A Guide To Flowing Water Photography

Clicking mystical looking photographs of flowing water and waterfalls is every photographer’s dream.
Getting those silky threads of water and the halo of mist around the flow is what makes these photos look enigmatic and beautiful.
And, it is not difficult s it might seem. In fact, it is quite simple to get these photographs!
Here is a quick guide for anyone who is trying to capture the misty flowing water through a lens.

The Objective

To create effect of silky smooth trails of flowing water and create hazy mist effect from moisture droplets.

The Method

Low ISO : to ensure the motion is not freezed
Narrow Aperture : To reduce light and allow slower shutter speed
Slow Shutter Speed : to create the motion trail effect

The Means

Good Location
ND Filters
Remote Trigger
Sturdy tripod

The nettigritties

Begin your shoot with identifying a suitable location for photography. When it comes to waterfalls and streams, you may not have easy access to the closet point where you would like to be.
Make sure you carry enough lens options so that you can make the best out of the situation.

In most of the cases, you would want to reach a vantage point and use a wider angle lens to get the shot.
You must be mindful of the fact that wide angle lenses make distant objects appear small. So if you are at some distance from the area of interest, you may opt for a normal lens instead.

Depending on the available ambient light, you may need to use ND filters. ND or Neutral Density filters are dark filters designed to lower the light entering the camera. This in turn allows slower shutter speeds, even with fairly bright ambience. To know more about camera filters, you can read here.
In most cases, ND4 or ND8 filters do a wonderful job.

Since you are aiming at slow shutter speeds for the shot, make sure you have the camera mounted firmly on a sturdy tripod. Cheap and flimsy tripods do not offer much help as you might even place the tripod in the middle of the stream. The running water can create enough tremors and can end up in a shaky end result.
Also make sure to use a remote trigger to avoid shake. If you do not carry one, you can use the camera’s timer option and ensure that you do not touch the camera during the click.

A word of caution : As you start getting the beautiful, silky, flowing water streaks in your photos, it is easy to get carried away! Always remember that as you keep on slowing down the shutter speed, the overall haziness of the image increases. This also results in loss of significant amount of details of the scene. Try to strike the optimal combination for the best results.

That’s it. You are now ready to go out and get those dream shots in your camera!

BW_Stream

A small waterfall clicked at shutter speed of 1/5 seconds

A small waterfall clicked at shutter speed of 1/15 seconds

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Dr Swarada Sane
Dr Swarada Sane

Great information and guidence Sir. You are the best Teacher.

Jitendra
Jitendra

Very detailed guidelines. Would certainly try. Thanks.