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Landscape Photography: Motion And Movement

John Gravett shows us how wind movement can make interesting and more dynamic landscape shots.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Article by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays - www.lakelandphotohols.com

So often people worry about wind movement of trees and grasses spoiling their photographs, but why not emphasise it instead of stopping it – that way you can convey to the viewer the conditions on the day; few worry about conveying movement in waterfalls, surely that's the same idea.

Long Exposure Landscape
© John Gravett.

Gear needed:

  • Camera
  • Tripod – conveying movement necessitates long exposures, so keeping the camera still is essential
  • ND filters can be useful – to allow longer shutter speeds. 3 – 10 stops depending on what you're after
Nikon D4 and Nikon D800


To start, think about what you're taking, and how much movement you want, bear in mind, there are no "rules" to follow here – you simply have to achieve the effect you want.


If you're shooting a waterfall and want just a touch of movement to show the flow, but still retain a realistic appearance, you might need 1/15 - 1/60th second (depending on how fast the water is flowing!). If, on the other hand, you're looking for a more "misty" impressionistic look to the water, longer shutter speeds may be called for. There is no such thing as the "right" or "wrong" shutter speed. One major advantage of longer shutter speeds is that they often correspond with smaller apertures, so it's easy to ensure good depth of field across the picture.

© John Gravett.


At the coast, tides can look good with a long shutter speed to create a misty effect, often shot at the end of the day, when lowering light levels allow longer shutter speeds, there is no reason not to take them at any time. The shot of the incoming tide at St. Bees was taken in the middle of the day, with a Lee filters Big Stopper (10-stop ND filter) coupled with a 10-shot multi-exposure. This gave ten 30-second exposures on the same frame, totalling 5-minutes (in broad sunlight). The only downside was that halfway through the exposures, I was hit by a wave at waist height! The camera escaped undamaged.

Incoming Tide
© John Gravett.


A windy day at the coast provided wind-blown sand in trails across the beach. Whilst this can look spectacular, airborne sand can ruin a camera in no time. I put my all-weather cover (Cameramac) over the camera, walked into the middle of the wind-blown section and set up with my back to the wind, so I was pointing the camera away from the blown sand. (Don't do it the other way!) A low viewpoint can emphasise the airborne sand particles and give a good impression of the conditions.

Wind at beach
© John Gravett.

Trees or grasses

On a windy day, capturing movement in trees or grasses simply requires fixing the camera down securely and going for a long shutter speed, or multiple exposures. A stable tripod helps, and try to increase its stability, by hanging your bag on the tripod to effectively increase its weight. I find a camera strap can blow around in the wind and cause vibration, so I never use one on a tripod. The fence in the grasses presented an interesting problem, I wanted the grasses to show movement, but the fence was also vibrating in the wind, so I had to select a shutter speed that showed movement in the grasses, but showed the fence sufficiently sharp. I tried a range of different shutter speeds and chose the one that looked best after I downloaded them onto my computer. The mistake too many people make in these situations is to only take one or two pictures, only to find out later that nothing is sharp. Shooting digitally costs nothing, and these situations are totally unpredictable, so make sure you take a good number, and delete the unsuccessful ones after downloading and checking them through.

Coastal grasses during high-wind
© John Gravett.
Movement in trees works the same way – a long exposure will render the leaves as a creative blur, showing the viewer that it was windy. A technique I sometimes use on a sunny day with strong winds is to take a multiple-exposure of 10 shots at high shutter speeds, which gives a wonderful sparkle to the leaves as well as giving a great sense of movement.

© John Gravett.

So next time it's blowing hard, don't try to stop the movement – emphasise it and add another dimension to your pictures.

(Article updated and added to 2013)

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JackAllTog Plus
13 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
22 Feb 2012 5:34PM
Some good ideas here thanks.

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