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Thread: Water shots

  1. #1
    drjuice's Avatar
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    Water shots

    I keep looking at the water shots where the photographer has clearly taken the time to figure out how to make the individual water components of such a shot look appropriately "blurred" while the ancillary elements are properly in focus (or not) depending on their position.

    What I cannot understand, for the life of me, is why people aren't interested in getting moving water to look like water, droplets, falls, etc. Since I started taking pictures with a 35mm camera which gave me the ability to capture stop motion images, one of the things I've really enjoyed is getting water, especially in the woods or offshore, to look like all the components I see as I look at it before I decide to take a picture.

    I've just been working my way through the new National Geographic Complete Photography book and (finally) on page 358 came on their discussion of water photography wherein two of the points the authors make are that the difference between a "frozen" picture and a "blurred" picture of the same waterfall is that the frozen image demonstrates the power of the waterfall while the blurred image gives a more serene image of the waterfall.

    Do you folks agree/disagree? And, do you have a preference?

    Thanks for your ideas.

    virginia
    Last edited by drjuice; 30th September 2012 at 12:58 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Water shots

    Virginia

    There was reference to this very subject just a few days ago, with my own post and some of the other comments in this thread.

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    Re: Water shots

    Virginia: I am having a bit of a time getting my head around your statement "getting moving water to look like water", could you post one of your images that shows what you like. This is because my idea of what water looks like is likely different than yours.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Water shots

    Virginia,

    I do hope you take the time to visit the thread that Donald mentioned. That's not because my image is the subject of discussion. It's because the discussion attends not only to the issue of shutter speed but also other factors that also affect the entire mood of the waterfall. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there's a lot more to a waterfall than just the water. Once you review the discussion about Gary's very nice and very different version of my image in that thread, I think that point will be easier to remember.

  5. #5
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Water shots

    Virginia:

    First of all, this could prove to be a divisive topic; many photographers are "doing" blurred water these days - it's pretty well rampant these days on all the forums.

    From this, you may discern that I'm not a fan of blurred water - I'm not. In fact I'm completely tired of it - when it's used too much or in the wrong situation.

    And no matter how hard I look with my eyes (even if I'm dead tired or had way too much to drink), I just can't seem to make water blur. I can always see the drops, specular highlights and all the eddies and details, but no blur. Apparently, many people can see the blur.

    HOWEVER, that being said, there may be a time or place for it - and that is in enhancing a waterfall image. This could be because falling water is typically moving quite fast (downward), and it is already blurred to some extent, so a 1/5 second shutter speed doesn't really change the look of the water all that much.

    Now having said all that, I must confess that last week I was at a narrows to a tidal inlet, and took a few images with shutter speeds in the 1/6 or 1/5 second range. I also took some at higher speeds and I prefer the blurred water images. I will add that the images were of a standing wave (it doesn't change its location) so the shape of the wave is still retained, but the blurring does add to the image (in my opinion).

    Attached are the two images - one taken at 1/6 second f/22, the other at 1/80 second at f/16. Same camera, images taken at about 90 seconds apart.

    So, I'm beginning to conclude that there is a time and place for it, however, blurring may be somewhat akin to HDR (which is being over-used).

    Glenn

    Water shots

    Water shots

  6. #6

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    Re: Water shots

    Glenn,

    I prefer your first version because it retains the shape of the wave (as you mentioned) and also shows the motion. The second image only shows the shape of the wave. Both images have really rich colors without being unnatural. Well done!

    About your comment that that using slow shutter speeds is rampant on the forums: When putting everything in context of the history of photography, I would not be surprised to learn that there is actually a higher percentage of images showing the stopped action of waterfalls today than ever before. That's because digital cameras have such high ISO values that make it possible to stop the action even when capturing powerful waterfalls in relatively low light. Consider the situation that film photographers were in not that long ago: ISO 400 was relatively grainy even in bright light. Film photographers of the past had no realistic choice in many situations other than blurring the water, whereas digital photographers now can capture the image any way that they prefer.

  7. #7
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Water shots

    Thanks Mike - I prefer the first one too!!! Perhaps I fell into the "well everybody else is doing it" trap, but admittedly it worked.

    I agree with your comments about the ISO values we have now; when I started Kodachrome had an ASA of 12 (not a typo). Shortly after it was boosted to 25 - we were wowed. Then to 64 - what will they think of next? My last days of shooting film were summer of 2006. Just six years ago this month I converted, and what a game changer it was.

    Back to topic. My opinion is that blur is like any tool - use it correctly in an appropriate situation.

    As to Virginia's question:

    ". . the difference between a "frozen" picture and a "blurred" picture of the same waterfall is that the frozen image demonstrates the power of the waterfall while the blurred image gives a more serene image of the waterfall.

    Do you folks agree/disagree? And, do you have a preference?"


    A blurred image (particularly of a waterfall) makes the water look "fatter" because there are many trajectories that the water takes on its way down, making the waterfall look bigger than it is. It also is much softer - sometimes almost downy. Softness would be associated with serene.

    Some waterfalls with only a small stream flow look quite puny in a frozen image. Puny doesn't look powerful in this case, so the authors statement doesn't seem to hold does it? If the stream flow is large, then the roughness of the frozen stream could look more powerful. Maybe it all depends on the water fall and its size of stream flow or "thickness".

    The problem with hard and simple rules is that they often don't take variables into consideration.


    Glenn

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    Re: Water shots

    I prefer the second shot, it is much more realistic to my eyes. The blurred one isn't capturing something , I can't quite pick out what. I think maybe it is because the whitecap is looks smeared/smooth , like one is far away but the picture itself is a close up & in the second one I see the more individual parts of the whitecap.
    The blurred is softer, is this capturing the speed of water?
    diane

  9. #9
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: Water shots

    Quote Originally Posted by Diane View Post
    I prefer the second shot, it is much more realistic to my eyes. The blurred one isn't capturing something , I can't quite pick out what. I think maybe it is because the whitecap is looks smeared/smooth , like one is far away but the picture itself is a close up & in the second one I see the more individual parts of the whitecap.
    The blurred is softer, is this capturing the speed of water?
    diane
    Keep in mind that this is a standing wave - it isn't moving like a wave on a lake or the ocean which travels to the shore. It just stays in the same place. The water is flowing, but essentially the water is moving over a hill so to speak.

    I think we will find that the preferences will vary on these images. There will be no consensus.


    Glenn

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Water shots

    Glenn - interpreting motion in a still image, whether it is water, a bird flying or a car driving by will be up for debate forever. Trying to portray a sense of motion of a three dimensional object in a two dimensional fixed image is impossible. The photographer has few choices; try to imply movement in the image or shoot an image without even a hint of movement or something in between.

    Everyone has an opinion, and frankly, I've stopped listening to comments on that aspect of my work, because as you have noted, "There will be no consensus."

  11. #11

    Re: Water shots

    Quote Originally Posted by drjuice View Post
    ...two of the points the authors make are that the different between a "frozen" picture and a "blurred" picture of the same waterfall is that the frozen image demonstrates the power of the waterfall while the blurred image gives a more serene image of the waterfall.

    Do you folks agree/disagree? And, do you have a preference?
    Hi Virginia,
    Yes I agree with the opinion quoted and my preference is to freeze water. For me water is powerful, energetic, sometimes fun (a babbling brook) often frighting, sometimes calm. On those occasions when water is calm it has a real beauty but I find no beauty in making energetic water seem serene.

  12. #12
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Water shots

    The other aspect to this, which is not a direct answer to Virginia's question, but takes us into the realm of 'How does the modern digital photographer best present flowing water?'. And the best answer to that I've seen was in Frank's first post in his Project 52 thread, which I then tried to emulate in this thread.

  13. #13
    drjuice's Avatar
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    Re: Water shots

    First, thanks to everybody for their contributions to this discussion. What actually propelled me to start this thread was the other recent thread that mentioned representating water. I'm still munching ideas about water and will probably do so for a while. And, since it's been so hot in SoCal, my dealing with flowing water this year, other than from a faucet, hose, or sprinkler, will probably not happen until late fall or winter though I'm hoping to get up into the Sierras in October.

    Second, at least one of you asked for some samples from me. I went through all my slides and digital images and find that I have NO, zero, nada, none of water in "serene" mode. It's as though I've only focused on the "what's there" when I looked at water, which came as a big surprise to me and not concentrated on the "what it could be" aspects of the images.

    The latter has been a big revelation to me in terms of what I photograph. Yesterday, I was out taking pictures of Carmageddon2 (ten miles of our 405 freeway have been closed since Friday midnight and will be closed until 5am on Monday). I was going for some specific shots (which I did get). But, I also took a few images of the actual bridge that's being demolished. And, the puffs of concrete particles as pieces of the bridge fell were almost waterlike in the way they appeared.

    So, if you commented earlier or are yet to comment, thank you for helping me think this issue through.

    virginia

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    Re: Water shots

    For me, i do not see a big value of blurring water except when you're practicing with shutter priority(especially for newbies like me).
    From quite a distance at a recent outdoor chess tourney i shot, i swiftly shot this gentleman.
    Water shots

    Oh, and he makes very good steak too...

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    Re: Water shots

    Given that the refresh rate of the eye is pretty slow compared to the typical camera shutter speed (say 1/200s), and how far do the droplets of water move in those times?
    http://www.100fps.com/how_many_frame...humans_see.htm

    Googled this for interest just now.

    I have always maintained that there is no such thing as truth in a picture given that the eye sees inherently differently to a camera sensor (of any type, film or digital).
    Very fast shutter speeds give a different image to what we actually see.
    Slow shutter speeds give a different image to what we see.

    Now it's all down to personal interpretation based on your experience, emotion and state of mind at the time.
    Graham

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