Shutter Speed for Slow Motion

Nature is stunning in Jasper National Park, and the drive towards the Columbia Icefields from Jasper is exceptional for photography. The landforms and history of the region have always intrigued me.

My attraction to Tangle Creek Falls began a few years before when I took the time to play by the waterfall with my camera. While reading the book A Hunter of Peace recounting Mary Schaffer's expedition to Maligne Lake in 1911, I was captivated. Her journey on horseback covered many miles, including emerging from the dense forest at Tangle Creek Falls.

Moving water provides terrific opportunities to experiment and practice photography techniques, in addition to skipping rocks and water fights. If you were at this waterfall, how would you capture beauty? Any scene with beautiful soft morning or evening light makes a more pleasing image. However, nature hands us what she will, and sometimes the sun doesn't feel like getting out of bed.

When you come across a scene with flowing water, take a moment to think about the possibility of extremes. Using a fast shutter speed suspends the action, crisp detail appears in the ensuing spray, and you "freeze the action." The contrast is the feathery, silky flow, which you see here, caused by slow shutter speed. As the camera "takes longer" to record the scene, the water appears calm and peaceful as it gracefully flows over the rocks.

Note: After deciding on a soft flowing "mood," the next factor is figuring out the camera settings. To achieve the softness, I know the shutter speed must be slower, not faster, for this to work out. Using an aperture of f/27 reduces the amount of light entering through the lens. To compensate for the lack of light, I "slow down" my shutter speed to ΒΌ of a second for both the correct exposure and to create the desired outcome. Plus, my camera must be rock still, so no camera shake!

  • Pentax K100 D: f/27 1/4 ISO 400
  • Sigma macro 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
  • Tripod assist