How to Photograph Bodies of Water Using Your Digital SLR

8 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Photographing Nature Using Your Digital SLR

Bodies of water are great subjects for photographers. With your digital SLR, you can photograph big bodies of water (oceans), small bodies of water (ponds and streams), and medium-sized bodies of water (lakes, which sometimes are so large that you can’t see the other side, which makes them look like oceans minus the humongous waves).

No matter what type of water you want to take pictures of, the process is pretty much the same:

1

Get to the water you want to photograph and find a vantage point you like.

Your vantage point should offer interesting features to include — a pier, a person, tall strands of grass, a bend in the river.

Try changing your position — crouching down can make crashing waves even more dramatic.

2

Adjust your camera settings.

If you’re shooting moving water, such as roiling ocean waves or an active stream, your goal is to either freeze the waves or show some motion, so use Shutter Priority mode. Freeze the action with a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second or opt for a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second to see some of the motion of the wave and can still hand-hold the camera.

For calm bodies of water, use Aperture Priority mode a shutter speed of 1/2 to 1/15 of a second or slower and an aperture set at f/16 to get as much in focus as possible, and try multiple auto-focus points.

An ISO setting between 100 and 400 should work for most shots as should a focal length between 28mm and 70mm, depending on how close you can get to the water.

3

Compose the picture.

Cresting ocean waves create their own visual interest, but if you’re photographing calmer bodies, look for clouds or reflections in the water to provide a complement.

Place the horizon line in the lower third of the image if you have a mountain range or other attractions in the background. Place the horizon line in the upper third of the image if the scene includes a shoreline and wonderful reflections in the water.

4

Press the shutter button halfway to achieve focus then take the picture.

A tripod may come in handy for a series of ocean waves. Choose the slowest shutter speed possible — 1/15 of a second or slower. Make sure you photograph lakes early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun shines wonderful golden rays and everything in its path casts soft, pleasing shadows.

5

Move around and take pictures from different vantage points.

Never be satisfied with one picture. Walk around after your first shot to see what other interesting photos you can get.

 
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The Essentials of Photographing Nature Using Your Digital SLR

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