Capturing fast-flowing river shots has never been easier with this guide
The greatest skill in blurring moving water is picking the right seen and composing the shot. It’s a tricky process, and ou’ll need somewhere with good light and stability, as the best blurring effects are gained by using slow shutter speeds. Above all else, don’t be afraid to move around the scene and experiment with different angles and methods.
Creating a sense of motion in your images can be a tricky technique to master, and blurring moving water is no exception.
But it‘s not the process of blurring water in a photograph that‘s the difficult part, rather it‘s choosing the ideal scene and being able to compose it well.
Ask yourself, are you trying to capture an image that‘s dominated by a mass of water sweeping across the scene, or going for a more subtle suggestion of flow?
Your choice of lens is also important – for shots with impact and drama a wide-angle lens is a must.
To blur the water in a scene you‘ll need to shoot using slow shutter speeds, so use a sturdy tripod to keep the camera steady. By selecting a small aperture (such as f/16), you‘ll get the slow shutter speed you need, but if lighting conditions are too bright fit a neutral density filter on the lens. This will reduce the amount of light entering the lens, leading to longer exposure times.
Changing shutter speeds
The slower the shutter speed you use, the greater the movement effect in the water.
Adding an NDx8 neutral density filter to the lens will cut down the amount of light getting through to the camera‘s sensor by 3 stops, which enables you to soften the movement of the water.
2 seconds: A short exposure freezes motion, but a long one blurs the water perfectly.
Move around the scene
When you‘ve arrived at your perfect scene, you really need to take a step back and examine everything around you. Sometimes, just focusing on something as simple as a few leaves on a rock with water swirling around it can produce an amazing abstract image. But while the motion of the water mixed with the stillness of the rock makes for a great combination, there‘s a whole spectrum of water scenes to capture.
Don‘t be afraid to get close and low-down to the water to create shots with impact and atmosphere.
For example, a beautiful woodland scene that has a suggestion of water can have just as much impact. Try different viewpoints of the same scene, shooting low to include more foreground or shooting from a high vantage point to reveal more water in the distance and a wider view of the landscape.
Don‘t be afraid to experiment, especially if you‘ve trekked miles to find your scene!
After capturing the scene, above, simply swinging the tripod-mounted camera around and zooming in on an area of rocks gave a more creative abstract shot, above. A simple move, but the outcome is a totally different shot.
Using a polariser
A polarising filter can give sensational results, especially when the sun is positioned at a 45 degree angle to you.
Using a circular polariser for this shot has almost removed the reflection of the sun and created deep colours. It‘s also given the floating leaves punch. A polariser also reduces up to 2 stops of light entering the lens, so can be used to achieve slow shutter speeds.