Water in many ways is the essence of life; in photography we can interpret water in many ways. Whether it is captured moving through a stream, static as a calm pond, or carrying a surfer to the shore, water is an interesting medium to photograph. There are some techniques that will take you far if this is your area of interest.
Waterfalls and Fluid Streams
Waterfalls are often photographed landmarks. One of the most stunning ways to capture a waterfall or a flowing stream is to show movement. This is possible if we use a slow shutter speed – you need to experiment to find the perfect timing but starting with 2 seconds is a good point. You must place your camera on a tripod – hand holding it will never do – and try not using a flash. You can also choose a small DOF (depth of field) of f/16 so that the image looks sharp. Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release to take the photo with absolutely no blurring.
Use Slow Shutter Speeds
During the day it isn’t always possible to have a shutter speed seconds long because there is just too much light reaching the camera. However, there are certain things you can do; for example choosing a low ISO of 100, 50 or 25 if you have this on your camera. Use a neutral density filter and a polarizing filter to reduce the amount of light hitting your camera. This will give you a fairly slow shutter speed, so use a tripod or a stable surface to rest on. If you don’t have a tripod then you may have to fire the flash, so that the background is still sharp but the water has a whitish blurred effect.
Freeze the Motion
Freezing the movement of water gives a dramatic effect since water moves fluidly. You need to use a fairly fast shutter speed to freeze the action. You can also try other techniques, such as using flash, or opening the aperture wide open to let in more light. Using a tripod and multi or continuous shooting mode is advised as you will want to capture a series of shots of the water moving before selecting the best one.
Use Water as a Mirror
Water can be used as a mirror if it is a calm day. Choose scene with interesting details; it can be a passing animal, or it can be branches of a tree. Photograph the water only to get the reflection of the subject. Try not to use the flash as it can leave a ‘hot spot’ in the water, and make sure to attach a polarizing filter which will reduce glare from the sun that may reflect off the water. Choose a reasonable shutter speed so there is no blurring.
Still Water Runs Deep
What if there is no movement at all with the water? Still water provides a beautiful effect; reflections. The best time is when there is a dramatic sky, sunset or sunrise over a lake. Choose a location with a tree, rock or boat as a focal point; without one the image will be bland. Use a tripod and turn the flash off as this would spoil the effect. Turn the mode dial to AV (aperture priority) mode; we want f/8 and upwards for a greater depth of field and let the camera choose the correct shutter speed based on the amount of light available.