying in light terms it is.
with neutral density, what number did you get as they are all graded differently depending on dense they are, you can stack them to make them darker, i prefer the cokin ones for ease of use, u can easily use a 2, 4, and 8, stacked and still not acheive the effect if done in bright sunlight.
its all about experimenting until you get the right setting, its ni on impossible for someone to give you settings that will work even if they have been in the same place, as every day will be different depending on where you are the lighting the time of day etc.
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Old 29-03-2012, 08:08   #15 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Another thing to try is to get a shot that is exposed OK. nothing fancy - just a regular ordinary picture that looks OK. Note the settings and use these as a base to work out how to maintain this exposure with longer shutter speeds. For instance if your OK picture is 1/250 at f8, 1/125 at f16 will give you the same exposure, as will 1/60 at f32.

Neutral density filters are commonly rated/marked as 0.6x, 0.9x, 1.0x, 2.0x, or 3.0x. Each will indicate how many stops of light it will reduce going into your camera. So taking the 2.0x filter, it will remove 2 stops of light from ambient and to maintain the correct exposure that was 1/125 at f8 with no filter becomes 1/125 at f4 or 1/30 at f8 to give the same correctly exposed picture.

When you try different settings it is important to do it in a methodical way, not just taking pot luck with different shutter speeds and aperture settings. You will also have to use the lowest ISO that you can. You say you used 200 ISO, but if your camera can go to 50 ISO that is two stops down straight away, so the 1/30 at f8 is now around 1/8 at f8.

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Old 29-03-2012, 08:46   #16 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

All images require a certain amount of light in order to be correctly exposed. There are three variables that can be altered to get the required amount - aperture, shutter speed and ISO. ISO alters the sensitivity of the sensor, so if its less sensitive it needs less light, but the image quality gets worse the less sensitive you set it (high ISO).
Now if you imagine that the correct amount of light is like putting water into a bucket. The aperture is the diameter of the hose, the shutter speed is the rate of flow. You can have either a very big bore hose and a slow trickle of water for longer, ot a very narrow hose and forceful jet for a short period, both will fill the bucket to the same point. You cant just leave the shutter open for seconds even with a tiny aperture and expect to get a correctly exposed image, unless your working in very low light levels.
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Old 29-03-2012, 13:48   #17 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Definitely try Grahams advice.

It is also why I suggested you use A mode. That will give you a rough shutter speed. If in full light and with a lowest ISO of 200 you'll struggle to get seconds of exposure even at a high f-stop.

Unless you use a 10 Stop ND filter it will likely be near the second mark at the most. Even with a 10 Stop in good light you may not reach much longer.

Oh - and your white balance make no difference to the shutter time. Only the colour tone of the shot.
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Old 29-03-2012, 14:26   #18 (permalink)
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Re: What am I doing wrong?

Okay thank you guys very much, when i get home I'll see what type of Nd filter I have.
Thanks for the advice!
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