Many visitors to my gallery, and almost every one of my field seminar participants, are fascinated by the silky, ethereal look of flowing water found in my images. While I often have moving water as a part of my landscapes, for this image I made it the main subject. During my recent workshop in Keystone, Colorado I took the opportunity to stroll along the river while everyone else took a mid-day rest. I set up my 4×5, focused on this mini-waterfall, and framed the image with beautifully iron stained rocks. Given the time of day, I added my warming polarizer, a 3-stop split ND filter (which I allowed to cover the whole frame), and then I patiently waited for a cloud to block any direct sunlight. Along with using 100 speed film and a small aperture, I was able to extend my exposure to 8 seconds. This process gave a nice silky look to the moving water, while the relatively bright, cloud-filtered light gave a nice punch to the red color of the rocks. The final image is simple, with an impressionistic feel. The red rocks add a punch of color and contrast with the white water, as well as a bit of fine detail to anchor the softness of the water.
Photo Tip: Moving water will start to appear “silky” using exposure times of at least 1/4 of a second. Experiment to see how soft you actually want the water to look. The longer the exposure, the less detail and greater the soft, foggy appearance. While we can use neutral density filters and polarizers to slow our exposure times in brighter daylight, I prefer overcast days, shaded light, or pre-dawn / post sunset conditions. This gives an even exposure, eliminating the concern of hot spots in the image.
Equipment: Canham 4×5 Metal Field Camera, Caltar/Rodenstock 210 mm lens, Gitzo 1325 carbon tripod, Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head, Fuji Velvia 100F 4×5 inch transparency film, Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer, Singh-Ray 3-stop split ND filter.