No ND Filter – No Problem

In Tips and Tricks by Patrick

Water has always fascinated me. It moves where it wills and often has a life all its own. I love the photographs that show that silky smooth water moving among rocks, rivers and falls. Recently I read about a technique that would allow you to get this look without a neutral density filter, any time of day and even handheld. Until I discovered this technique, the ways that we could have the desired look was to lower our ISO, close down our lens to its smallest aperture, add a neutral density filter (up to 16 stops in some cases), or work with a combination of these with the goal of slowing down that shutter speed to smooth the water. All of these are valid options to create that soft blur look, but often it still takes a little adjusting to get things balanced the way you want. Intrigued? Here is how its done.

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This is the original shot captured with one click from the Nikon D4s. The water is frozen and the picture is like a million other shots of static water. This technique that I learned is as simple as turning on the multiple exposures in the camera and pressing the shutter. Many cameras like the Canon’s, Nikons, and Sony’s have this function and it is usually in the shooting menu. There are a couple sub-settings as you drill down that will be helpful to set to obtain a good result. First, set the number of frames to combine to the highest number. I use 10 for my final image. In the Nikon models you also have the option of single or series. I like this technique so much that I created a shortcut to it in my menu.So here is the technique.

  • Take a test shot to set your exposure
  • Frame up the composition that you want
  • Set your focus and turn the AF off
  • Set the desired aperture
  • Set your camera to continuous high
  • Press the shutter
  • That is it! Super simple and easy to do even in bright sunlight. You can do this on a tripod or handheld, but a tripod works best. Give it a try and see what you come up with.

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