Water Photograghy




About: Hi I'm a retired Firefighter from New York. My hobbies are Fly-fishing,kayak fishing,camping and building things. Now a days I hang out with my grand kids and travel to all the places I read about when I was...

I am a fly-fisherman! I say this as if it were a confession at an intervention. Because of this hobby, I have traveled to many beautiful place in the US and abroad. Many years ago I would carry a camera wrapped in whatever waterproof container I could muster up. The film would have to be brought back( if it survived the trip) and processed. You could become a fairly competent photographer if you took good notes(aperture, ISO, shutter speed, ETC) with the photos. Like I had time for that. Since I had a dark room, I could fix many of the mistakes I made in the field. I got pretty good at it, when life got in the way. Job, family and just life in general, so the darkroom became a child's bedroom and the cameras retired to a glass display case only to come out and play during special occasions( Holidays, birthdays, vacations).

Now a days I get to use some of my talent on digital cameras, much easier. So let get started.

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Step 1: Things You'll Need

1. A good digital camera with low speed shutter settings and Bulb.

2. Neutral Density filters to fit lens of your camera. Or one variable ND filter to fit lens

3. A sturdy tripod

4. Remote shutter trigger

5. A suitable location. Find a stream, creek or waterfall that you like. The waterfall does not have to be tall.

Step 2: Getting Out There

So you have your location? No! Don't sweat it. It can be any moving water even a little stream like above. Spillways, dams, falls, lakes or even the tides of the ocean will do. I've taken pics of moving water in a street gutter.

The slower the water, the longer the exposure, to catch that illusion of moment. If this is your first time shooting like this experiment. The other beauty about a digital camera is that it records exposure and F-stop settings on every pic.

Step 3: Working With Your Tripod

Having a sturdy tripod is very important. Its a bad thing if your camera shakes, Its a catastrophe if it falls in the water. You have a camera that costs $500 to a $1000 don't cheap out on a tripod. I've seen some very good heavy duty tripods for $30-$40 range. Buy the best tripod that you can afford, you wont be sorry.

My tripod is a left over from the gigantic video cam days. It can handle a 3 pound video cam and has retractable spikes on the bottom, but I would not trust it in a wind storm. You don't need a ball head or pan head if your doing stills. You can get all the effects you want from a regular heavy duty camera tripod.

So pick your pic angle and extend the legs of your tripod and place them on the ground, no plant them on the ground and check for wobble. Many times I set up in the stream because its the best angle for the shot. I'll dig the legs into the gravel or sand and make sure its not moving anywhere.Be careful!!

Step 4: Setting the Camera

I own a Lumix GX-7 thanks to my wife. This camera can be triggered several ways. I can put it on a timer, my smart phone, or the wired button pictured. I like to set the camera to full Manual Mode, this mode I'm in full control of all functions. My starting settings are ISO 200, shutter speed 2 seconds and aperture of 11. ( middle of the road) Also I like to shoot in RAW instead of JPG much more flexible media. All the pictures that are posted on this page were taken in bright sunny days.

Apply the ND filter to the lens I like to start with a 6. If you bought a set of filters you probably have a 2, 4, and 8 to get a 16 stack the 2 and 8 together. Or you can use a handy ND- Calculator(above). Either way its up to you, don't stress. Mount the camera on the tripod and take a picture. Now this is where you know we live in modern times take a look at your picture. This would not be possible some years ago. Is it to light, close aperture one F-Stop to 16. If its to dark open one F-Stop to 8. Try again. Adjust. Try again. I can usually hit the pic I want in 2 takes

Step 5: Adding Special Effects (if You Like)

One of my favorite effects for water shots is in Photoshop. Open pic in PS and go to filters and click on OIL PAINT. Here you can adjust the brush strokes as hard or as subtle as you like. Notice the difference of the moss in each pic once your happy its ready to frame. Done!



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      7 Discussions


      2 years ago

      Water photography is my favorite type. With todays digital camera neutral density filters are generally not needed today. With film you could only adjust the shutter speed and aperture to get the correct exposure. The iso speed of the film is fixed. If you could not get the exposure right you had to use a neutral density filter.

      With todays digital cameras you can adjust the shutter, aperture, AND iso. So if I cannot get the desired spouse with iso 200, I reduce it to 100. If that still doesn't work I will go down to 50 ( the lowest setting on my camera. 90 percent of the time that is enough.

      As for tripods look for brands where the tripod head is sold separately from the legs. That way you can get the head and camera mount that works best for you. Many like ball heads but I refer the Bogen 410 mini gear head. In my opinion it is better than a ball head. For the tripod leg I have two to choose from a 5foot light weight one and Taller heavier one that is strong enough to support a small telescope or very large long focal length large aperture lens. The legs and head use a standard 1/4 inch bolt and I can use legs and heads from different manufactures if I want.

      Also to avoid shaking the camera when you press the shutter, use a remote or cable shutter release or use the cameras built in timer.

      1 reply
      Fishbum Frankcarbonterry

      Reply 2 years ago

      Your right. I usually multiply the time. I'll redo do the calc when I arrive home later. I should not have done this late at night.


      2 years ago

      That's impressive!