Photographing Moving Water – Revisited

Hi Folks:

Last month I did a blog post on a technique I’ve been playing with for ‘Photographing Moving Water‘. I’m not going to reiterate that technique here so if you’d like to read that other post first, I’ll wait…

…welcome back!

Now, I’ve used this idea on several photos and it generally works pretty well, but I’d only used it on wave action down at the shore of the ocean. I’d been wondering how well it would work on a stream, waterfall or other moving water, so I went out yesterday to make some more images. This is my second ‘winter’ here on the island and I’m still not quite used to the idea of using ‘January’ and ‘spring’ in the same sentence, but the skunk cabbage leaves were already starting to unfurl when I was out… Anyway, I digress.

I went to a small stream that flows into Rithet’s Bog and made the images there. My first attempt involved 95 images made at exposures from -2/-1/0/+1/+2 EV.  When I combined them together in Lightroom, I got the following result:


HDR composite – 95 images

This is a low resolution sRGB .jpg and quite honestly it doesn’t do the image justice, but it’s mostly the flow of the water that I’m interested in. It has that nice smooth effect I was looking for, but maybe a little too much of it. I decided to try again, using another sequence of images I’d made in the same area.

This time I had a sequence of 42 images, 8 each shot at f/5.0 at 1/6 second, 1/3 second, 1/2 second, 0.8 seconds and 1.5 seconds, and 2 images shot at f/5.0 and 1/13 second. I combined these into groups of 4 or 5 images per group, then began combining groups until I had groups of 4/5, 8/10, 16/20, 36 and 42 images. From those I selected the best from each group until I had 5 final image composites of 5, 10, 20, 36 and 42 images. Again, it’s the flow of the water I was most interested in. Here are those five images:

Rocky Stream

HDR composite – 5 images

Rocky Stream 2

HDR composite – 10 images

Rocky Stream 3

HDR composite – 20 images

Rocky Stream 4

HDR composite – 36 images

Rocky Stream 5

HDR composite – 42 images

(Click on the images for a larger version)

Now, this is not an exact science. There are too many variables, including the rate of flow of the water and the shutter speed (which is in itself a function of available light, ISO and f/stop settings). In this case I was working with relatively slow shutter speeds to begin with. To my eyes there isn’t a lot of difference between images in the faster water on the right, but I do see a bigger difference in the pool just left of center frame. In the first image one can make out some texture in the surface of the water in the pool, but in the last image this has been blended together to the point that it’s pretty much lost. I would say the best image of the group is either the second or third image – there’s enough smoothing to give that sense of movement but still enough detail to make it interesting.

Here’s another image; this one was made from five separate exposures, shot at -2/-1/0/+1/+2 EV. I think a few more images would have smoothed out the water better, but I think the image stands on its own as it is.

Bigleaf Maple

HDR composite – 5 images

Okay, that’s it for this post. Now go out and make some photographs!


P.S. Part III of this series can be seen here: Photographing Moving Water: Another Look…

P.S. II, the Sequel: You can see these images and more on our Flickr photostream.

P.S. III, one more: You can find more of our posts on photography and Lightroom tutorials here, and you can find links to over 200 other sites that have Lightroom tips, tutorials and videos here.

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