Da Silky and Da Smooth

5 Apr

It’s a recipe, of sorts.  A recipe for photographing moving water.

The ingredients:
A camera with adjustable exposure settings
A stable surface / tripod
Perferably, a shutter release or timer

The recipe:
The smooth water effect is blur.  Bam!  The secret is out.  Shortest blog post ever, right? =)

But if you’ve been reading this blog on any sort of regular basis, you know I’m a bit long winded at times…ohhh…ummm…I mean, curious with a desire to know “why” and “how”.  And obviously, since you’ve made this far into the post, you are too!  Two peas in a pod, we are.  So let’s discuss, ok?

Blur is bad, right?  Well…generally yes.  But in the case of moving water, it can create a nice artistic effect.  In fact, for this image, I think too much detail in the water would have detracted from the impressive clouds overhead.  This is a situation where blur created a nice, artistic counter-balance and since the water is the only thing moving in the scene, the rest of the image is in focus.

As always, my first priority was composing the scene.  Once I scouted the location and decided what the best angle would be for my soon-to-be-image, I thought about the available light, and what I wanted to accomplish within the image.

For example, the image is a composite.  The sky was shot for HDR, because I knew I would want to pull as much tonal range out of the clouds as possible.  The water, rocks and reeds, however, are a single exposure.  The camera settings were:

F-stop: f/22
Focal length: 28mm
Exposure time: 13 seconds
Exposure bias +2.7
ISO 100

As you can imagine, with so much cloud cover, it was a low, soft light kind of day.  I wanted as much of the scene in focus as possible, so I chose an f-stop of f/22.  However, by doing so, I knew I would be letting less light in and would need to compensate by increasing the exposure time and changing the exposure bias.  That was the only way I would both create a smooth water effect and expose the scene properly.

In order for the rocks to be in focus, I needed to make sure the camera was as steady as possible.  I mounted the camera on my tripod, put flat rocks under the feet of the tripod (because it would sink into the sand as it was capturing the image…very confusing at first!), and used the timer feature.  This gave the camera a few moments to settle, so the vibrations from me pushing the button did not affect the image.  A shutter release (remote or cable) would have worked just as well…but in my hurry to get down to the beach before sunset, I left a number of items in the car.  (Oops!)

So the point of all of this?  Well, in a nutshell…

Long exposures + Moving water = Purty

Silky Smooth

Silky Smooth


One Response to “Da Silky and Da Smooth”


  1. Day 119 (28 April 2012) Sun and Sand | 365 Photos by Jeremy - April 29, 2012

    […] Today I had a goal of shooting a long exposure shot of the sea, based on a technique I learned from SeeingSpotsPhotography (check her blog, amazing photos, great info, and lots of creative inspiration).  I was thinking I […]

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