Saturday, February 7, 2009

Seeing Water with a Camera

Water presents a number of challenges and creative opportunities for digital photography. It is a subject that yields images that you can't see with the unaided eye. I've been rediscovering how perceptions and captured images of water change based on the light conditions and shutter speed.

In search of inner balance, and some photographs, I visited the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin today. Just to the right of the visitor center there is a small grassy glen with a water fountain. So, looking for something different, I kneeled down behind the fountain to shoot up into the top of the spray against a gray cloudy sky.

The initial shots were over exposed even using automatic shutter speed with aperture priority. The metering was exposing for the sky not the water. So, I set the camera to f14 and turned on the flash to stop the motion of the water droplets, even at 1/180 exposure time. The water is seen by the camera is a way you can see with your eye; the droplets are suspended and round. Post processing used a dust filter and converted the image to black-and-white.

The Japanese section of the Gardens has a number of small detail features. This second image is of a bamboo water drip above a pool. Note the stop-action for the water with the rich warmth of the bamboo and the blurred background. The shutter speed was 1/60 of a second which normally blurs moving water. I used the flash to stop the water and an f9 aperture to blur the background.

The eye sees this falling water as a blurred stream. In contrast, the camera reveals what happens to the water as it falls; it becomes a series of disconnected droplets.

A future article will look at photographing reflections in water, and the patterns and colors you can capture in water ripples.

1 comment:

  1. My new cheap point and shoot digital camera has a manual shutter speed mode. I was excited enough to take an 8 second shot of Polaris at high magnification through my 10" non-tracking telescope. You see, Polaris, like my scope, doesn't move much in the course of 8 seconds. And, Polaris is a double star. The companion is both faint and close to the primary. And my shot got both. It's not going to win any prizes, but pretty exciting for me all the same. Astrophography is normally very expensive, and this was done with things hanging around the house.

    But now i'm inspired to use this point and shoot camera for other non-point and shoot sorts of things. My previous camera, also a Samsung, did not have manual anything. And though i took pictures of the Moon and such, it was often over a hundred shots to get a good one. What a difference a single feature can make. OK, so f14 isn't one of the options.


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