|Go With the Flow
Be Creative with Water
by Mitch Moraski
I don't fish or whitewater kayak and I'm petrified to swim in the ocean, yet I'm still amazed how fascinated I have become with the sound of a stream, the crashing of waves against the shoreline, or the peacefulness of a small pool or pond. It must be my fascination with photography! It takes away my fears, sparks my adrenaline, and lets my creative side take over.
In this column I'll share with you images and insight on how to be creative while photographing that which covers 73% of our earth's surface - water!
I've traveled from Maine to Oregon, and my desire is always to find the best stream or best shoreline imaginable. It's like a magnet! I just love to photograph water. The idea of taking something so powerful and creating an image of peacefulness and serenity is fascinating to me.
Be sure to include a variety of focal lengths when you pack your lenses. Personally, I carry all my lenses from 20mm to 400mm. I'll even throw in my 1.4 tele-extender. Often times I'll hike a trail, or walk great distances along a shoreline in search of a shot so I never want to come up short. Don't assume. Be prepared!
Next an 81B warming filter will help when you're shooting in open shade. It will remove the blue UV light rendered on your film. Personally I use a combination warm polarizer or Moose filter.
A neutral density filter is useful to slow shutter speeds even further when needed. I recommend a two stop ND (0.6). An exposure of 1/4 of a second becomes one full second with the addition of a two stop ND filter.
In a pinch you can lengthen exposure times even more by attaching your 1.4 tele-extender. This will reduce light by approximately one full stop. But remember, whenever you add more glass, you potentially sacrifice image quality.
My choice of film is Fuji Velvia. It is now available in both ISO 50 and 100 speeds (see a review of the new Velvia in the next issue). Rich in color, with reciprocity (color shift) held to a minimum on long exposures Velvia is the perfect film for this kind of shooting.
Water in Motion
Whether I'm working a wide angle, or using a long lens, this will usually give me adequate depth of field and allow for an exposure somewhere in the range 1/4 of a second or longer. From here I adjust accordingly. Personally I enjoy shooting water in motion in the range of one to four seconds. This effect seems to work for me, but you should experiment and find the effect you like best. Remember, when shooting streams, rivers, waterfalls and oceans you want to accentuate motion, not stop motion. A feeling of motion will give your images a dynamic feel. Be creative!
A Word of Caution
My favorite light to work in is overcast soft light, cool early morning light, warm late day light, or immediately after a light rain.
Light rain brings out color in streambed rocks that's otherwise not present on dry days. Here's a helpful hint. Bring a small pail along. You can use it to wet the rocks with water if it's a dry day and you can throw water a good distance!
If spring rains have been heavy, I'll wait until a dry spell hits and water levels recede slightly and expose more of the river rock (this also depends on the geographical layout of the area you're shooting). With waterfalls we expect a high volume of water flow, but with autumn streams a mid-level volume is acceptable. Leaves that have left their limbs allow us to add color to images that are sometimes best regarded as good black and white subject matter.
Long exposures create a silky effect in waterfalls and in streams and a fog like layer over rocks and ocean boundaries in seascapes.
No matter where you live or choose to shoot you an almost always find waterscapes. Mastering them will add considerably to your photographic arsenal.