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The Magic of Water

Off the Beaten Path

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”
—Loran Eisely, The Immense Journey, 1957

Nature’s magical moments—those rare moments when stunning light and mood come together perfectly—these are the moments all nature photographers chase. Figuring out when and where these magical moments will occur is something I talk about frequently in my articles and instructional books, including my recent ebook Chasing the Light. I’ve written quite a bit on the subject, more than I can reasonably present here, so I’ll sum things up and focus on the one key ingredient to creating powerful nature photos: moisture. Believe it or not, it is simple H2O—water—that can make all the difference between taking good nature photos, and taking great ones.

Don’t believe me? Think about it for a moment. Water makes clouds, which can light up with color at sunrise and sunset. Water is responsible for rainbows and fog, sunbeams and morning mist clinging to the surface of a lake—oh, and it makes the lake too (an extra bonus which leads me to water’s next virtue). Water reflects the world around us in a stunning full color display. Water, freshly fallen, saturates the colors of spring and fall foliage, turns babbling brooks into roaring waterfalls, and bedews flowers with liquid diamonds. Water enhances mood, filters light, and can turn even mundane scenes into the sublime.

The lesson in all of this? Don’t be afraid to get a little wet. Too often, when rain comes their way, photographers pack it in. But that’s exactly the right kind of weather for making great nature images. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that standing in a downpour is the key to success. The edges of “moisture events,” however, are where all the magical stuff occurs, when all the rainbows and sunbeams and valleys filled with fog happen. So it pays to be on location, ready to shoot, during these times. If it means getting a little wet, then so be it—you’ll be making stunning images that your dry (yet soon to be envious) colleagues miss.

Who would have thought that a pair of hydrogen atoms bonded with an oxygen atom could make the world so beautiful? So the next time you are out hunting for stunning nature images, keep your eyes on the prize: water, whether it be in solid, liquid, or vaporous form. Where there is water, magic is likely to happen.  

—Ian Plant     

Chasing the Light: Essential Tips for Taking Great Landscape Photos: A 62-page downloadable PDF eBook filled with informative text, stunning full-color images, and plenty of insights and inspiration. 

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 Using Live View for Nature Photography

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