7 thoughts on “Photographing Landscapes with Water”

  1. Hi, Nick and Majeed–

    Thanks for this discussion about photographing water. I’ve thought about this too so I enjoyed hearing your take. Having had a couple of close calls myself I appreciated your focus on safety around water. And love the many good suggestions, especially neoprene socks! I’m after getting some to wear with my water shoes.

    I like to photograph a stream here in the Oregon Cascades, called Opal Creek. It runs in a pristine forest canyon that has not been logged or roaded, so the water is crystal clear and has a brilliant lively flow. Photos I take in the stream have three components: first, the light that reflects from the bottom of the stream; second, light reflected from the surface of the water and third, colors create by ripples acting as prisms and bending light into flashes of pure color. The combinations are infinite, always interesting and great fun to try to capture. I use a polarizer to adjust the surface reflections, and a moderately fast shutter speed to keep the surface texture intact. I think these images allow the viewer to see into the moving stream flow by isolating a single moment. It’s a whole world of gorgeous images. And yes, I use a hiking pole for balance while walking in the stream. There are a few samples on the web site.

    I shoot mostly in the summer and fall when the water is low and safe to walk in. In winter and early spring, the water is high and fast–it can move huge logs downstream–and rock banks are wet or icy so its not possible to be close to the stream. But an even more important reason–I have noticed that people don’t like images of fast water as much as the summer ones. I did a little research and came across the work of Roger Ulrich, who is an advocate for the idea of healing gardens where patients experience nature, including water. Roger believes that we humans love water that looks safe, that is calm and not too deep, but we have a primal fear of water that looks powerful and could injure us. His idea got me thinking about how I perceive water flows and I think he is right. You referenced the big wave shots, and to me they do look scary, I definitely would not want to be caught in one no matter how the image came out.

    I think Roger’s idea explains the popularity of the ‘angel hair’ look in so many photos of water. Once it was a result of low ISO films that required longer exposures but it remains popular now when we can shoot at ISOs like 3200 and get good results. I hypothesize that blurring the flow of water into indistinct ribbons of white makes it look safe and approachable to a viewer. If the water has too much motion in it it looks scary to a viewer (at a subconscious level). Hope you will give that some consideration and let us know your thoughts.

    I enjoy making photos of Opal Creek, so much so that I would have to say being in the water there is like a meditation that brings sheer happiness. I find that other photographers I have taken up there usually have similar experiences, so perhaps one reason to photograph water is that it’s good for your soul.

    Glad to discover you, looking forward to the podcasts!


    Mike O’Brien

  2. Greatly enjoy the series overall.

    As a Florida photographer curious if you have any tripod recommendations or comments about use in salt water, sand or mud.

  3. I just wanted to start by saying I really enjoyed this episode and I also wanted to comment on the safety aspect of the show. I was in North Carolina this past summer in Chimney Rock State park and I wanted to take some photos of the creek the runs around Chimney Rock. While moving from boulder to boulder I slipped and the next thing I know I’m ping ponging between the rocks while trying to protect my camera and end up face down in this cold creek trying to catch my breath. Wound up with a dislocated shoulder and a smashed camera. Lucky enough I’m still in my twenties so I was able to bounce back some what quickly but it was a valuable lesson that I rather would’ve listen to then learn firsthand. Love the shows, keep them coming.

  4. Like so many here I’m really enjoying this show. I’ve waiting a long time for a landscape podcast to come along so thank you.
    One thing I’d like to add to the water discussion and this would obviously pertain to all landscape photography where you are hiking in. Make sure you pay attention to where the trail head is. Last year when photographing a series of waterfalls in NH I got so excited by the beauty of the falls that I didn’t pay attention what the trail looked like. As I worked my way up and down the falls I realized that there were several trails and I wasn’t sure which one I needed to take to get back to my car. I eventually figured it out but I wished that I had done something to make it more obvious. Now I look for two sticks and put them in an X so that I can identify the trail as I try to walk back.

    Love the show and look forward to many more.

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