From sparkling rain to tranquil lakes, water provides a range of subjects allow our creative photography juices to flow.
Words & pictures Peter Bargh
Us Brits are always at the brunt of bad weather jokes and its hardly surprising considering the amount of rain we have. Even as I write this, the rain is beating against the patio doors, and this is our first port of call. Rain doesnt have to stop play or, in our case, photography. There are plenty of opportunities to get great pictures of water and patio doors or windows have more to offer than you may think, and you dont even have to get wet!
Take a closer look at the rain as it hits the pane. It leaves tiny water droplets, each projecting an upside down view of the outside world and when these droplets are combined they create fascinating patterns. With a close-up lens attached to your camera you can move in on the droplets and fill the frame with vivid shapes. Use a macro lens for added impact or attach a set of extension tubes to your SLR if the lens you use doesnt allow you to get close. If you are a digital photographer you can crop the result and print out a selective enlargement.
Look at the viewpoint too. If a white sky is behind the droplets they will all appear white with just a thin black outline. If you move around so that a darker background is present, such as a nearby wall or greenery, the droplets will take on those colours and patterns making more interesting shapes. You could even place coloured material behind the droplets to force an effect. Take the photographs in the evening and the background will be black with sparkling droplets created by the indoor lighting.
|Rain droplets in the garden also offer an alternative approach to flower photography, producing petals or leaves that glisten. A single droplet falling off the tip of a leaf shot with a macro lens is eye catching, a rose showered in rain is vibrant. And even if it hasnt rained you can become God by showering the flower with a garden spray filled with water.
Similarly droplets on various materials can provide scope. A black bin liner with its folds offers potential, so does the bonnet of a car. Wherever theres rain theres an opportunity water off a ducks back so to speak!
From one extreme to the other waterfalls make great landscape subjects. Compose the photograph so that youre filling the frame with the waterfall and your pictures will have impact. Take control of the exposure and you can produce amazingly different results of the same waterfall. A slow shutter speed will make the water blur and look angelic, while a fast speed freezes every splash, making the scene look frozen in time. Set your camera to shutter-priority and mount it on a tripod and then set a speed of 1/8 to 1/15sec for a suitable blur.
Flash can also be used on waterfalls, if you are within the range of the flashs maximum distance. This will add sparkle to the water and capture every detail.
Take care when metering water as the large areas of white can fool the meter to underexpose, making the picture look dark. Its always worth bracketing on these shots and allowing an extra stop to compensate.
Choose the viewpoint carefully - a low angle will make the fall look more dominating, while a high viewpoint may make it look insignificant. Move to one side to gain a powerful viewpoint or shoot head on for interesting patterns.
Lakes and reservoirs provide plenty of potential. A sunlit day delivers plenty of punch to the reflections and when calm provides an almost mirror image of the surrounding landscape. Try to add foreground detail to prevent the scene looking dull and uninspiring a tree on the bank or rock will help. Also shoot from a point where the bank has shape to help lead you into the picture and avoid splitting the picture in half with the horizon. The rule of thirds is useful here where you place the horizon on the bottom third so that the sky dominates the picture or the top third so that the water dominates.
Take a trip to the coast. We are lucky enough to have some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in the world. From the surf-like qualities of Cornwall to the bleak and rugged areas of remote Scotland with the typical touristy settings of the East Coast or South coast. Theres plenty of potential. Again look for foreground detail to lead the viewer into the scene.
Shoot the waves
Applying the shutter speed techniques weve just discovered. Use a slow speed to blur the waves and a fast one to freeze them in their tracks. If you go for the fast approach wait until the wave is at a peak and shoot. Slow speeds are great for creating lava-style flows of water. Choose an area where the water is crashing against rocks so the shape changes and mount the camera on a tripod. Evening shots are worthwhile as the sun sets. You will pick up all the golden colours to add to the atmosphere.
A river could be shot from a high viewpoint with a wide-angle lens to show the path it takes through the landscape, or from a low viewpoint to increase perspective as the river narrows dramatically into the distance. You can use your shutter speed techniques here too.
A polarising filter will help to kill reflections and ensure that you see the river-bed or under-surface wildlife.
Other ideas to try
Rain: photograph droplets hitting your garden pond or puddles.
Puddles: shoot from a low angle so that the reflections are displayed. Move around to get the best reflections.
In the fridge:Take close ups of ice cubes melting on a glass sheet.
Bubbles: Photograph water in a backlit glass bottle and shake it up first to create bubbles
Tap: Turn on a tap and capture the shapes as the water runs
Neon lights: Go out at night when its rained and shoot the illuminated shop windows and street signs in the glistening pavements.
Still lifes: Dont just spray flowers with water droplets, try cutlery, household objects and plastics for special effects.
Peter Bargh is editor of ePHOTOzine the UKs leading online photography magazine. www.ePHOTOzine.com