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Waterfalls

sinnerjohn

Smooth Bug Catcher
Real Name
John
Device
Pixel
So here's a talking point and please don't take this personally Steve as I think its a great image, but why do 'photographers' always go for that long exposure thing with waterfalls / moving water?
There are fairly recent examples from terse and probably FundyBrian too. I'm always perplexed about it, yes the images look stunning and are technically clever, but does flowing water really look like that?
Thoughts anyone?
 

terse

MobiLifer
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Ted
Device
iPhone Xs
So here's a talking point and please don't take this personally Steve as I think its a great image, but why do 'photographers' always go for that long exposure thing with waterfalls / moving water?
There are fairly recent examples from terse and probably FundyBrian too. I'm always perplexed about it, yes the images look stunning and are technically clever, but does flowing water really look like that?
Thoughts anyone?
A couple of thoughts:

The effect you get with long exposures of flowing water in a stream or waterfall isn't what flowing water actually looks like, you're right. But the frozen effect you get in a still photo of flowing water snapped at 1/500 or faster isn't what flowing water looks like either. At its best, I'd say the long exposure gives a better impression of the motion and -- maybe -- the experience.

In some cases (I'm thinking of the photos of retreating foam at the beach I've done recently), the long exposure reveals some fascinating and graceful patterns that you don't see with the naked eye. (Again, a fast shutter speed freezes waves, also revealing patterns -- but different ones -- that you don't register with the naked eye.)

There's also some personal taste involved. I like the contrast between the ultra-smooth blur of the water and the sharp jagged rocks and surroundings in Steve's photo above. But I had a painter friend who didn't like such photos. He liked long exposures in a serene image -- the glassy smooth surface of a secluded lake, for example -- but he felt the smoothness was jarring in a rushing torrent.
 

Glasshousebc

MobiStarlet
Real Name
Steve
Device
iPhone 7
So here's a talking point and please don't take this personally Steve as I think its a great image, but why do 'photographers' always go for that long exposure thing with waterfalls / moving water?
There are fairly recent examples from terse and probably FundyBrian too. I'm always perplexed about it, yes the images look stunning and are technically clever, but does flowing water really look like that?
Thoughts anyone?
No worries mate.

For me it’s personal taste... I’ve photos of crisp sharp water, enough you can see the individual drops of water cascading down... but when I first saw a long exposure shot some years ago on a paddling forum in the UK, I was floored... loved it.

It creates a serene, peaceful picture, which is complete opposite to the power that is actually on display when viewed in reality... at the same time, typically I get a great sense of calm when I’m around water, and capturing the movement/power as a flow takes me back to that feeling of calm.

So when I discovered I could achieve similar through the iPhone ‘live’ photo, I wanted to play.

It’s funny, I enjoy paddling white water, but love the serene calmness of a lake.

Hope that makes sense, and wasn’t a ramble.
 

davegray

MobiLurver
Real Name
Dave Gray
Device
iPhone 6s Plus
So here's a talking point and please don't take this personally Steve as I think its a great image, but why do 'photographers' always go for that long exposure thing with waterfalls / moving water?
There are fairly recent examples from terse and probably FundyBrian too. I'm always perplexed about it, yes the images look stunning and are technically clever, but does flowing water really look like that?
Thoughts anyone?

A beautiful landscape, and although I like this long exposure effect in this particular setting,i’m with John on that, I think it’s overdone.Personally I prefer the frozen effect of flowing water/sea.......but I think we’re in the minority.
 

FundyBrian

MobiStaff
Site Staff
MobiSupporter
Real Name
Brian Townsend
Device
iPhone 8 Plus
My 365
My MobiTog 365
So here's a talking point and please don't take this personally Steve as I think its a great image, but why do 'photographers' always go for that long exposure thing with waterfalls / moving water?
There are fairly recent examples from terse and probably FundyBrian too. I'm always perplexed about it, yes the images look stunning and are technically clever, but does flowing water really look like that?
Thoughts anyone?
It’s just a matter of personal expression. Water is moving, except when it’s frozen, or stagnant. So if I have the choice to depict water in motion or static, I generally choose motion, but not always. The situation tends to suggest the type expression. Actually, I prefer slow shutter speed video for water. Still photos of moving water are sort of lifeless. Over and over in presentations of mixed video and stills I have found that the still photos come out rather lifeless by comparison so over time the presentations moved towards more video and fewer stills. That is the whole problem right there. Water moves, pictures don’t. So all the different techniques come about as a result of being unhappy with a static expression of moving water.

Sometimes it is fun to show water at a high shutter speed if the waterfall has something interesting going on, such as the flow breaking up into drops on the way down. In that sort of waterfall with a light flow the falling water seems to disappear if you use a long shutter speed. Maybe your focus is on the little dancing splashing going on in some areas, so a faster speed is called for.

I guess the one thing I like to avoid when photographing water is making the motion out of fast shutter speed frames, which typically happens when the light is bright. I prefer either a low light situation or a neutral density or polarizing filter to slow down the shutter speed. I’m aiming for 1/30 second or slower but how slow depends on the speed of the water. Even 1/30 second with fast water provides some nice motion blur. But I have found that shutter speeds longer than about 1/3 second start to look unnaturally silky. Sometimes that look is nice but too often there is the danger that much of the interesting current patterns start to disappear and the bright areas start to look uniformly white, so I try to avoid that. A look I rather like comes about with HDR where there are 3 images, each with a different shutter speed, and when combined you have some sharp details as well as motion blur. The really long shutter speeds are more useful for slow moving water like lakes or coastal waters to make the water look calm. Again, it’s the relative speed of the water that dictates the shutter speed. Slow water requires a slower speed to have any effect.

When I’m photographing a relatively fast-flowing brook I usually try shutter speeds like 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, maybe right down to 1 or 2 seconds, and usually it is between 1/15 and 1/3 that I end up liking best. It comes down to what I’m trying to convey. Also, the direction of movement in relation to the camera angle changes the required speed.

Well, it appears that there are so many different situations and possible forms of expression that it isn’t possible to give any guideline that holds true in every situation.
 
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