Our planet is a world of liquid. The surface of the earth encompasses a mass of endless motion from our seven seas, which cover seventy percent of our world’s surface. Our landscapes are woven with rivers meandering through our countrysides, cities, forests, and mountains. Icebergs drift to their final destinations at both of our polar regions. Our world is motion. Our world is fluid.
The continuous, everchanging motion of water is extremely appealing from a photographic point of view, a kaleidoscope of patterns and textures never to be repeated, this offers us as photographers the opportunity to create unique images. We often challenge ourselves into creating artistic and unique photos that are hard to replicate, making our photography distinctive and individual. The motion of water is a perfect place to start, with shifting patterns of calmness and turbulent motion all created within the same bodies of water depending on the wind, density differences, temperature, gravity, and storms. When natural light is added into the mix, this offers even more possibilities to get creative.
My photography is all based around water. Living near the coast in the far southwest of the UK, provides opportunities all year round to capture the wild seascapes that Cornwall presents. Many of us have a connection with the ocean, so there is always a sense of harmony when we visit the coast. The motion of the sea contributes to our sense of wellness and serenity we experience even during the stormiest of days.
The integral part of photographing water is the use of shutter speed, which determines the overall effect on how the water will look. We’ve all seen photos of silky-smooth water, giving the image a dreamy, ethereal appearance. The longer the shutter speed, the more motion is lost. Shutter speeds of eight seconds or longer will give the water a very smooth appearance. When using the bulb mode on the camera, you can extend the shutter speed even further to maximize this effect. The bulb mode allows you to set shutter speeds of longer than 30secs. Depending on the time of day, the use of a neutral density filter may be required to achieve the desired result. The filter will reduce the light entering the sensor, and by shooting in low light situations, you’ll be able to create even longer exposures.
To create longer exposures and still keep detail, use a shutter speed between 1/60th sec and 1/5th sec. This “buffer zone” is the preferred choice for my long exposure seascape photography, since retaining detail is an important factor when there is drama in the scene. Smooth the water too much and the drama will be lost. Make the conditions work for you – find a balance that complements the scene.
Capturing the mood is the main element for many photographers, and a substantial part of my images are taken during storms. When these spectacular events of nature happen, capturing the energy and ferocity is a priority. The use of a high shutter speed becomes a powerful tool for capturing these intense and ominous scenes. You want to express the textures and details within the water. Switch the camera into a continuous high mode to capture a sequence of images – you’ll be surprised at how different the photos will look in such a short space of time, plus, this also provides you with a greater chance of capturing the perfect moment. Shapes of water last milliseconds, so optimize your chances of capturing a great shot with the high continuous mode.
Fluidity comes in numerous forms, not just within water. Long exposure techniques open up a creative world. If you live in a city, for instance, try long exposure photography on moving crowds of people – the results are extremely artistic. Let us not forget, movement is fluidity, the natural and man-made world offers us unlimited possibilities for creativity.