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Photographing Water: Ideas for Making Great Photos

Photographing Water: Ideas for Making Great Photos

I really like photographing water, whether or not within the type of waterfalls, streams, ponds, or coastal scenes. Making water photographs is enjoyable and straightforward, if you understand how to do it proper. That will help you get probably the most out of your water images, listed here are a few of my prime ideas and concepts for making nice water pictures.

I photographed this dashing spring stream with sundown mild on the timber within the background, permitting me to seize colourful reflections within the water. Great Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park, USA. Canon 5DII, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.eight lens with Canon adapter, polarizer filter, ISO 50, f/11, three.2 seconds.

Use lengthy exposures for a satisfying blurred water impact

Shifting water typically seems greatest when captured utilizing lengthy exposures. In the event you use a brief publicity, the water will seem frozen, like ice; by including some movement blur you possibly can enhance the look of your water pictures. Sometimes, shutter speeds of 1/30 second or longer will begin to blur shifting water. Shutter speeds longer than a number of seconds will create a “misty” look, with element and texture within the water beginning to disappear. Typically, one thing between 1/eight and 1 second will yield probably the most pleasing outcomes, blurring the water but retaining some texture within the water, however outcomes will range relying on the velocity and quantity of the shifting water. Experiment with totally different shutter speeds and assessment photographs in your digital camera’s LCD display till you obtain the specified motion-blur impact.

Throughout an extended publicity, swirling foam beneath a waterfall creates fascinating shapes. Cascade River State Park, USA. Canon 5DIII, Canon 16-35mm f/four lens, polarizer filter, ISO 200, f/11, 13 seconds.

Reflections add shade to your water pictures

Photographing water is a superb supply for reflections, so discover a means to make use of reflections so as to add a touch of shade and impressionism to your shot. Nonetheless water can act like a mirror, producing an ideal reflection, whereas shifting water produces a much less distinct reflection, typically nothing greater than a surreal blur of colour.

I made this photograph of a hippo floating within the water, surrounded by colourful reflections of foliage on the far financial institution of the river. Decrease Zambezi Nationwide Park, Zambia. Canon 5DIII, Canon 200-400mm f/four lens with built-in 1.4x extender, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/200 second.

A favourite strategy of mine is to photograph sunlit foliage mirrored in water, often with fascinating objects (resembling boulders, logs, or water crops) protruding of the water. This system often works greatest when the mirrored topic is within the mild, and the water is in shadow.

I waited till the colourful autumn foliage on the far financial institution of this pond was in direct daylight. Acadia Nationwide Park, USA. Canon 5DIII, Canon 100-400mm f/four.5-5.6 lens, polarizer filter, ISO 100, f/22, 2 seconds.

Get your ft moist!

I don’t like limiting my choices to solely what I can photograph from the shore. Getting within the water is the important thing to discovering distinctive angles and getting the composition you need. Sandals, wading boots, or fishing waders can come in useful; when I’m working in very deep or chilly water, I’ll typically put in a wetsuit or dry go well with.

A photographer sporting chest waders to securely get within the water for a waterfall shoot. Shenandoah Nationwide Park, USA. Canon 5DII, 17-40mm f/four lens, polarizer filter, ISO 400, f/11, zero.four seconds.

Keep protected and away from probably harmful water. Additionally, keep in mind that surfaces underwater may be slick, uneven, or muddy, so watch your footing. Be particularly cautious if working close to deep or fast-moving water, or coastal environments the place waves are excessive (and all the time hold an eye fixed out for exceptionally giant incoming “rogue” waves).

I received within the water sporting chest waders to seize this attitude. Brúarfoss, Iceland. Canon 5DIII, Canon 16-35mm f/2.eight lens, polarizer filter, ISO 100, f/11, zero.5 seconds.


Waterfalls are a panorama favourite. Overcast mild sometimes works greatest; the tender, subtle mild reduces distinction within the scene, serving to to stop distracting “hot spots” from forming within the water and on rocks. It’s best to photograph waterfalls proper after a soaking rain, as it will possibly make streams and waterfalls extra engaging by filling them with water, darkening rocks, and intensifying the colours of foliage. When working in dry circumstances, I spend a couple of minutes splashing water over rocks within the scene to moist them down and replicate the drenched look discovered after a soaking rain. A polarizer filter is beneficial when capturing waterfall scenes, to take away glare from moist foliage and rocks, improve distinction, and intensify colours.

A light-weight, soaking rain darkened the rocks across the waterfall. Grand Portage State Park, USA. Canon 5DII, Canon 24-105mm f/four lens, polarizer filter, ISO 50, f/16, zero.6 seconds.

Look for an fascinating curve or zig-zag in a watercourse and make this a component of your composition. Get in near foreground parts, comparable to small rapids beneath a waterfall, to create compositional curiosity and a way of scale and perspective. Eddies and swirl swimming pools additionally make very fascinating foreground options. Waterfall and stream scenes look greatest when surrounded by colour, similar to spring or autumn foliage.

I like to incorporate colourful foliage when photographing streams and waterfalls. Los Glaciares Nationwide Park, Argentina. Canon 5DIII, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.eight lens, polarizer filter, ISO 100, f/11, 1.three seconds.

Coastal Images

The important thing to profitable coastal images is to discover a pleasing convergence of land, water, and sky. Coastal areas typically have distinctive land types, similar to arches, sea stacks, and sea caves; additionally maintain an eye fixed out for fascinating options or patterns in rippled sand, tide swimming pools, creeks flowing into the water, and marine life washed up on shore (akin to shells, seaweed, or starfish). Get low and near fascinating foreground options, akin to rocks rising from the water.

Dawn and sundown mild are particularly necessary for coastal scenes; the colourful mild at these occasions brings coastal scenes to life. Shoot in the direction of probably the most colourful a part of the sky to maximise the mirrored mild within the water.

A ravishing dawn is mirrored in churning ocean waters, Assateague Island Nationwide Seashore, USA. Canon 1DsII, Sigma 12-24mm f/four.5-5.6 lens, ISO 100, f/22, 1/6 second.

When working in a tidal space, all the time verify tide occasions earlier than photographing, as coastal scenes change dramatically with the tides. Some scenes work greatest with low tides, others excessive, and even others someplace in between. Tide info is definitely obtained on-line, and tide chart apps for sensible telephones are available, supplying you with on the spot tide info at your fingertips.

Low tide revealed a boulder that I used as a foreground for this ocean sundown. Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. Canon 5DIII, Tamron 15-30mm f/2.eight lens, ISO 200, f/11, 1 second.

Shield your gear

Deal with your gear with care round water. If mandatory, retailer cameras and lenses in a dry bag or waterproof container, solely taking them out when you’re able to shoot. Pay additional consideration to tripod placement when establishing in shifting water: you must watch out that the present or waves aren’t robust sufficient to comb your tripod away or ship vibrations up your tripod legs to your digital camera, which may result in blurry pictures, particularly throughout lengthy exposures.

I swam to this “sea cave” alongside the coast of Lake Superior with my digital camera and tripod safely nestled inside a dry bag. Pictured Rocks Nationwide Lakeshore, USA. Canon 1DXII, Canon 11-24mm f/four lens, ISO 100, f/11, zero.5 seconds.

Catch the wave!

Waves make wonderful foreground parts for your water pictures. Lengthy exposures create streaking strains, including visible curiosity and power to your compositions. Use an digital shutter launch to set off the shot exactly when wave motion is at its greatest. Outgoing waves might be notably efficient for coastal photographs, particularly when water rushes round objects rising from the surf.

I triggered the shutter as an outgoing wave flowed round a boulder. Reynisdrangar, Iceland. Canon 5DIII, Canon 16-35mm f/four lens, ISO 160, f/11, zero.5 seconds.

Photograph splashing water

One time to make use of a quick shutter velocity is when photographing giant waves crashing towards the shore, or when an individual or animal is shifting shortly via the water. That means, you possibly can dramatically freeze the water droplets as they fly via the air.

I like photographing animals as they cost by way of water, like with this brown bear fishing for salmon. Lake Clark Nationwide Park and Protect, USA. Canon 5DII, Canon 100-400mm f/four.5-5.6 lens, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2500 second.


You could have many artistic choices when photographing water. So, roll up your pant legs, take off your footwear, and (safely) plunge proper in!


Concerning the writer: Whether or not hanging over the rim of an lively volcano, braving the weather to photograph critically-endangered species, or trekking deep into the wilderness to locations most individuals won’t ever see, world-renowned skilled photographer Ian Plant travels the globe looking for out superb locations and topics in his endless quest to seize the great thing about our world together with his digital camera. Ian is a frequent contributor to many main photograph magazines, Managing Editor of Outside Images Information, a Tamron Picture Grasp, and the writer of quite a few books and educational movies. Recognized for his inspiring pictures and single-minded dedication to creating the right photograph, Ian has reached a whole lot of hundreds of individuals all over the world in his mission to encourage and educate others within the artwork of images. You possibly can see extra of his work at

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