I hope this the right forum, but I am shooting a family portrait on Sunday, the backdrop is a live waterfall with rocks. I want to make sure that the family (party of 15) is tack sharp "along" with the background.. Should I be focusing on the shutter speed, when shooting in manual. I am thinking on a higher shutter would accomplish that, but when using my SB900's the highest speed I can achieve is 1/250th.... I plan on shooting with my D3 body, 17-35mm lens, 2-3 SB900 (if needed)... The shoot is for 7 in the early evening, hopeing for a cloudy sky....
Thank you for giving me things to think about..... The most important thing to me is the faces to to be in focus and tack sharp....I originally wanted the waterfall sharp and not soft, I am thinking this would make the photo "pop" more... I would using Nikon ClS,. I was visioning place a flash directly behind the party, facing the waterfalls, and the other two on the right and left at an angle... They have already told me that they want at a minimum a 16x20 print and maybe as large as a 20x30...
It will still be somewhat daylight at the time of the shoot, so the waterfall and rocks will have natural light, as the spot is open with no tree to block the light...
My intent is to use my SS-SU800 to trigger the flashes, but not knowing if the one behind the group would trigger, because of its location behind the group, I have my Pocket Wizards TT1to trigger the TT5's attached to the flashes...
For one thing, flash of any sort is going to tend to freeze the water. I've used flash in a (small) waterfall to get droplets in mid-air. Can't get much more frozen than that. For another, 1/250th is going to freeze almost any waterfall by itself. I dunno about Niagra Falls, which is pretty fast water, but certainly something like Bridalveil Falls or Yosemite Falls in the winter will stop at 1/250th. Next, you can use 1/8000th shutter speed with flashes if you turn on high speed sync (FP mode on the flashes).
Finally, the way I'd shoot this is totally different. I'd do two exposures. I'd shoot the family the way you want. On a tripod. Then let them go, and immediately shoot the background, complete with classic silky waterfall effect. I'd use the same aperture as the portrait, so using an ND filter to get the shutter speed down to the silky waterfall speed is probably a necessity. And then - gasp - I'd merge the two frames in Photoshop.
_____ Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!
While a waterfall appears like a nice, solid background they actually have a lot of holes in them.
A nice, sharp, frozen-in-time photo of a waterfall will have a lot of detail. Detail that is distracting from your original intent to take photos of whatever is covering up that interesting detail. A silky smooth waterfall is easier to get and better to give the impression of falling water. The portraits will pop.
Using flash and long exposure gives you silky smooth with some sparkle and a bit of the waterfall violence mixed into the image. Watch out for the peopl's shadow on the waterfall. It looks very bad. Don't ask how I know.
Depending on the lighting available (and if composite images in photograph are not your thing), you may be able to get both in one shot. If they are adults, and you clue them in that they need to stand still, AND if you are willing to take several shots to get the best one, you might be able to get the shutter speed down low enough as to smooth the waterfall while still getting sharp people.
I tried to find some examples but had discarded all the really fast shutter speed, but this might give a feel.
The first is 1/40th second, the second is 2.5 seconds. The latter is more typical of what people expect a waterfall image to be. But the former is not completely "frozen", it has enough movement the whites get a bit of a smoothing. If you got down to say 1/15th or so, and it's a decent speed fall, you may well get enough smoothing.
Whatever you do, if you have a patient audience, take a lot of shots. I'd set the camera to bracket and just shoot bursts with each shot, at least a burst of 3 if not 5. Then shoot with a few different settings. And if you have to fall back to photoshop to combine, you should have plenty of material.
i hear what you are trying to do - and of course, you can do what you wish.
I have tried water shots and I am not sure that 'tack sharp stop motion' is the my favorite approach. You/I never see it that way in real life. I don't know that a creamy fall is what I would go for either. Using the link above as a guide, I like the 1/15 second effect.
a suggestion is to set the exposure for the waterfall - at 1/15th ss use the SBs to catch the people still (at TTL - they should still be properly exposed) without motion due to the short duration of the flash.
frankly, I would try it at 1/15th and also at 1/30th.
the desired result - natural looking falls and well exposed people.