Create Motion In Water

Learn to master slow shutter speeds and create shots full of movement and motion.

16/08/2013 - 00:00

Scalber Force
Photo by Peter Bargh

A creative technique popular with photographers when photographing near rivers, waterfalls or streams is long exposures.

This technique gives the impression of slowing time down as flowing water is turned into surreal, smooth-like mist while the still landscape surrounding it remains sharp.

              Photo by Peter Bargh
One of the easiest ways to start with this type of photography is by switching your camera over to shutter-priority as in this mode, you select the shutter speed and it's left to the camera to pick an aperture. By controlling the shutter speed you'll be able to determine how much the movement of the water is exaggerated by.

Basically, the longer the shutter speed the more the water will take on a velvet-like appearance. However, you will also need to take into account the speed the water is flowing at, how much light is around and the distance you are from the water.

The problem with needing slow shutter speeds, particularly at this time of year, is that the scene maybe too bright for a slow shutter speed to be set so it's a good idea to pack an ND or polarising filter, both of which reduce the amount of light reaching your camera's sensor. You can also experiment with filter strengths to see how they lengthen your exposure times.

Once you have your long exposure times cracked you need to ensure that your camera doesn't move when taking your images. This is so the landscape around the water remains still. If movement is introduced when the exposure is processing you could end up with blur creeping into the image and the effect won't work as well. If you have a remote or cable release, it can be useful for starting exposures but your self-timer will work just as well if you don't own one. You'll also need to use a sturdy tripod that has good feet, particularly if you'll be positioning your support in the water.

Sometimes movement in the landscape can't be avoided, such as on windy days when long grasses and over-hanging trees will be blown. When this happens, it's worth taking two exposures: one that uses a slower shutter speed to capture the movement of the water and a second which uses a quick enough shutter speed to freeze the movement of the grass etc. surrounding the water's edge. Once you have two shots you'll be able to blend the images together during post production so the landscape is sharp and the water is blurred. Again, you'll need your tripod if doing this as any movement will result in the images not lining up once you're on your computer back home.

Once you've captured cascading falls and a river flowing along its course you could try using the same technique to photograph the passing of clouds, waves at the coast, the movement of stars, headlights at night or crop fields swaying in the wind. There are plenty of subjects to experiment with so why not get out there, shoot some long exposures and then upload them to the Pentax User Gallery.



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