Focus-on-Foto-Fun “Water World”

Theme Number Nine is “Water World”

Taking photographs of water is the subject of Focus-on-Foto-Fun Theme Number Nine, “Water World.” Natural landscapes provide rivers and creeks, lakes and ponds, or the calm ocean scene with reflections, and waterfalls that one rarely gets to see in the arid Southwest. Those who live in, or have the opportunity to visit, colder climates might capture a beautifully reflected image in melting ice. If you live in the city, you might photograph puddles on the streets, or a fog covered skyscraper that just barely shows through the mist at daybreak. Or, you might possibly have photographed a storm with rain in the distance, or raindrops falling in a city park, maybe even a water fountain in a city square.

Photographing water is often more fascinating when it’s moving, and this can sometimes require the photographer to take some extra measures when shooting a photograph in order to share what they feel when it’s viewed by others. Sometimes, we want to share the raging flow of water – out of control, over the edge, and being pulled downward by gravity. Other times, we might in-JOY slowing the flow of water down so the viewer can almost hear the water cascading over rocks, or flowing softly downward, while emphasizing the surrounding area that is nourished by its flow.

The best way to slow the flow of a waterfall and make it appear as a mist or soft veil is by using a neutral density (ND) filter, and of course, by having your camera mounted on a tripod. ND filters allow you to take your photograph while using a slower shutter speed with your ISO set lower. This means that you can extend the amount of time the shutter is open so it slows the movement of the water down to a blur. You can also use an ND filter to darken the image enough on a sunny day, to be able to open your f/stop wider in order to change your depth of field, and keep the main subject in focus while everything around it is out of focus.

ND filters reduce the light that enters the camera without changing the color of the scene. They can be purchased in solid or graduated densities. An ND2, for instance, will give you 1 stop more than you would normally be able to achieve with the camera settings, ND4 = 2 stops, ND6 = 3 stops, and so on. A solid ND filter will change the density of the entire scene being photographed, where a graduated ND filter allows the photographer to choose which part of the scene will be photographed in actual light conditions while the rest of the scene is stopped down. Graduated ND filters are typically used to darken a sky, or even the glare of a waterfall in the woods on a sunny day while leaving the foliage surrounding the waterfall more visible without blowing out the whites in the water.

It’s important to pay attention to weather. The best times to photograph whichever “Water World” you happen to be standing in front of is at sunrise or sunset, and waterfall scenes will provide much more even light on a cloudy day. Reflections in lakes, rivers, and harbors are best taken on a sunny day with the sun to your back or on the side of your scene. A polarizer filter can help saturate the colors in the water, but be careful to pay attention when rotating it on your lens. A polarizer filter set to the wrong angle for the direction of the sun can also eliminate reflections. Reflections with great detail can be achieved when the water is calm, while water in motion can provide an excellent opportunity to shoot abstract photographs.

I’m really looking forward to seeing your photographs for this theme. There are so many FUN possibilities! Start practicing today, try something new, or show us how you’ve already photographed the wonderful “Water World” that’s all around us. Then post your photographs to the Focus-on-Foto-Fun page on FB at, and remember to tag your posts with #focusonfotofun and #waterworld. When posting to IG, please tag me too, @georgiamichalicek so I’m sure to see your photos there.

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