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Camera Settings for Photographing a Water Landscape

Still water is an interesting subject for a photographer. Lakes can be shallow bodies of water with vegetation on the shorelines, or they can be mountain lakes that are carved out by glaciers. A healthy lake teems with fish. Where you find fish, you’ll find other wildlife that dines on said fish.

Swamps are literally rivers with grass. In some areas, you’ll find lakes that are swamp-like in appearance, shallow bodies of water with delicate grass in the shallow water. A true swamp may be dry at certain times of the year or when the area encounters drought conditions. You can get information about a swamp you want to photograph by entering the name of the swamp in your favorite search engine.

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Lakes and swamps are places of serene beauty. Armed with your digital camera and a bit of knowledge, you can capture compelling photographs of a swamp. Photographing the area on a regular basis and following the information here will get you started. Here are eight helpful tips:

  • Use a wide-angle lens. Capturing a panoramic view of a lake or swamp requires a wide-angle lens with a focal length that is the 35mm equivalent of 28mm or wider. When you photograph a vast landscape with a wide-angle lens, remember to include something in the foreground to draw your viewers into the photograph.

  • Use Aperture Priority mode. Choose a small aperture with an f-stop value of f/16.

    Many photographers like to use the smallest aperture on a zoom lens to photograph landscapes. However, many lenses are a bit soft at either extreme of the aperture range. If you shoot wide open (the largest aperture) or stop down to the smallest aperture, the image may be a bit soft, especially around the edges.

  • Use the lowest possible ISO setting. Photographing in bright light enables you to use your lowest ISO setting and a small aperture and still have a relatively fast shutter speed.

    However, when you photograph on a cloudy or stormy day, you have to increase the ISO to achieve a fast enough shutter speed for a blur-free photo. Use an ISO setting no greater than 800 on a camera with a full-frame sensor, or use an ISO no higher than 400 if you have a camera with a sensor that is smaller than a frame of 35mm film.

    Exceeding the suggested ISO settings may result in an unacceptable amount of noise in the image. The alternative to a high ISO setting is to use a smaller aperture with an f-stop of f/8.0. When you use a smaller aperture, focus two-thirds of the way into the scene. It will render an image that will be sharp from foreground to background.

  • Include the shoreline in your photograph. A photograph of water and the opposite shoreline won’t be interesting. Back up and include the shoreline on your side of the water in your picture.

  • Include a center of interest in the photo. A picture of a wide expanse of water is, quite frankly, boring. Look for something in the foreground or perhaps an island in the middle of the body of water, and use it as a center of interest.

    If you’re photographing a swamp, scope out a tree that looks different than the adjacent trees. A splash of color also makes an interesting center of interest. Rays of sun breaking through the trees can also be used as a center of interest.

  • Place the horizon line in the right spot. If you place the horizon line in the center of the image, your viewers won’t know what to look at. When a body of water is your center of interest, place the horizon line in the upper third of the image. To do this, you have to shoot from a low vantage point.

  • Include wildlife. A picture of a lake with a swan gracefully swimming is more interesting than a photo of just the lake.

  • Wait for the light. Shoot pictures of the lake early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is soft and diffuse, casting wonderful golden hues on the landscape. A cloudy or foggy day is another great time to photograph a lake.

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