Waterfall Photography Using Timer Question/Problem


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Dec 1, 2020
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First post here. I've had my Rebel 7Ti for a couple of years now. I mostly use it for waterfall photography (with a tripod of course). As opposed to using a shutter release cable, I've primarily been taking the shots using the timer (a lot of my shots are a 0.5 - 2 sec exposures). If I recall correctly, I would partially depress the shutter to lock in focus, then push it all the way down to start the timer. I usually take 3 exposures of each shot (often +-2/3 stops).

This last round of pictures, many came out quite blurry. Perhaps I somehow messed up the focus? The only thing I believe I may have done differently is to put the timer on 2secs as opposed to 10secs. I might have done that during a previous session or two..not sure..but if I did, those shots turned out fine.
Do the experts on here see an issues with using the timer as opposed to a shutter release when taking longer exposure shots using a tripod? If so, could someone please describe why and also provide a bit of education on how to use/improve either the timer process or the shutter release cable process?

Thank you!

In that scenario I would focus the scene using half-press, then switch the autofocus off. Then when you fully depress the shutter button to start the timer, it won't try to focus again.
You could also set back button focus and the shutter button wouldn't have an effect on the focus.
One of the major causes of camera shake is the shutter button. Even on a tripod you can jolt the camera, especially if the tripod legs are not completely open or the tripod is not firmly planted and level. Even the mirror flipping up can shake the camera if the tripod is not set up correctly, so you might want to consider using Mup. I highly recommend a remote release, which you can buy for under $20. While still at the shoot, it's always a good idea to view your shots on the camera's display and zoom in to your focus point to check focus as well as check the histograms for correct exposure. I'm not familiar with your camera, but when shooting landscapes (including waterfalls) I put the camera in Live View mode, which uses a better, albeit slower, AF method - contrast detection.
I would suggest two things to help with this problem without having to buy anything else. 1) use the mirror lockup so that you don't have shake with that moving and 2) use the 2 or 10 second delay (10 would be best to let things calm down).

Sure it's nice to have a shutter release but not necessary to get tack sharp images.
I tend to use manual focus when I’m on my tripod. Maybe when you press the shutter you’re moving the tripod enough to throw focus off. I’ve used the timer in a pinch but a wired remote release costs next to nothing and takes up very little space in your bag. Always good to have. Same lens as you’ve used in the past? Turn Image stabilization off when on the tripod. This can cause camera shake and a blurry photo if it kicks on during your shot.
I'll echo using manual focus. Get the focus set when you set up the tripod, and then just trigger the shutter delay-timer when you want to.
You could also set back button focus and the shutter button wouldn't have an effect on the focus.

I’ll second this. I’m a big fan of back button focus for long exposure landscape shots if I’m using autofocus at all. (In fact since trying it out for this purpose it’s all I use now for any shot).

With that said, for the type of shot described in the OP your camera timer should be more than adequate to eliminate camera shake barring some kind of unstable footing for the tripod. So I would suspect the issue lies somewhere in a focusing fault.
I too would use manual focus. Usually, I don't though, because I trust my camera's focus. But you could use Live view to make sure it focused well.
Back button focus wouldn't help much in this case, because if your camera missed focus (which can always happen), all your images will be out of focus too, so no change there.
I have a timer remote, but wouldn't use it for this purpose and stick with the 2sec.
There are also a number of apps available that work out focusing distances for such scenarios.
I am a Nikon shooter but I used your method before and, on occasion, had the same results. What I found that I was doing was setting the focus and then releasing the button. When I pressed the shutter release to start the timer a second time, I would sometimes refocus. My process change was to make sure that I was ready to start the timer and set the focus by pressing the shutter release halfway, then fully depressing without letting up.

I moved to a wired shutter release since then.
My Canon T6 will not focus or take the picture if the camera electronics do not like the exposure settings. Therefore, I have to switch the lens barrel auto focus, to off and focus manually.

I also have to remember to turn the auto focus on when I return to normal shooting.

We all have our preferences for depicting water flow, this was a small over flow from a local pond. It shows the water motion I preferred for this shot.
1/60 sec hand held, f 3.5, 18mm lens, ISO 100.

Good luck.

Just a couple of thoughts from my own errors
If you leave the camera strap on when using a tripod the wind can flap the strap causing blurr
The 2 sec timer in not always long enough for any vibrations to stop
Look at what the tripod is on and where you stand ... are you causing vibration through the ground
I had problems doing night shoots, I had set up on the wood decking, my walking was causing the camera to shake
Are you using the centre column on the tripod try not to
Well hope this adds to what others have said and helps
I would get an intervalometer. In fact I ordered one two days ago that works with the T7i. It was on sale for $30 USD but normally is only $50.

You can set it up to take a sequence of images while never touching the camera except to initiate the first timed shot.

I'll be using mine for astrophotography but your use case would certainly work as well.

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