Water. It is the most precious and life giving of elements. At times peaceful and serene while at other times bringing great devastation and destruction. It has long been a favourite subject matter for photographers simple because it possesses so much potential for creating an interesting image.
Waterfalls, rivers, streams, the ocean. They all long for an artistic soul to come along make a photograph.
Try a Long Focal Length Lens
Let’s jump right in and talk about the two main choices you will face when photographing a waterscape. Should I shoot wide or should I shoot close? Of course by shooting “wide” it means that you are using a short focal length (wide-angle) lens and shooting “close” means you are using a long focal length (telephoto) lens.
Generally speaking, I consider anything under 50mm to be wide-angle and anything over 50mm to be tele. That’s not something I read in a book somewhere but rather just a personal assertion and guideline. I only mention it to give you, the avid and appreciated reader, some frame of reference as to what I consider to be wide-angle.
If you’re just getting your feet wet with shooting water scenes you might assume that the wider your lens, the more likely you are to include more elements into your composition. You are not wrong in this assumption but neither is it always true.
In my opinion, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of photographing any type of waterscape. Color is all around us. Before you say “well yeah” and skip over this section, it is my earnest hope that you will take a moment to hear what I have to say. It all comes down to using color more effectively.
It’s not always apparent exactly how much color is present within a given scene. Water is especially notorious for its ability to hide color from the naked eye. Thankfully there are ways for us photographers to look beneath the surface and liberate these elusive chromatic nuances through the magic that is post processing.
Look Beyond the Water
As counterintuitive as it may seem, a powerful waterscape image doesn’t always place the emphasis on the water. In our efforts to go beyond the ordinary and make better photographs of water we sometimes have to look around and see what else is available to enhance the scene.
These “enhancements” could be anything: a rock, a tree, a person, an animal, or simply focusing on something other than the obvious. When you begin to understand that you have control you will gradually be able to see more than you did before not only with your waterscapes but in all aspects of your photographic work. In the end, it just depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.