I know the first thing some people will ask: 'why?' Well, to be fair, that is a perfectly sound question and yes, why bother standing in a stream and shoot water bubbles. To me, it is because you can and with digital there is no cost. It is also a nice break from the usual blurred water shots that many of us love. So, while you are out there doing waterfalls, spend a few minutes afterwards trying this subject.
It is fun, challenging and you may even like the results. In fact, if you want some abstracts to hang up, this technique is worth trying.
Of course, you can shoot water bubbles in the bath, should you feel that way inclined. However, this idea is water bubbles in a babbling brook or at the foot of a waterfall.
Health and safety point here: Please take care on slippery rocks and obviously take care of your kit.
Take A Support
You could, of course, use a tripod and position the camera so it is pointing down. Tripods that have a centre column that can be swung round to horizontal make it easier to shoot down onto the water's surface as well as offering more support than working hand-held will. Do make sure your tripod is secure and balanced so it won't fall over, camera first into the stream or river you're photographing.
Pick The Right Lenses
Lens-wise, try your lens's macro feature or use a macro lens. A macro lens used close up is perfect, but there won't be a great deal of depth-of-field at such fast shutter speeds. Setting a high ISO is an option, but that depends on the noise performance of your camera.
Wear sturdy boots, making sure they are waterproof if you're planning on standing in a stream. Wellies or waders mean that you have more freedom regarding camera position but you can just find a suitable spot by keeping your feet dry and standing on a rock or something. You'll also need a warm, waterproof jacket, particularly at this time of year when a rain shower is a common thing. Various jackets and photographer's vests are available on the market.
Choose The Right Shutter Speeds
Find yourself a good spot in the stream. This can be in a sunbeam or it can be in the shade. However, very fast shutter speeds are the order of the day, so check the lighting and if you are getting 1/1000sec or more, great. It is an opportunity to explore those speeds of 1/2000sec and 1/4000sec. As with blurring flowing water, try different shutter speeds. Flash is worth a try too.
Let's Talk About Focus And Exposure
Exposure and focusing are technical challenges. Your camera is not going to manage to autofocus – water bubbles do not hang around waiting for your AF to kick in. The best thing is to focus manually and then change camera position to get sharp focus. The reject rate will be high.
Exposure can be tricky because you have bright, sunlit bubble against a dark background, and the scene is constantly changing. Like focusing, taking the manual option is worth a serious thought. Meter manually, shoot some frames and make adjustments. Once you have metered for a particular lighting situation, it is time to start shooting.
Don't Stop Shooting
Shoot lots. You are not going to get the perfect picture in a couple of frames. You will find that the micro landscape in front of you is never the same twice – miss a shot and you are not going to get another identical shot. Put in a positive way, every shot you take will be unique – no question. You can also play around with your images in Photoshop, flipping images to create interesting patterns etc.
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