Blurring Water

An interesting question came cruising through the blog a few days ago.  While the submitter wished to remain anonymous (I asked them if I could share the details, which I always do to encourage any and all questions)…the details of the answer follow here today.  You see, what this person wanted to do was capture an image that included several challenging elements…including windy conditions, early (and late) light, moving water, and a deep need for detail from front to rear.

Without going into more detail, here’s basically what the shooter wants:

  1. High depth of field to capture detail (which requires a high aperture setting (f16 or f11)
  2. High shutter speed to freeze the leaf movement in the trees
  3. Blurred water

If you know anything about the exposure triangle (which we’ve talked about here before – shutter, aperture and ISO), then you know that any hopes of blurring the water with simple exposure adjustments is almost impossible.  WHile it can be done, the result will require post processing because at some point you will need to have a shutter speed where it’s long enough to blur the water.  There are some steps you can take in camera though – through ND filters.

ND Filters (Neutral Density) are basically light stoppers – they cut the amount of light that hits your sensor.  From anywhere by 50% to almost 100% (Check out the Wikipedia chart here for specifics).  You can stack them to net a greater effect (some of the dark ones are pretty expensive).

Even with the ND filters though, the end result will be blur in the water (wanted) and blur in the trees (not wanted).  So, some work is needed in your post processing.  I’ll propose two ways here:

Method #1

Overlay multiple images in Photoshop – Take several bracketed exposures and overlay the parts you want of each image to show through.  You can use the Mask tool to do this.  The problem here is that it can be tedious and time consuming to get things just right.

Method #2

The other way would be to take one image into Photoshop and use the blur tool or some other equivalent plugin (of which there are several), where you can selectively blur the area of the photo where you want it (but always do this on a duplicate layer or duplicate copy – never do this on the originals)…

Kind of a detailed post for a Friday, but one that I thought would be worth sharing regardless.  Did I miss something else?  If you have any other ideas that may be helpful, feel free to sound off in the comments with them as many brains are better than one!  Anyway, as we head into the weekend, there are just a few blog notes to let you know about:

    • The Topaz/Thinktank Contest has concluded, and I am waiting to hear from the vendors on who the lucky winner will be, so thanks in advance for your patience.
    • The October Contest is now under way!  We’ve got a very exciting contest from the folks at Noiseware – makers of the famous Noise Ninja software.  This software is fabulous at reducing noise in your images.  I’ve reviewed this in the past here on the blog, so feel free to peruse the archives for that review.  Why is it exciting though?  Because they are giving away TWO copies of the software – so we’re going to split this one up – one will be given away this month, and another at some yet to be determined point in the future.  The thread is now up in the Flickr Community – so feel free to start sharing your images there.  The theme this month:  Fall
    • Last but not least, a question for the readership – I am putting the final touches on something new and exciting that is coming out very soon for blog readers, but I am wondering if there is enough interest in doing something else as well – a forum!  I know, there’s tons of forums on the web, but I have literally connected dozens and dozens of people with similar needs and interests through the blog and podcast, and thought that CB might be in need of a community where participants and readers can share with one another.  There would also be areas to discuss recent podcasts, to share websites, and other useful online resources with one another – and who knows what more.  The first step though would be in setting it up – but to do that requires just a smidge of work.  The question is – is there enough interest?  So, sound off in the comments, let me know if you would like to see that happen!

      Okay, well this post has turned out to be much longer than I had anticipated, so let me stop rambling now.  Hope your weekend is great, and we’ll see you back here on Monday (hopefully with the new announcement to share)!  Happy shooting and we’ll see you then!

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