While not claiming to be an expert myself many people are asking me how to achieve the “freeze” effect as in my photo of “Old Jetty Piles at Lough Neagh” see below:
Well here goes:
Choose the focus of your subject on something that does not move ie. the pile posts in the water.
Water moves so this will become frozen in the image giving the effect, water is the most popular but moving car head/tail lights are another possibility. Just look for something static among moving surroundings. Water with a ripple or a moving waterfall/river/waves is best.
Set your camera to manual, very important, since the camera software will try to adjust the settings/focus to what it sees rather than what you want if it’s in automatic. Use the lowest ISO setting of your camera usually 100.
The lighting is important also and will depend on many things like time of day and atmospheric conditions. Your settings will depend on the light and if it’s calm, stormy, overcast, shade, day, night, windy or raining these will dictate these settings.
The following 10 steps should help you achieve an image with the frozen effect.
Step 1 – Set the camera up on a tripod, this is essential.
Step 2 – Choose a lens to suit the desired result, ie. wide angle for a wide landscape or a narrow lens for a close-cropped image.
Step 3 – Focus on your main static subject as sharply as possible.
Step 4 – Adjust the lens aperture to achieve the desired depth of field, ie. blurred surroundings or sharper surroundings.
Step 5 – Note the speed setting that gives the correct exposure for the image. This will probably be too fast in order to achieve the cotton candy effect of the moving water for example. Don’t change the ISO.
Step 6 – Fit an ND (Neutral Density) grey filter to the lens. This will slow the speed and be depending on the light conditions you will need to experiment with different strengths of the filter. A circular adjustable filter is good but a good quality slide in square filter is better.
Step 7 – Try to achieve a very slow speed by adjusting the filter to achieve a setting somewhere above 5 seconds but make sure the exposure remains spot on and change the filter strength if required to achieve this. Do not change focus, camera position or aperture and you will need to start again.
Step 8 – Camera shake will ruin your image so to avoid this is very important. A remote switch is perfect but if you don’t have one then set the camera shutter to activate after 2 seconds this will have the same result. Setting the camera to mirror lockup at the same time will be even better to avoid camera shake.
Step 9 – Once set up check the speed and if it is above 30 seconds you will need to set the camera to Bulb (see link). In this case, you will need to do some calculations to discover the speed timing to give the perfect exposure (there are tables online). These calculations are difficult but modern technology gives us the answer. The ultimate time setting will depend on the light/filter strength and many apps for mobile phones are available (see link). This will give a speed setting and will give a signal when reached. The only other option is to take a number of shots at different timings and look at the results which is a bit hit and miss.
Step 10 – Finally take your shot and if you have followed the above the result will be an image that can be post-processed if necessary to achieve what you desire.
A speed setting table.