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Without water, life as we know it wouldn’t exist. Humans are dependent upon it, plants must have it, aquatic life needs it. I know I state the obvious, but have you ever considered water to be a great photographic resource? Be it a running river, ocean waves, reflective puddle, or an offshoot such as a child playing with a hose, a backlit fountain, or a dog shaking himself dry after a swim, there are a myriad of opportunities to create magnificent images that relate to water.
There are a number of ways to make your water shots stand out. The first has to do with shutter speed. The faster the shutter speed, the more defined each drop becomes. The faster the water moves, the higher the shutter speed that’s necessary to freeze the action. On the other hand, an exaggerated slow shutter speed can create a cotton candy effect on the water. For example, if you’re photographing a fast running waterfall, a shutter speed of 1/1000 is necessary to freeze the motion of the drops. But if you add neutral density filters that allow you to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/2 second or slower, the water takes on an ethereal effect and reveals the rocks over which the water flows.
Another way to create better water photos is to shoot late or early in the day. The reason for this is twofold. If you’re shooting a frontlit subject, the golden colors of sunrise and sunset bathe it in a pleasing warmth. The other reason is to create very dramatic backlit shots. Every drop of water becomes visible and prominent in the image. They take on a translucent quality that makes them a strong part of the image. Fountains, kids at fire hydrants, and splashing dogs are great subjects for this.
Finally, consider the use of a polarizer to eliminate reflections and reduce glare. Not only will the colors be more saturated, the overall contrast of the image will be softened if the points of glare and reflectivity are removed. Simply rotate the polarizer and look through the viewfinder until the glare is reduced. Depending on the angle at which your subject is to the camera, the effect may be very strong or barely visible.