By Scott Shephard
If you read my 1-line tease about Charlie Brown, the answer is a Zamboni machine. (Cf. "Charlie Brown Christmas"). But, of course, this blog has nothing to do with Zambonis. In fact, I'm back to a recurring subject: Iron Creek. But today, rather than apologizing for my rundancy, I'm going to get technical, largely because my Facebook friend Paul H. asked how a photographer gets water to look this way. In the case of this photo, which I took earlier today, there are four important ingredients.
First, you need moving water. This may seem obvious but the streams in the Black Hills, including this one, usually have little more than a trickle moving through them. All of the rain over the last two weeks have resulted in a state of flow that I haven't seen in the 20 years I've been trying to photograph this generally placid subject.
Second, you need a camera on a solid tripod. Why? Because to get the blur, you need a sloooowwww shutter speed. This photo has a shutter speed of 1.5 seconds. Three or four would be better but. . .
Third, you need to either A) take the photograph in fairly dim light or B) have a good neutral density filter to act kind of like sunglasses for your camera. Why? Because even with an aperture of f22 (very small), a 1.5 second exposure is all my camera would allow. (I left my very cool variable ND filter at the cabin this morning.) There was just too much light.
Finally, (but somewhat optionally) you need to take three or more bracketed exposures and the combine them in software. This results in an HDR (High dynamic ranger) photo. I used three exposures for this photo: 1 was 2 stops underexposed, 1 was exposured properly, and 1 was 2 stop overexposed. Why? Three photos combined can cover the dynamic range (very dark to very dark) better than one.
Beyond all of the above, I did some other things that resulted in this image. Is the photo "real?" Don't get me started on this topic. But I will say, "Yes, it's real." It's as real as my fear of big, hairy spiders and my love of coffee without sugar and cream.
If you read this far, you should consider joining us this summer for the Black Hills Photo Adventure, which will no doubt change your life (for the better). There are 6 signed up, which means that there is room for you.
Canon 5DIII 1.5s f/22.0 ISO100 21mm
Here are the three images I combined for today's featured photo. And I threw in another photo I made this morning (which is the result of five bracketed exposures.)