Ian Rolfe discusses ways we are able to see and photograph the reflected colour and liquid motion of natureâ€™s water featuresâ€¦
Humans are invariably attracted to water. It sustains life, provides recreation and soothes our inner spirit. Water can become an important element in any photograph, and where water and land meet, great photographs can be made. Shooting at the waterâ€™s edge is an exploration of colour, motion, pattern and reflection. The most beautiful and striking images are obtained with an understanding of camera angle to accentuate colour and long exposures to give reflections a delicate touch of motion that brings life to an image.
Still water provides an excellent opportunity to create expressive images by taking advantage of reflected colours. This is especially so along river banks, creeks lakes and ponds. Itâ€™s easy to accentuate the colours by tilting your camera to an angle that provides the greatest colour saturation. Using a polarizing filter and adjusting it to control the degree of surface sheen will enable you to saturate any colour thatâ€™s reflected from the sky above or even overhanging foliage if itâ€™s present. Remember, low camera angle will always give you an advantage. All thatâ€™s required to produce striking colourful images is to view the scene through the cameraâ€™s viewfinder while altering the camera angle relative to the subject. Do so until the desired colours are reflected off the surface. The best light is naturally at either end of the day and a study tripod is a must to obtain optimum results.
You can control the mood that water evokes by using a slower shutter speed and blurring the motion. Moving water can express power or soften the scene and evoke a sense of serenity. You as the photographer can control these moods. Long exposures will give a dream-like effect to a waterfall, whereas a very fast shutter speed will add power and added dimension to the same picture. Water can also become the centre of interest when using long exposures in surf and surging coastlines. These powerful images can be turned into expressive and misty images using the right shutter speed. By manipulating the cameraâ€™s shutter speed, you control the mood.
The Right Lens
A wide-angle lens will exaggerate the depth of seemingly simple places and even a tiny creek can assume the appearance of a much larger volume of water using the right lens. Itâ€™s important to keep in mind the power of maximum depth of field when making this type of image because it adds greater depth and feeling to the scene. A must have accessory when working these unusual and narrow angles, especially when part of the sky is in the frame, is to use a graduated neutral density filter in front of your lens, because more than likely the top part of your image will be overexposed. Check your meter reading and if the filter is required than attach it to your lens and adjust it accordingly. An ideal choice for most peopleâ€™s budgets is the Cokin system, and the G2 graduated filter is ideal for balancing foreground and background exposures.
Many beautiful images are possible in the most unlikely and mundane places. Itâ€™s a combination of the right light, reflections and inclusion of water that will make it happen.