Tech Info: Nikon D300s with Nikkor 50mm lens, f/8 at ISO 200 for 2s
This was the last shot taken during my recent visit to Yosemite. The view is from the parking lot. During my next visit, will take the short hike up to get a much closer view.
About this falls: Bridalveil is 188 metres (617 ft) tall and is the only waterfall that flows throughout the year in this park. All the other falls in the park peak during late spring when all the snow has melted away and taper down during the summer, coming close to non-existent. This is one though continues, but of course with varying speed. It is said to peak during late spring, but the view certainly didn’t seem like it wasn’t at its peak. I can only imagine how it would be during late spring when its in full flow.
About this shot: It was mid-day and the light was pretty harsh. Usually cloudy conditions give out a very diffused light, but sometimes the clouds open up and make way for the harsh light. This was one of those moments. In order to get motion for the water flow, I used a filter Hoya NDX400 which cuts down the light reaching the camera’s sensor by 9 stops. Since my filter thread size was for my wide angle lens (77mm), I had to hand-hold this for the smaller 50mm lens. Processing was the usual one too; some contrast adjustment using levels and then resized for the web use.
What are filters? In short they are like sun shades we use for our own eyes. They cut down the light, minimize polarization etc. There are quite a lot of filters available and each has its specific use. They come either in square/rectangular shape which needs some holder to place them in front of the lens, or circular shaped which directly screw-on to the lens. This particular filter (Hoya NDX400) is a dark circular shaped one. Its so dark that if you screw-it on the lens, you literally can’t see anything in the viewfinder. You have to compose the scene before and then screw this on.
How does this filter help here? In order to show any kind of motion in pictures, you would need a slow shutter speed. As the lighting conditions fade for the human eye, its very good to capture motion in waterfalls. My first experience was during the yellowstone trip and you can read about those 2 shots here and here. For those 2 shots, I didn’t have to use any filters to get the motion for water as the ambient light was good enough to give me a slow shutter speed. Here since it was pretty high during the day I had to put something which will cut down the light and hence this NDX400 filter usage. It cuts down by 9 stops and thats quite a lot in reduction thereby getting slow shutter speeds. I’m in love with this filter and I’m always looking for its usage 🙂
If you are buying filters, don’t go for the cheap ones. I do have some cheap ones and suffer from the loss of quality in the images. So it does help to get the best ones and they can cost a bit. But like most say “You get what you pay for” is very true in this case.
Update: Here is a shot of the same view without the Hoya NDX400 filter where the water of the falls doesn’t depict any motion, but rather frozen in time due to the fast shutter speed.