Devils Bridge Waterfall

Devils Bridge Falls Long Exposure.

There’s something very satisfying about getting a long exposure shot of a waterfall. Capturing the essence of the water flow isn’t that hard, but the difference it makes to the result is infinite.

To get a correctly exposed photograph, you need to control three elements:

  • Shutter speed (how long the shutter is open)
  • ISO (sensitivity of the sensor)
  • Aperature (how big the hole is to let the light in)

These all act together in a balanced way. If you change one of the components, you’d need to change one or two of the others to get the same photograph.

For a long exposure shot, you’re trying and keep the shutter open as long as possible (i.e. changing the shutter speed). 

For almost all photographs, a minimum shutter speed range is needed (either a fraction of a second or a couple of seconds), assuming you keep the same ISO. Cameras are therefore designed not to be able to cope will long exposure shots like this – to do so would massively increase the cost of the gear, with a small number of users utilising it.

To get around this limitation, you need an extra bit of kit in the form of a Neutral Density filter (ND Filter). 

Neutral Density Filters for Long Exposure

Hoya 77mm HMC NDX400 Filter

These handy little bits of kit are similar to very dark sunglasses you’d wear to reduce the sun in extreme environments. They’re entirely neutral in colour, so they don’t tint the photo, but they seriously limit the amount of light coming into the sensor.

Keeping the ISO and the aperture the same to get a correctly exposed shot will increase the shutter speed needed to a much higher time.

The downside of using ND Filters is you can’t use the viewfinder to get the photo; they’re too dark to be able to see anything.

How to Set Up A Long Exposure Shot of a Waterfall

So the steps you need to take are:

  1. Set the camera on a tripod, find your desired shot, and focus.
  2. Set the aperture to whatever (I usually leave it on 4) and the ISO to the lowest you can go (usually 100).
  3. Switch the camera to Bulb mode (so you can control the shutter manually).
  4. Switch off the autofocus (the camera will try and focus when you press the shutter release and probably go out of focus).
  5. Add the manual trigger to the camera.
  6. Very carefully, add the ND Filter to the front of the lens.
  7. Release the shutter for a few seconds and see what the preview is like. 
  8. Continue doing this until you’ve got the shot you want. All the literature I’ve read says it’s better to have a slightly overexposed photo than an underexposed one, as it’s easier to reduce the exposure in PhotoShop.

I mentioned very carefully adding the neutral density filter. It’s fiddly getting the filter onto the end of the lens, and you want to avoid dropping it as it’s fragile, and I’ve found you’re usually in a place you’ll never get it back. Devil’s Bridge was the perfect example; once it’s gone, it’s gone.

If you’ve zoomed in as well to your subject, pushing the filter onto the end of the lens will move you out of focus. If it’s slightly out of focus, you’re unlikely to spot this until you get home unless you review your preview with a fine-tooth comb – which is doable but not always practicable, given the circumstances.

You can get different types of ND Filter, such as the Lee filter system, which attaches to the camera in another way. I’ve found these are even more expensive, and you still need to spend time setting it all up, so, in the end, it’s not much more straightforward.

Issues With Long Exposure Photography

The most significant three issues I’ve found trying to get these shots are:

  1. Time – it takes maybe five minutes to get the picture you want. As you can’t preview what you’ll get, it’s trial and error along with the setup.
  2. People – five minutes at a beauty spot is a long time when other people try to see the same thing as you. The equipment needs to be perfectly still, and it’s likely to get knocked out of place if the area is busy.
  3. Kit – a DSLR and a decent tripod are heavy. Lugging these around 675 steps or 300ft drop, then 300ft climb can be quite a workout routine, and you’ll need to consider the weather and the environment you’re in. I seriously ached the next day after carrying this around Devil’s Bridge.

Can you Get Long Exposure Shots on an iPhone?

It’s possible you can as long as you’ve got a tripod, an app that lets you control shutter timings and the ability to add in a neutral density filter, then yes. Have I done it? No.

Devils Bridge Waterfall With iPhone

The above image is the one I took next to my camera with my iPhone as is. I use a DSLR. The equipment has dropped massively in price since I bought it. For instance, the ND Filter was 99 quid, but it’s 37 now. I’ve included a kit list below.

The Full Devils Bridge Long Exposure Photo

Below is the full version of the Devil’s Bridge Falls, long exposure. I liked the foreground blur too of the plants. The settings for this shot were:

  • Aperture: f7.1 (this was picked fairly randomly as I wasn’t trying to get any specific depth of field).
  • ISO: 100
  • Exposure: 20 Seconds
  • Focal Length: 67mm
Full Devils Bridge Waterfall Long Exposure

Devils Bridge Falls Long Exposure Conclusion

With the suitable kit, and a bit of planning (time and weather), it’s straightforward to get stunning long-exposure shots. Before heading into the wild, it’s best to get used to how your camera works, maybe by setting it all up in the garden and trying some long-exposure shots of the clouds.

If you’ve got any exciting photography projects, get in touch now with Experience Photography.

Long Exposure Gear

The tripod and tripod head (yes, you need to buy TWO things for pro gear) are the updated versions of the ones I’ve got. They’re bulletproof. You can get a carbon fibre version to save on weight, but it doubles the price.

Video of Waterfall at Devil’s Bridge

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