Tips & Tutorials

How I Nailed the Shot: Camera Settings for Capturing Peace & Quiet on a Lake

To level up your photography skills (and make the best of the features on your camera), it is important to shoot with intent. This involves considering all aspects of the image you are creating, such as what kind of image you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. Factors such as time of shoot, focal length, shutter speed and composition are important. In this article, a photographer shows us, point by point, how he expressed the idea of peace and quiet in this image of a lake. (Reported by: Takehito Miyatake)

Silent lake in the morning

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 115mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/16, 30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
Date of shoot: Early June


1. Shooting at the right timing before sunrise

I wanted to capture the hints of red that appear between the gaps of the thick blue clouds. Photos taken in the morning that have strong bluish tones suggest tranquillity. Dawn, the period where night slowly starts to turn to day, begins about 90 minutes before sunrise. The morning glow tends to be at its most intense 15 minutes before the sun itself becomes visible, and that is also when the clouds are usually just a little reddish, so I aimed to shoot at that time.

How to Capture the Fiery Vibrant Colours of Sunrise
4 Keys to Shooting Pre-dawn Landscapes

Failed shot: 2 minutes before sunrise
The image below was taken 2 minutes before the sun becomes visible from beyond the mountain ridges. The yellowish hues of the sunlight became too harsh and the surface of the water gave off a lot of reflections. The image that results does not quite suggest calmness and tranquillity.

The lake, shot 2 minutes before sunrise

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 100mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/18, 30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight


2. Composition

I shot at a 115mm focal length from the walkway at the side of the lake as I wanted to include the floating islands and trees in the frame, while at the same time also capturing the outlines of the mountain ridges in the background. The gradually-brightening gradation of the clouds strongly suggested the idea of morning and its tranquillity.

Failed shot: Shooting at 150mm
At 150mm, the gradation of the sky gets cropped out of the shot, removing any suggestion of the idea of “morning” and its tranquillity.

Shot at focal length 150mm

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 150mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/32, 0.8 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight


3. Using long exposure for still, quiet lake waters

By shooting with a 30-second exposure during dawn, the waves can become smoothened out allowing you to depict a smooth, quiet lake surface. As it was too bright, I was not able to obtain my desired slow shutter speed despite stopping down to f/16. Thus, I used an ND400 filter to reduce the amount of light going into my camera.

OK: 30 sec

Shutter speed 30 seconds

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 115mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/16, 30 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight

Failed shot: 0.5 sec

Shutter speed 0.5 second

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM/ FL: 115mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/32, 1/2 sec, EV+0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight


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EOS 5D Mark III (Body)


EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM


Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Takehito Miyatake

Born in 1966 in Osaka Prefecture, Miyatake joined a photographic equipment manufacturer as a studio photographer after graduating from the Department of Image Technology of the Tokyo Polytechnic University’s Faculty of Engineering. In 1995, he set up his studio Miyatake Photo Factory in Tokushima Prefecture where he grew up.


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