I scouted a spot on the river I wanted to shoot the other day. Went back yesterday afternoon with Leslie, lugging the tripod and a backpack full of gear. It is a nice little spot where the river takes an abrupt divot. I almost missed the poison oak, got a little on my stomach. The water flows over the rocks pretty quickly at this location right now and I thought it would be a nice spot for a long exposure, the slowing technique that gives you the silky water look that photographers dig.
This untouched shot was a fifteen second exposure at ƒ16, iso 64. Nikon D850 with Nikkor 24 -70, 24mm, a b&w c.p and a Breakthrough 10-stop nd filter.
It isn't easy necessarily. You first take a baseline shot without the filters and ascertain proper, normal exposure, than apply a loose formula for the neutral density filter adding time per filter stop. You focus as best as you can and then screw in your filters which invariably causes you to lose some focus again with lens drift. Because you can't see what you have captured in the viewfinder at this point.
I took quite a few shots at different speeds and aperture, from ƒ8 to ƒ22 and up to thirty seconds. Because the sun was stage right, I went up in the aperture (down?) to see if I could grab and play with some sun rays. I did not. But they all are basically unusable, for several reasons.
I had wanted to get the shot in the morning, with the eastern sun behind me and it was late afternoon. The sun was low in the sky to my right, creating uneven color in the sky and undue brightness on the right side of the sky. Would have preferred the sun behind me. There is also some sun flare evident in the shadows right.
Now I could certainly lift them but shadows do occur and there is something unnatural about revealing every detail of a scene in natural darkness.
One must use judgement and a light hand.
An even bigger problem is wind. Wind is the mortal enemy of the long exposure, hence the moving branches top left.
I did lop off a few twig shots on this vertical portrait shot to the left. I lightened the shadows too much, do you see how flat and chalky the oak shadow to your right looks?
One more problem I should mention, the circular polarizer filter. These invaluable tools remove glare and increase saturation, very helpful for water. But they are optimally used at a direction of 90° to the sun, my scene is near straight on.
In addition the filter fits under the nd so even though in normal usage you can twist it to find the best angle, it is practically impossible when under a pitch dark neutral density filter, hence the uneven sky tones here. Well, that and the sun.