Flowing water: Soft Blur vrs Sharp defenition.

Discussion in 'Nature' started by peter_korzaan, Nov 13, 2009.

  1. I'm curious, is there anyother reason, other than personnel preference, that it seems most shots that have flowing water in it are the soft blur (longer exposure, often using ND filters) vrs the less 'used', sharp definition of 'drops & splash'.(Shorter exposure).
    With the soft blur, it seems that most of the focus of the shots are on the water, and not the nature and surroundings.
    I happen to like the shorter exposure, showing the flow of the water, to me, in its more natural state. Captured and caught in the twinkling of the moment. Of course, on fast moving water you get sections of it, sharp, and other area's where it is running faster, tending to blur. Yet, to me, you do not tend to focus on just that.
    For those who like the soft blur, can you explain why?
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Whether you "like" a particular image (and how flowing water should look in an image) is largely personal perference, which often cannot be explained.
  3. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    I do like the soft effect provided that it isn't overdone. However in those shots if there is any vegetation they really need to be sharp. So you have to get the shot without any wind in them.
  4. The only reason, other than personal preference, that I have read once, is that softening/blurring the water can make the composition less "busy". To me, this would actually suggest that the viewer can then concentrate more on the surrounding scenery...
  5. I prefer the very sharp water shots. The blurring thing has been done to death for the past 150 years and for me it has become cliche'. Time to move on and do something different.
    Kent in SD
  6. It just looks better!
  7. Blur conveys the sense of motion my brain remembers. Yes, I can concentrate on individual bits of water as they fall, freezing them in my eye, but I don't remember that. I remember the totality of the water cascading.
    This is also an issue of scale. A single drop of water frozen in time (as it impacts some surface) is far more interesting to me (if done well) than 30 seconds of multiple drops falling onto the same spot.
  8. showing the flow of the water, to me, in its more natural state​
    How can a water frozen in time be more natural? (Unless it is ice). We see motion, not in a split second of time.
    Time to move on and do something different.​
    But shooting water with a fast shutter speed has also been done for a long time. Does this mean that we shouldn't shoot water anymore?
    I am open to interesting interpretations of water. I don't see this as being one method being right or wrong, or better than the other. Tired and cliché can be found in all types of images.
  9. Ya know Bob, with that kind of close up, I believe I would have to agree, the detail of 'sharp' water would make it to 'busy' as Peter D. stated. Wish you had done it both ways to compare.
    Here's a shot in much, much slower water, yet if shot at a slower speed, the sharpness of the ripples and light reflection would not have been 'caught'.
    BTW.. Portra Vc 160 with old Nikon classic
  10. It's not always a personal preference. An overcast day (preferable) with a small f/stop and slow film (25-100 ISO) often means long shutter speeds -- the soft blur is inevitable.
    Sometimes people do it because they want to try something different for themselves (even if it's not for others).
    Personally, I'm a fan of both -- I think the composition and location have a great deal to do with whether or not soft blur or frozen in time is preferable.
  11. I like both and shoot both. Earlier this year I conducted a small, very unscientific poll of family, friends and co-workers, none of whom have a strong photo background. I presented them with this image and asked which they prefer. The results? About 50/50.
  12. Split the difference. Recently I attended a program by Craig Blacklock. He shared that movies generally show 24 frames per second and our eyes are accustom to that "look". I tried some moving water shots at very slow speeds and very quick. I also tried the same shot at 1/25 of a second. I liked the look. Try it and you decide.
  13. It all comes down to a matter of preference, and both approaches have their place...
    ... but neither is more "natural" than the other. When we look at moving water we see neither a perfectly crisp perfectly stopped image of a moment in time nor a soft blur - what we see is something quite different that cannot actually be captured in a still photograph.
    The question is not "which is more natural or accurate" - neither is - but, rather, how do you want to interpret the subject of moving water in a photograph?
  14. Steve makes an interesting point. I've heard that shooting moving water at 1/15 of a second roughly approximates what our eye and brain naturally perceive. Of course, this will vary somewhat with the speed of the water, but it works pretty well with fast moving white water. Water - such as a waterfall - stopped in mid-air with a fast shutter speed looks odd to me because that's not what our brain is used to seeing. When I shoot waterfalls, I like the silky look of a 1 - 2 second exposure.
  15. Some of the reasons are probably historical. When fine art photographers were shooting only with larger format cameras and very slow film, "freezing the action" wasn't a good option. So, photographers naturally concentrated on finding shots that worked well with blurring of the water.
    Using a slower shutter speed simplifies the composition, allowing the eye to follow the lines of the flowing water rather than being distracted by all the details of individual drops, and it also can provide a softer, more peaceful feeling:
    On the other hand, there are some shots where you need to stop the action to convey the feeling of the power of the water--if you were to let the water blur, it would be no more interesting than an overcast sky:
  16. John Demot... well put.. two thumbs up, and two excellent examples.
  17. ah.. sorry on the mispelling John (DeMott)
  18. Here is a screen shot from a PowerPoint presentation on Exposure. I shot the same composition with two different shutter speeds for illustrative purposes. Which water movement looks "better"? You decide.
  19. Another nice example Mary, though the two images are not directly comparable. The one on the right appears to be a toned monochrome (I know, an oxymoron) image.
  20. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Looking at these and my own work I can't really see any circumstances where I prefer the sharp "frozen" look. Just too jagged and angular for me I'm afraid. The question is how blurred do you want it and what does that mean for shutter speed? Clearly there's a "speed of water " variable and there's an "angle vs direction of flow" issue as well as preference for degree of smoothing. So i don't think there are any particularly useful rules of thumb here and that trial & error /bracketing rules.
  21. With: John McDeMott two foto's, the first says to me come visit and relax and number two says come ride my rough water: each has its place and use : So it ends up as a draw:
  22. Ben, for the record, the photo on the right was not "toned" or changed in anyway other than adjusting a bit of contrast and sharpening. The dam water was less than pristine. Hwvr -- "oxymoron" or whatever -- ;), the pair does present a useful comparison of fast and slow-motion water movement as affected by the use of shutter speed, doesn't it?
  23. I've seen great photos that stopped the motion of the water - and which were amazing for that very reason. I've also seen great photos that used long exposures to blur the water - and which were great for that reason.
    Each approach is one to keep in your bag of tricks for the right moment.
  24. I use the best approach to suit the mood. This autumn I did some shots on a bit of river that had fallen birch leaves (or foam) on the surface. On one frame I omitted the fixed reference points on the shore - trees etc (although they are here as reflections) and my exposures between 10 and 30 seconds) got me this:
    and the closer up shot with trees for reference, this:
    I think you can see where my visual exploration is taking me with this idea, which is probably not to everyone's taste, but for me its a chance to be creative but also let luck play a HUGE part in the success of individual images. No two shots are the same and many things can spoil a 30 sec exposure - a slight breeze, a leaping fish, a passing kayaker or a small boy throwing stones! None of which happened in this set, although all were present at one point or other!
    And of course sometimes it just does not work because the physics go awry and the lovely swirls just dont happen, so you've just had a 30 second moment of contemplation!
    For the techies - all shots 70-200 lens, polarizer and tripod, on a very very dull and overcast (and wet) Scottish autumn day (the best kind of day!).
  25. Love your swirls John. My favorite is the one in the middle.
  26. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    on a very very dull and overcast (and wet) Scottish autumn day (the best kind of day!).​
    John. You say that as if there was some other sort of day!
  27. Well David there's the VERY very wet ones. The days when the rain is not coming at you vertically but horizontally!
  28. Balance in all things. I think the motion conveyed by blur is excellent. With cascades that may be what you want to remember, and it can give that magical feel to a scene. Like many things it has been done before, but each photographer can put their own slant on the image.
    Freezing the action is just as valid as a technique. All depends on what you are trying to achieve. If the picture turns out as you have previsualised it and composed it then its a success in my book.
    No right. No wrong. Opinions are subjective. When you look at the picture do you 'get it'?
  29. To try to illustrate my point about neither being intrinsically better than the other (as David also just posted), here are two seascape photographs that use the alternative extremes:
  30. Here is an example of what water flow looks like when the intent is to stop motion completely; it looks nothing like what human perception has evolved to see with the unaided eye and brain. The photo was taken on 4x5 Tri-X film with a very short duration flash (4 microsecond) with the objective of studying drop formation in spray nozzles. At the other extreme, I am reminded of the extremely long duration photos of surf by Wynn Bullock that look more like fog enshrouding rocks and piers than liquid water.
  31. So what if long exposure of water is cliche'?
    When I was in Glacier N.P. I took many mountain goat photos. Being a flatlander from Pennsylvania, this was a thrill. It was the first mountain goats I have seen. I could describe those photos as cliche' and maybe passed them up because of that. But now I have photos that will bring back memories, cliche' or not!
    Sure, a publisher would say they are cliche' and maybe then it would matter. They would not buy them. My enjoyment was first seeing the goat, second photographing them. My goal was fulfilled, cliche' or not!
  32. It is really a matter of choice. Both can be appealing to my eye.

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