Water is a fantastic subject. It has several unique properties that makes it an appealing subject to photographers: It’s mirror-like surface when still, the rhythmic pattern caused by any amount of disturbance and its ability to change the appearance of just about any surface when it gets wet. But nothing is as appealing to the lens as water in motion – and there is no better source for moving water than waterfalls. This is wisdom that has not been missed by Simon Hucko, who regularly captures waterfalls with his camera. Triangle, shown here, is just one of his more recent photographs and one of my favorites.
There are of course two obvious techniques used when shooting water falls: Freezing motion, and long exposures. The latter is of course the most common. It would render a shot like this into a silky smooth surface – almost as if the water were sitting still or if it were 30 degrees below zero. I myself have often tried to get the silky look. But it was not until I saw Simon’s Triangle that I considered an exposure somewhere in between.
The exposure of Triangle is 0.5s (1/2), which is a significantly shorter exposure than would be necessary to get the silky effect. It’s long enough to show a good amount motion blur, but not long enough to render the repetition in the particle chaos. The result is more like a watercolor painting. You can almost make out brush strokes.
I feel that Simon’s watercolor approach far better than the silky smooth waterfalls. It feels more like a traditional film image, and it has more texture and character than the silky version. So next time you’re out shooting moving water, try Simon’s watercolor technique.