IN THE FIELD: Water In Motion

Earlier this week I was back out in the field and stopped at an area I hadn’t visited in awhile. It is one of the many places where I love to spend some time and to photograph the surroundings. The area is heavily wooded and the Autumn colors were starting to appear. The skies were clear and the temperature was around 75 degrees. Perfect for being in the woods with camera backpack and tripod.

My intent was to photograph the water in the creek swirling and tumbling over the granite boulders. Numerous rocks were left behind from ancient glacier activity and were huge. Some of them were the size of a small car

I clambered over the exposed tree roots and rocks and made my way to the creeks edge. A giant boulder made for easy climbing and an ideal place to rest. I sat there and immersed myself in the surroundings. It was stimulating to just sit and watch and listen to the water roar past me.

I was mesmerized by the sights and sounds, then finally remembered why I was there. Now I had to find the right light, the right scene and a safe place to set up the tripod. This would be a good test of my balance and nerves. Wet rocks, fallen leaves and camera gear in hand can be treacherous.

I found a few settings that would lend themselves to interesting compositions. I set up the tripod, mounted the camera and the zoom lens and then attached the cable release. Because it was a bright day and the water was mostly in sunlight, I used a polarizing filter to cut down the amount of light entering the lens and to eliminate glare. The camera settings used were an ISO of 100, shutter speeds of 1/20th of a second and slower, and small apertures. This combination of settings tends to make the water appear silky. I also shot a number of frames with faster shutter speeds and wider apertures to freeze the movement of the water.

Showing the motion of water as super silky is a popular style of photography these days. I tend not to make the water look too etherial, but rather let the viewer realize that they are looking at water. That is what is special about photography. You can make the water look any way you want. Whatever way you decide, that is the right way for you.

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  1. October 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Taking notes 🙂 I have so got to get a tripod! Love your philosophy of taking pictures.

    • October 14, 2011 at 9:45 am

      They are quite handy and really do help with composition, make you slow down etc. Check them out carefully…there are good ones and cheap ones. Personally I like Manfrotto tripods and ball heads. Excellent quality and you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to afford them…unless you are looking at carbon fiber. I find the aluminum types work fine for me. Now if I was trekking up mountain sides…

  2. mamadestroy
    October 14, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Have you ever looked at da Vinci’s sketches of moving water? He was convinced that the only way he could master the depiction of the lightness and movement of human hair, was to learn how to depict the movement of water, the way it rushes along heavily, or curls leisurely around a rock. It’s kind of fascinating to look at the sketches and see those visual connections, and get a sense of how his mind was wrapping itself around the problem.
    Though Leo’s mind probably would have been blown by the concept of photography, I feel like you’re musings are related. Maybe you two would have been friends. Or at least had some good conversations.

    • October 14, 2011 at 10:24 am

      Thanks for the kind words! Gonna have to get out the wife’s art books and investigate.

  3. October 14, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Awesome photo, I’ve still got some practising to do.

    • October 14, 2011 at 10:23 am

      Practice is fun and digital is so affordable…if you don’t like a photo..delete. Play around with various settings and see what you get. The possibilities are endless.

  4. October 14, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Great post, wonderful photo. I too am planning a trip to shoot some waterfall photos this week. I will be thinking of your outlook while walking down the trail. Gerry

    • October 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

      I really enjoy photographing water…you can capture whatever mood you desire. Hope you find some good ones Gerry…careful on the wet rocks!!!

  5. October 14, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Gorgeous!!! Such a soft feeling!! 🙂 **

    • October 14, 2011 at 10:20 am

      Thanks…it looks soft but it was really quite loud. Peaceful and invigorating at the same time.

  6. October 14, 2011 at 11:00 am

    I have a tripod but never carry it with me; therefore I have never mastered the art of capturing silky water. This makes me want to give it a try! Thanks for the details.

    • October 14, 2011 at 11:26 am

      You bet!! Never carry it with you?? Shame shame…I’ve left mine home at times also…I put a post-it with big letters saying TRIPOD on my dashboard until it became a habit to put it in the Jeep.

  7. October 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

    A lovely capture, David! 🙂

    • October 14, 2011 at 11:27 am

      Thanks Ted, It was hard to decide which photo to post.

  8. sarahloub
    October 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Love this! As always, thanks for the inspiration! I love water… I couldn’t imagine leaving in a place that doesn’t have some form of water nearby. (I’m surrounded by it in the PNW!) I always forget my tripods at home whenever I have the chance to shoot rivers/creeks… I’ll have to change that soon! (PS. I’m thinking about buying myself a 5-in-1 reflector for myself for my birthday after reading your post about them!)

    • October 14, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      Thanks and glad I could inspire you. Me too…water and boats. I had a bad habit of forget my tripod until I put a sign on the dashboard of my Jeep. TRIPOD. Solved that issue real quick and those reflectors are way cool!!!

  9. October 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I love this photo, It’s great when you capture water moving like this! Great post.

  10. October 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    This is a great image, and I do like how you can still tell it’s water and it’s moving. Beautiful. And your discussion of how you do it, is great too, David. Great work! 🙂

    • October 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      Thanks Katie, glad you are enjoying my stuff.

  11. October 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Great photo! I like silky waterfall shots!

    • October 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      Thanks and I really enjoy photographing water. You can do so much with different effects.

  12. October 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    The water really does look smooth and silky! Very nice.

  13. October 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Thank You Meanderer. I didn’t want to much of a silky effect because the feel of how much water that was rushing over the rocks would be lost. This was just a very small portion of what is there. The rapids are about a half mile long and 20 feet wide at most points. It can get pretty loud there.

  14. Steve
    October 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Water is a favourite subject of mine; there are so many ways to photograph it. You’ve done a wonderful job of the composition and ‘silk effect’ on this one! Nice shot!

  15. October 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks Steve! It’s a favorite of mine also.

  16. October 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I wished I could do this too, wonderful writing and photograph, Thank you dear David, with my love, nia

    • October 18, 2011 at 8:30 am

      Sure you can, just go out and play around…it’s fun!!!

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