The Tuesday Composition: Composing Images with Water

Surf, Garrapata Beach
Surf, Garrapata Beach. Still images can't capture motion in water, but they can communicate the idea.

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

Like mist and fog, water is a subject that deserves it’s own consideration compositionally. With the exception of very still lakes and ponds, one of the things that makes water “look like water” to us is the way that it moves. We can’t present this movement in a still image to a viewer directly. Instead, we have to translate it into a still image by making an exposure; and we use a variety of controls such as shutter speed and composition to help communicate a sense of that motion.

When we want to capture a sense of movement in water there are several things to keep in mind. Shutter speed has a significant effect-a waterfall, cascade or even surf against a coastline will have a very soft, gentle feel if we use a long exposure. Faster exposures will stop individual droplets in air, creating a greater sense of energy. ¬†Shutter speed isn’t the only thing to keep an eye on, though. The way we compose the path of water through a scene can also affect how viewers experience water moving through a scene. Where possible, try and make it easy for the viewer’s eye to trace along the lines of the water’s path. Your images will (all other things being equal) be more effective if the visual flow of the water isn’t interrupted by things that block the view of the water. Diagonals and ¬†S-curves can also create an additional sense of motion. (more…)

Continue Reading

Working with Rainbows

Rainbow WhirlwindRainbows are one of the most magical of sky effects, elusive, mysterious and colorful. They’re a natural subject for the nature photographer, so much so that they do run the risk of cliche, but they can also can put the final “shazam” on what would already be an interesting image. With a few simple hints and techniques, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to capture and convey their magic.

The first challenge in finding a rainbow is finding one to photograph in the first place. Any rainbow requires two elements, light and water droplets. The light needs to be from small source and very bright, so it’ll usually need to be direct sunlight (although it is possible to find and photograph “moonbows”) they’re very hard to see and even harder to capture well. The need for both sunlight and rain or mist means you’ll usually need to look for rainbows in mixed weather (rainy conditions without complete overcast) or in other places where mists form in broad sunlight (waterfalls, such as my Iceland image above, geysers, and the like.) (more…)

Continue Reading
Close Menu