The Delicate Balance of Photographing Flowing Water

In landscape photography, flowing water marks a rare opportunity to include motion in an otherwise static scene. While you can freeze the natural flow of water using a faster shutter speed, using a slower shutter speed will let you capture the same water with a dreamily silky effect. But the latter technique has some challenges of its own. First, using slow shutter speed in daylight can overexpose your shot; second, glares and reflections can add distractions to your image. In today’s video, landscape photographer Alister Benn shows you how to photograph amazing looking flowing water using your circular polarizer (CPL) and neutral density (ND) filters:

Nailing your shutter speed is critical when photographing flowing water. If it’s too fast, you’ll take the life out of the image; if it’s too slow, it’ll seem overly done. So, be sure to take your time to review your images patiently before settling for the final settings.

Going back to the challenges, Benn shares how you can use an ND filter to cut down on the ambient light. With an ND filter, you can make daytime appear like night and open up the shutter for longer. Choose the strength of your ND filter based on how long you want the exposure. Next, as Benn demonstrates in the video, you can get rid of the shine on the rocks and the water surface using a polarizing filter. But again, if you take out all the shine, you’ll run the risk of making the image look too flat. You’ll lose the depth in the image. So, again, it’s up to you to be wary of how far you should go.

Be sure to go through the entire video for some great insights and compositional tips to photograph flowing water.

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