Winter landscapes involving water are plentiful, but water can be a tricky subject to photograph. The eye is much more subtle than a camera lens, and we have to help the camera overcome this…

(200 words, a two-minute read)

(Above: contrast and colour have been adjusted to maximise the balance between the bright sun through the trees and the darker far shore of the cold river)

Watery landscapes can look pale and ‘flat’ if you let the standard camera settings take charge. The lens is doing what it’s supposed to, but our eye takes in more than is being photographed. A good way around this is to take the shot, then use the built-in editing suite to increase the contrast of the subject, then the richness of the colours. Finally, use the saturation control to reduce the ‘overcooked’ shot to the level of colouration you want. Many photographers have their own ‘look and feel’, achieved in this way as a signature style. This isn’t altering the photograph, just a fine-tuning of the levels of light that are already in the image.

(Above: close-up light reflected through crystal-clear water only needs a pleasing composition for a good result. This could be a giant turtle, but its only a limestone rock)

If you’re in bright sunlight and near a river with a reflective bed, such as limestone, find a submerged feature and get as close as you can; holding the camera just above the water line. Wellingtons or even waders are great if you want to lift your shot to the next level….

(Above: Making your shot more artistic)

Winter is a great time to experiment with light. Sometimes I like to break the rules and see what kind of ‘arty’ shot I can get. The final two examples, here and below, are shots that should not have worked, but did. The one above had too much of the sun’s brightness through the trees and on the fast-flowing water. By dramatically reducing the brilliance of the image, the water took on an inky texture, and the sunburst changed colour to complementary mauve.

In the final shot, I was in bright, winter sunshine, crossing the River Kent on the old suspension bridge and decided to take a ‘vertical panorama’, as in previous posts. Instead of moving from a level line upwards into the sky, I started the shot looking down into the water, then panned up the length of the river and into the sun. I expected the result to be a washout… but sometimes, wonderful and artistic things happen! With digital shots, it’s easy to take many and throw away most of them… The ones that remain will be worth the experimentation.

(Sometimes, wonderful things just happen…)

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, A journey through the forest of personality to the sunrise of Being.

All images by the author and copyright.

©Stephen Tanham, 2021.

10 Comments on “Winter walks with camera (10) flowing water

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