Long Exposure Photography Choices: Water

When photographing long exposures, there are many choices to make. In this article I am going to talk about one of said choices. In particular, photographing near and/or in moving water.

Long exposure photography is ideal for moving water because you can create this feeling of smoothed or icy texture. It completely changes the look of a landscape.

For example, here is a scene with a normal exposure.

Here is a long exposure photograph of the same scene, but panned to the right a bit.

Notice the smooth water and puffy sky? See how the reflections pop off the water?

So that is one example why long exposures are fantastic around water. There is a downside about standing near moving water for minutes at a time (each photograph).

At one point during the night, after the sun set, I was setting up for one of my last photographs of the night. The shutter speed was 4 minutes long, and at about 2 minutes in, out of nowhere, waves picked up. Not only that – but they became a lot stronger than they were for the 2+ hours before hand. It was so unexpected that is literally scared me, and I grabbed my tripod and jumped back about 5 feet.

Here is where I was standing during the photo I just mentioned:

My camera was the 1st of the 3, the taller one with the dangling camera remote. The others were Daryl and Gevon’s tripods. As you can see, I was pretty darn close to the water as it was. Although dark, the next video I captured after jumping back 5 feet.

The effect of moving half-way through a 4 minute exposure was what you see below:

Although interesting, it’s definitely not a usable photograph for any professional means (aside from teaching others of course).

So there you have it. A short, but fun story and a lesson learned for anyone shooting near water. Be aware of your surroundings, and keep your eyes and ears alert when photographing long exposures. You never know what might happen.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting,
Scott

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