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Best Lens for Waterfalls

edited July 2014 Posted in » Nikon D5100 Forum
I'm going on vacation to an area that has quite a few waterfalls and want to capture their beauty. I know I need my tripod and a neutral density filter. The only ND filters I have are the 52-55mm ND4, and a 52mm 0.6 ND filter. Will either of these work? The biggest question of all is which lens do I use? I have my Nikon kit 18-55mm, Nikon 50mm f/1.8 and Nikon 55-200mm. What do you recommend? Should I get a different ND filter? Thanks in advance!

Comments

  • edited July 2014
    In general, capturing awesome waterfall shots requires a combination of:
    - Low ISO
    - Slow shutter speed
    - Small aperture

    You can use whichever one of your 3 lenses for this. It depends on what kind of composition and field of view you want. Do note that the minimum aperture for your 50mm prime is just f/16 while the other 2 go to f/22. So you may want to stick with your kit and tele zoom if you decide you need to stop down past f/16.

    Whether or not your ND filter is sufficient depends on how bright it is and how slow you want your shutter.

    Assuming you want to slow your shutter to 1/4 sec, your ND4 filter may not be sufficient when the sun is at its highest with no cloud cover. Using the Sunny 16 Rule, you’ll need to use ISO 100, 1/4 sec, and f/20.2 with a ND16 filter.

    But of course, you can simply choose to shoot under cloud cover or during a different time of the day, or you can try a faster shutter speed.
  • Thanks so much for the information. I definitely want the fuzzy water look. Most of the falls are in pretty shady areas, so hopefully my ND4 will be sufficient.
  • Remember that if you use a tripod you will not need either a filter or a tiny aperture (you may want to check for diffraction at highest F numbers).
  • edited July 2014
    Hey @bruto, I think he’s looking for that moving-water effect which means a slow shutter. If combined with a large aperture without an ND filter, it’ll likely lead to over-exposure. The tripod is necessary to stabilize the camera, but won’t really help much with the exposure.

    Assuming an overcast day where optimal exposure based on Sunny 16 would be ISO 100, 1/125, and f/5.6, then slowing the shutter 5-stops to 1/4 sec (just an arbitrary speed which I think creates a nice moving water effect) means stopping down the aperture 5 stops to f/32. Since minimum aperture is f/22, an ND filter is indeed necessary.

    But like I said, he may choose to shoot under different lighting or use a faster shutter to negate the need for a stronger ND filter (or the need for one altogether). It may be possible to get the shot without a tripod and ND filter. It all depends on the lighting and how strong you want the motion effect.
  • edited July 2014
    I think I was having a brain cramp there, forgetting that although a tripod allows very long exposure time, you still need to lower the EV enough to use it. So yes, a filter.
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