WATER PHOTOS – TO BLUR…OR NOT TO BLUR

– Water Shot 1 / Just a Bit of Motion: To create just a bit of movement to give the water that smooth, silky look that shows the movement and path of the water. My starting point for this type of shot is usually about a half second. If that doesn’t look quite right, I’ll make subtle adjustments up or down until I get it just right. If you go too long, the water will begin to look ghosted and you will lose the structure of it. Too quick and you will lose the movement and it will look too frozen in time.

– Water Shot 2 / Long Exposure: The next situation is when you want to smooth out the water completely and remove all signs of structure or movement. The two main times you’d want to do this is when the water in the scene is far away and has no depth, or when you want to create reflections in the water (or see through it). These situations will often require a neutral density filter if there is a good amount of daylight still present. The starting point for this type of shot is 30 seconds but sometimes you will need 1-2 minutes.

– Water Shot 3 / Freezing Water: Sometimes, you just want to freeze the water in place and capture every little detail you can. For this to work, the best starting point is around 1/500th of a second. That said, this type of situation has the widest range of shutter speeds that will still get the job done. Going up to 1/8000th of a second will stop even the fastest moving water right in its track, but you can also get away with around 1/50th in certain situations (like the one below). Shooting that low won’t totally freeze the water (there will be some movement) but it still freezes the water without adding too much motion.

– Water Shot / Tripod in Water vs. Image Stabilization: Conventional wisdom says to turn off image stabilization when your camera is mounted on a tripod. I’ve found that one exception to this rule is when your tripod is partially submerged in running water. I don’t care how “steady” your tripod is, turbulent flow will cause vibrations and limit maximum sharpness. As a Sony shooter, I love the α7R II’s in-body 5-axis stabilization (IBIS) in situations like this.