Working the Scene
Saturday was a beautiful Spring day… oh, wait, it isn’t Spring yet. Well, it reminded me of a Spring day. The sun was out, there was a little breeze and we have barely any snow on the ground. I half expected to see crocuses blooming in the woods as I explored the creek behind the house.
It wasn’t warm enough to remove all the ice from the creek and the recent rains had the water level up with a decent flow. Perfect conditions for me to go playing and to create some abstract, long exposure, water and ice images. Of course, normally I like a little cloud cover to make the conditions more favorable to getting my long exposure settings but yesterday I threw on the variable neutral density filter to help me get to my ~1 second exposures.
I thought rather than just post to final product I would attempt to show my thought process as I am getting the image I want. When I play in the creek, creating these long exposures, it is always a balancing act with the shutter speed to achieve just the right amount of softness in the water. You can go full on with the filter and completely smooth out the water but for these creek scenes I like to show the flow. I believe it adds some energy to the image.
After climbing down into the creek bed I start looking for areas were there is some turbulence in the stream. I’m looking for a little waterfall type area or quick changes in direction. I want to capture the swirling water as it splashes its way through the rocks/ice. When I am including ice in the image I am also looking for some interesting formations in the ice. Here is the view of the first area I chose.
I like this section of the creek. Good ice. Good flow. And some good turbulence so I can highlight the water stream. What I wasn’t happy with was the large chuck of bright ice in the top right of the image. It is drawing the eye away from the water and the ice detail in the rest of the image. Attempt number two is a slight composition change to minimize the impact of that ice.
Definitely better. The ice on the right has less impact. I really like the flow of the water. The turbulence is highlighted just the way I want. Still, I’m not quite happy with the image. The chunk of ice in the top right right is giving my a problem. The composition was still off too! The balance of the elements and the movement of the water through the image was not right. Time to move my position. I place the tripod almost 90 degrees to where it was originally.
Now I’m getting what I want. The structure of the ice at the top left of the image is better from this view. I love the water coming in at the top right and exiting bottom left. There is a good mix of flowing water and chaotic water. Almost there! Still that darn chunk of ice on the right. Tighten up the zoom!
There it is! That is the image I was looking for when I climbed down into the creek. I have the detail of the ice. There is energy from the flowing water. There is amazing visuals in the chaotic portion of the flow. I have a good balance of the tones. Now I can move on to the next area of the creek.
There is more to my whole image capture process that I haven’t shown. For each one of these images I was playing with multiple exposure settings. As the sun was weaving its way in and out of the clouds the light in the creek was changing. I was constantly adjusting the variable ND filter to change the shutter speed. Each 1/3 change in exposure from the shutter created a different amount of blur in the water. The choices I was making impacted the energy in the image. Too long with the shutter open and the water smoothed out to just be tonal changes. Too quick and the water was frozen in time completely stopping the energy. So for almost every one of these images I have 3-4 versions at various shutter speeds.
Normally all I would post is image number four. The final product. The winning image. I thought maybe it would be interesting to peak inside my thought process as I am capturing my images. Maybe it isn’t. You will have to let me know…