Through the Gadling Lens: Look for the light

I just got back this week from a quick trip to a spa.

It sounds luxurious, doesn’t it? Well, actually, it wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong — the facilities were lovely; however, I didn’t actually go to relax. I went along with a friend, Beth, who was giving a talk there, and while she was working I planned on working on several book projects that have looming deadlines ahead. When I wasn’t writing, I was taking as many photos as possible for these same projects.

Beth has been a very kind fan of my work, and has flatteringly used the word “soulful” to describe my images. One afternoon, she asked if she could follow me around with her camera, to have an impromptu photo lesson. As we set off, she said, “Okay, so show me how to take photographs like you do.”

“You want to know the trick?” I asked, smiling.


“Okay. The trick that every good photographer knows: before you take the photograph, look for the light.”
“I have no idea what that means,” she said.

The concept is actually very simple, and really can mean the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph. The trick is to forget all the “rules” that you’ve learned in photography before — how you always have to make sure the sun is behind you when you shoot, that sort of thing — and then actually pay attention to what the light is doing, even more than what your subject is doing. Often, when I shoot, the actual subject is of secondary interest to me than the light.

I’m not making any sense, am I?

Okay, here are some examples that will make my point:

The shot below was taken early Monday morning, as my friend was going out on morning kayak adventure. As she was putting on her life vest and getting her kayak ready, I looked out across the lake, and noticed that there was mist rising from the calm water. Looking down one end, away from the sun, the mist, while discernible, was hard to make out. However, looking into the sun, the mist was easily seen, seemingly giving the lake actual life.

“Would you mind paddling out toward that direction?” I asked my friend.

She did, and then I composed the shot. The mist and the golden rising sun, combined with my friend’s solitude and the stillness of the water, gives the feeling of total peace. It was easy to capture the feel of the morning, as a result.

Later in the day, when the sun is high in the sky and at its brightest, it becomes imperative that attention is paid to what the sun is doing: even though intuition would indicate that a bright sky is best when taking a photograph, the truth is that a brilliant sun can cause harsh shadows and stark contrasts — it can be challenging, for example, to take a decent portrait in bright sunlight, because noses and hairlines can cause strange shadows. However, bright sunlight can be beautiful for emphasizing colour and texture, as shown in the images below.

If, however, the light is really, truly bright, and is making for some ultra-harsh contrasts, sometimes you just have to make that work for you. Water is a great way to show how bright and harsh the light is, while still producing a story-telling shot.

See? Even though it’s hard to make out the boat and the water skier (not to mention the foliage in the landscape behind them), the point of this image is to show how bright the sunshine is — which it does, to maximum effect.

The rule to look for the light isn’t just for outdoor shots: it works for indoor shots as well. Natural light indoors is often filtered through windows and drapes and blinds, giving it a much softer quality of light, but still adds to the general mood inside. And if the light happens to rest on reflective surfaces, more’s the better. A great example is how the light is falling on the glassware on the restaurant table, below:

Again, the story in the above shot really isn’t the flowers, or even the glassware — it’s all about the light.

In addition, sometimes, when you’re looking for the light, all that you really notice is the shadows — the depth that the darkness can add to the final image. Don’t be afraid to capture that as well, as shown in the following shot:

Notice how in addition to the light on the tops of the petals of the above flower, what really brings some depth to the images are those parts of the frame which are in shadow. Again, just pay attention to what the light is doing.

And finally, to dispel the myth that you shouldn’t shoot into the sun: there comes a time, usually during the Golden Hour (that time before sunset, when the light turns all lovely and golden), that results in all objects in its path getting a lovely halo effect, as shown below:

The trick in getting a shot like the above is to not actually shoot directly into the light — otherwise, the flowers would’ve been in total silhouette — but to angle your camera so that it points slightly away from the light. That way, you still get some colour from your subject, but you can capture that lovely halo.

Another example:

Again, notice how the camera isn’t aimed directly at the sun, but still allows the sun to halo the details of the long grasses. Using the light in this manner totally enhances the mood of the photo.

I hope this helps! Remember, light first, object second. I guarantee it will help the feel of your shots immensely. As always, if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.your

Through the Gadling Lens: inspirational nature shots from our Gadling Flickr pool

As you know by now, today we’re bringing attention to climate change and ecotravel here on Gadling. Personally, climate change and taking care of the environment is an issue that I’ve thought about a whole lot since becoming a parent — and to be honest, my daughter has become pretty passionate about it herself (“Mom, you forgot to turn off your computer! You have to save the environment!” is not an uncommon admonishment from her 5-year-old mouth). While I’m not perfect, we do try to do what we can in our home to help reduce our carbon footprint, and when we travel, I’m careful to be mindful of making eco-friendly choices — still, I figure we could all do with a bit of inspiration. And so today, I thought I’d post some of the finest shots I’ve found in our Gadling Flickr pool that feature this big blue marble we call home. Because this is a seriously beautiful planet that we get to live on.

On with the show.

Anyone who has ever visited my site knows that I’m a sucker for a good flower shot, and happily, the wonderful photographers who contribute to our Flickr pool did not disappoint. Here are some of my favourites:

This beautiful photograph of Hawaiian plumeria (or what we Trinidadians call “frangipani”) was shot and shared by vyxle. What makes this shot so stunning is how clear and sharp the texture is — because of the detail of the edges and surfaces of the petals, you can imagine exactly how they would feel between your fingers. Looking at this image, I remember the flower’s smell so vividly. Awesome.

I’m pretty sure that I featured this stunning image of a Thai water lily shot and shared by RedHQ before, but I can’t help myself: the colour palette of this image is stunning. Besides, who can resist the bee in mid flight, about to land on the centre of the flower with all of his friends? Awesome.

Finally, I love the simplicity of this image taken by Emerald2810. The perspective is so unique: by shooting upward, we get the impression that the flower is reaching toward the sun; in addition, by shooting in this manner, the sunshine really highlights the translucence of the petals. Lovely.


In addition to my daughter being paranoid about me using way too much energy at home (read: spending too much time in front of the computer), she’s also become obsessed about endangered animals: how they become endangered in the first place, and what we can do to save them. She’s also become concerned about where meat comes from, and since I’m a vegetarian, she has asked me several times in the past about why I made the choice to stop eating meat. One recent day, she made the decision that she was going to be a vegetarian, too, so she could, you know, “help the environment.” “Except for hot dogs,” she said. “I’m going to keep eating hot dogs. Oh, and chicken. And bacon. Ooh, man, and sushi …”

Well, anyway. At least she turns off lights.

Here are some great shots of some of the beautiful animals that grace our Flickr pool:

The movement in this shot of snow geese taking flight by MistyDays/CB is breathtaking, isn’t it? With the entire frame filled with their flapping wings, you can almost feel the breeze caused by their movement, and the energy of them all leaving en masse. Fantastic.

And how about this stunning shot of a green lizard by Fiznatty? What makes this image so spectacular is his clever use of bokeh, or shallow depth of field: notice how the lizard’s eyes are in sharp focus, while the rest of him fades to a soft blur (if you remember, this can be achieved by setting your aperture to a low number). Beautiful.

And finally, I love this shot of “George” shared by ohad*:

This is apparently George, a blue peacock who lives in New Mexico. ohad* did a great job of capturing the curious and not-entirely-pleased expression on George’s face, to very amusing effect. Well done.


Finally, a feature celebrating nature and all its beauty wouldn’t be complete without some of the stunning scenery shots captured by the photographers who share their work with Gadling.

This amazing image was captured by the very talented Buck Forester, whose work I’ve featured here before. The blues of the water, mirroring the blues of the sky are truly breathtaking, and a great reminder to be mindful of the colour palette available to you as you look through the viewfinder, checking for complementary colours, and framing the shot to maximize accordingly.

I will admit upfront that I’m drawn to this image shared by Andy Bokanev because I’ve actually stood in this very spot on Cannon Beach in Oregon. What I love about it is how unusual the image is, however: rather than the typical-white-sand-blue-sky type of shot, this image focuses on the moodiness of the sky, the clarity of the beachwater, and the austerity of Haystack rock. A great reminder to look for alternative perspectives when shooting.

I’m also drawn to scenery shots which capture movement caused by nature, and this shot of the Reynisdrangar (or basalt sea stacks, as I’ve come to learn) captured by t3mujin, totally fits the bill. I love how the mist (sea spray?) swirls around the gigantic rock formation, adding movement to the entire image. Breathtaking.

And finally, because I’m a sucker for a good aurora borealis, I love this shot by, again, fiznatty

This was captured over a bathhouse in Sweden, and the result is amazing. Personally, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to capture a shot like this; however, happily, fiznatty shares some of his secrets in capturing the aurora in the comments of this image. It is one of my life dreams to see the northern lights, so if I ever make it far enough north, I’ll definitely keep these tips in my back pocket.

So! If these images don’t inspire you to take care of the Earth (or at least capture some amazing images of it), then I don’t know what will. As always, if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: shooting cities at twilight

This week, I received the following rather detailed email from reader Jason:

I love your columns and have learned so much from them, thank you! I do have a couple of questions that I hope you may be able to help me with please. I am bouncing-off-the-walls excited to be traveling to New York City for my first (and likely only) visit next week. Unfortunately my only free time will be one late afternoon / evening in Midtown. I am most interested in capturing the details of well known landmarks, especially the art deco skyscrapers and Rockefeller Center, with what little natural sunlight I will have (i.e. low angle between full sunlight and when street lights start coming on with darkness), especially if clouds are present. I have my gorilla tripod already packed but expect the crowded sidewalks to make set-up difficult and time consuming and want to try and cover as much ground as possible. I have read and re-read your columns on night and cave photography and will be putting those tips to work of course, but wonder if there is anything more I can do to give myself a better chance at capturing the unique, but distant, details of these structures during twilight.

Secondly, can you tell me how to both achieve and avoid the “starburst” effect of individual lights at night while using a tripod, specifically skyscrapers at night (i.e. Empire State Building) and neon lights (i.e. Radio City Music Hall, Times Square). Is it more a function of aperture or exposure? I am practicing with available lights but the tallest building in my hometown is all of three stories and there’s not much neon to practice on unfortunately.

Thank you again for your kind reply and best wishes.

Well, Jason, congrats on your first trip to NYC! You’ve certainly given me some tough questions — I did a bit of research to try to answer them, and with a little help from the Gadling Flickr pool (not to mention a good friend), I thought I’d share what I came up with. Hope this helps, Jason.
So I started with Jason’s second question, mostly because I was interested in knowing the answer myself. I love images where streetlights show that amazing starburst, and I had no idea how to achieve it. So to find the answer, I instant-messaged my friend Josh, also known as Modern Day Gilligan, who is my personal photographer-idol:

me: Gilligan — you have a quick second?

Joshua: yeah!
:-) No worries!
Just culling through photos.
me: I just got a question from someone who reads my gadling lens posts.
and I have NO idea what to tell himJoshua: Fire away, maybe I can help.

Joshua:With the second question: Tip #1: Pull off any lens filters – especially your UV filter. Light entering the lens at odd angles has a tendancy to cause odd ghosting/flare on long exposures.
Joshua: Tip #2: To give that ‘starburst’ look, stop down your lens as far as you can. An f/4, f/5.6 simply will not be enough to give the desired effect. Start at f/8, f/9 and work your way up until you get exactly what you want.
Joshua: The starburst effect is caused by the blades of your aperture.
me: so you’re saying a smaller aperture would create the starburst?
me: right. so f, like, 16 would give you the starburst, and f 1.4 wouldn’t?
Joshua: Exactly, as the aperture tightens the blades will be visible in the light sources.

Clear as mud?

Okay, here’s a different way to look at it: you remember how aperture works, right? It controls the total amount of light that enters the camera (while the shutter controls how much of that entered light actually gets to the film, or sensor). The last time that we talked about apertures, it was mostly around “depth of field” — the larger the aperture number, the more detail you’ll see in the background. The smaller the aperture number, the less detail you’ll see in the background.

Well, the cool thing is that the same rule works with streetlights.

In other words, the larger the aperture number, the more detail you’ll see in the light — resulting in a lovely starburst. The smaller the aperture number, the less detail you’ll see in the streetlights, resulting in a fuzzy halo, or no starburst effect.

To test this, the other night, I decided to take a walk around my neighbourhood with my camera. I set my camera on “aperture control” — this allows me to play with the aperture, and the camera adjusts the shutter speed accordingly. I wasn’t trying to capture a beautiful shot, you understand — my neighbourhood isn’t exactly a tourist beauty spot — I just wanted to see if I could make the starburst happen.

Here are the results:

In this first shot, my aperture was set at 2.8 — a small number. Focusing on the streetlight to the left of the above image, you see that it looks just like a fuzzy light — nothing too spectacular.

But take a look at what happens when I set my aperture to a much larger number, 32:

See? That streetlight to the left now has a starburst. Like magic.

Now a couple of tips: you’re going to need a tripod — when you set your f-stop (aperture) to a high number, it actually means that less total light is going to go into the camera, so your shutter is going to want to stay open a long time, risking blur. Secondly, if you can adjust your “white balance” (which we talked about in this post here), then make sure you do — otherwise, the street lights will throw the colour of your image off (kind of like the images are, above).

And finally, for God’s sake, pick a prettier street than the one I picked.

Okay. Now back to your first question, about taking great shots in New York City, and “capturing unique but distant details of buildings in twilight”:

This is actually a much tougher question, because so much depends on where you’re going to be in New York City, what’s obstructing your view, and how close or far you might be to your subject. My best advice to you would be to go through the Gadling Flickr Pool (or the rest of Flickr, for that matter), and do a search for “New York City” and “twilight” or “nighttime” or “sundown” or “sunset” or the like, and see what turns up for inspiration. I always think it’s better not to go in with any set expectations about how I’m going to shoot a city, and instead just see what cool circumstances turn up (armed, of course, with lots of inspiration in my back pocket). And by the way, I have to tell you: as someone who has traveled quite a bit to New York City in the past, New York really does seem to come alive at dusk. They don’t call it the City That Never Sleeps for nothin’.

So, following my own advice, here are some of my favourites that I found:

Rush Hour. Since it’s a city that never sleeps, don’t be afraid of the crowd of people, embrace it! Capture the frenetic pace of the city by photographing the blur of rush hour. This shot, shared by nabil.s in Grand Central Station is a wonderful example:

Sundown. Rather than be too concerned about capturing the details of the buildings at sundown, consider instead capturing the mood of the city, as the light starts to filter through the streets, and the lights start to twinkle on. Two beautiful examples:

Sunset through the skyscrapers, shared by M_at:

and this beautiful shot of sunset from the top of Rockefeller Center, shared by morrissey:

Twilight. Twilight in the city is pretty magical, as you might imagine — particularly since that’s when all those fabulous lights start to come on. And of course, what better place to capture this than Times Square, as illustrated again by nabil.s (notice how the shot is taken from the perspective of looking up to the sky, rather than focusing on the lights):

Nighttime. Of course, at nighttime, it’s all about the lights. If you’re intent on capturing the details of the buildings, luckily, many of New York City’s buildings are illuminated at night to bring attention to them, as illustrated by this great shot shared by ohad* of the GM building:

But also, don’t forget that you can always go up — and shoot the wonderful nightlit NYC panorama, as morrissey did, here:

Silhouette. And finally, never underestimate the power of the silhouette. New York City has many beautiful parks that lend themselves to this sort of photography, and of course, when you’re talking about an iconic landmark like the Statue of Liberty, it’s really hard to take a bad shot — both concepts illustrated beautifully by swapnilbd and othernel, below:

So, Jason — I hope this all helps! More importantly, I hope you’ll come back and share what you shot. And for everyone else, as always, if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming
Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: photographing skies

Oh, how I’d love to regale you with my brilliant photographic skills in capturing the sky’s majesty!

I’d love to, but I can’t.

For some reason, I’m really, really horrid when it comes to shooting skies. Oh, I can manage to get a good sunset photo here and there, and occasionally my blue skies appear shockingly blue, but the truth is that for the most part, I get by with a little help from Photoshop — bump up the contrast here, deepen a hue there, you know how it goes. My husband, on the other hand, is masterful at shooting sky shots — the image you see to the left was taken by him this past weekend. And that image, by the way, is completely unretouched, straight out of the camera.

He kills me with his sky-capturing ways.

Anyway, I thought this week we could drool over the sky photo porn that currently graces our Gadling Flickr pool, for some inspiration as to how to shoot. This time, however, I’m sitting where you are — looking for any clues as to how to make my sky photographs that much better.

So, on with the show.
1. God rays

My husband calls these “God rays” — the rays of light that appear from clouds when the sun is behind them.

When I asked him how he managed to capture this image (because while he was taking this, I was trying to take the same image with my camera, and failing miserably), and he said, “I set my aperture to a pinhole — about f22 — my ISO was set to about 100, and then I played with the shutter speed to get the shot. It ended up working at 1/500th of a second.”

Okay, so that’s pretty technical. Suffice to say, however, that Marcus — I mean, Alien Hamster — took several shots to experiment with the various settings, to see what worked for him. And really, that’s sort of what photography is all about: experimenting and learning along the way.

Another great God ray shot:

This great shot was shot and shared by othernel, of sunset over the East Village in New York City. Notice how the sun is more golden — therefore, I’m guessing, taken at a later time in the day than my husband’s shot — giving the image an entirely different mood. Notice also in both that the objects beneath the sun’s rays are almost in silhouette: remember that when you’re trying to shoot these God rays, you’re shooting for the rays, not the actual objects in the frame. Well done.

2. Clouds

Clouds obviously also make great subjects for photographs, and the following are pretty stellar:

Now, this amazing shot shared by Patrick Powers has quite obviously been processed; however, it’s been done to great effect. Those clouds — those crazy-white, featherlike clouds — look positively three-dimensional, almost like they could float right out of the screen. The entire scene almost looks artificial, rendering the shot more a work of art, then a documentary image. Really beautiful work.

And how impressive is this shot shared by Bonnie Bowne, taken in the Grand Tetons? Notice all the shades that are in the thunderheads, going from snowy white to dark, foreboding grey. I love how the trees in the foreground are in total silhouette, so that their details don’t compete with the colours of the clouds. If I were to guess (and Bonnie, if you read this, feel free to correct me), she exposed the shot for the white of the clouds, “tricking” the camera into thinking it was shooting in bright sunshine — thus resulting in a faster shutter speed, and making the trees look dark. Amazing.

3. Sunshine.

Of course, the most beautiful subject you can shoot in the sky is sunshine, and obviously, sunrises and sunsets are pretty intoxicating. Here are a couple of really stunning ones.

This sunset, shot and shared by Andy Bokanev Photography is stunning — not just because of the colours of the sky, but notice he also managed to get the light in the lighthouse building, as well as the colours of the flowers in the foreground. That’s some pretty stellar exposure right there. The glow of the light in the windows does so much to set the mood of this image — very well done. I’m guessing that this shot was taken using a very long exposure (that is, a slow shutter speed) and a tripod, with the ISO set to a very low number, to reduce graininess. Absolutely stunning.

In addition, take a look at this sunrise:

PDPhotography, who shot and shared this shot, has revealed one of my favourite ways of photographing the sky: from 37,000 feet. I love shots out of airplane windows, and this one is pretty great. I think we often think that we should only pull out our cameras when we’ve finally arrived at our destination — this shot is a great reminder that there’s some beautiful scenery en route, as well.

4. Silhouettes

Finally, I love the use of silhouette to accentuate the sky. A beautiful example:

This is another shot shared by Bonnie Bowne, taken — get his — in the parking lot of a Walmart store. What makes this shot so effective is that instead of just taking the shot of the sky — which might have been the more knee-jerk approache — she took the shot with the stark, dark tree in the foreground. The black silhouette of the tree has the effect of actually making the colours and light of the sky far more prominent, more impressive. It was an inspired way to shoot the sky.

And finally, this amazing night shot by fiznatty:

Seriously, does this shot not take your breath away? Fiznatty says, “the moon rises above the snowy slopes overlooking the Swedish town of Bjorkliden.” Unbelievable.

Okay, again, taking a guess as to how fiznatty managed this: obviously, no flash was involved, and he likely used a tripod and left his shutter open for quite some time, in order to pick up the light of the stars in the sky. If I’m right, then fiznatty stood still for quite some time — maybe a minute or two? — while the shutter was open, taking the shot. Amazing.

So that’s it. Again, if any of the photographers who took these shots would like to share their expertise here, I’d love to learn from you. And if you have any questions or additional comments, as always, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: water, water everywhere

Over the last year or so, I’ve become really intrigued with photographing water — I love how organically it moves, I love all the different forms it takes. And since almost 71% of our planet is covered in the stuff, it makes sense that it would sometimes find its way into our travel photographs.

So this week, with some help from the amazing shots in the Gadling Flickr pool (with a few of my own images tossed in for good measure), I thought we could talk about some of the ways that water can be the focal point of our photographs. I suspect we’re not even going to make a dent in all the ways there are to photograph water, but let’s give it a go, shall we?

1. Movement.

One of the most marked characteristics of water is how it moves — and obviously, it can be a bit of a trick to convey this type of movement through still photography. Still, it can be done — generally by holding the camera very still (even using a tripod, if available), while controlling the shutter speed, so that the shutter stays open long enough to capture the blur of the water. If you have an SLR camera, it means playing with the shutter priority adjustment on your camera (or going fully manual). A couple of beautiful examples:

This great shot, captured and shared by CCB images in Colorado is a beautiful example of capturing the blur of the water — notice how sharp the fountain is (as is, indeed, the ice at its base), but the water itself is blurred to the point of being indistinct, thus conveying the speed at which the water was moving. Beautifully done.

Another great example:

Another wonderful shot shared by fiznatty. Says the photographer: “For the first time, I had a chance to photograph the fascinating harlequin ducks at LeHardy Rapids. Harlequins migrate through Yellowstone in the spring, and are commonly seen at LeHardy, where they surf the rapids and brave the raging waters of the Yellowstone River. With their unique look and daredevil antics, it’s hard not to enjoy watching them.”

I love how the ducks appear to be absolutely still as the water races around them. Great capture.

2. Light

Of course, another great characteristic of water is the way it reflects light. Often, however, even though we appreciate the light in water, we don’t always make a point of shooting the light, rather than shooting the water. A couple of examples about how this is done:

Notice in the image above, it’s not the water that’s actually in focus, it’s the light sparkles that are so beautiful captured and shared by jonrawlinson. If, instead, he had focused the ripples on the surface of the water, this photo could’ve easily turned into just another shot of a pool. Instead, it’s a rather stunning shot of light.

Another example:

In this image of a garden hose, I didn’t want to capture the movement out of the hose, so much as I wanted to capture the reflection of light on the water against the brilliant blue sky. And so in this case, the shutter speed was set to as fast as I could make it go, and I had my husband hold the hose up into the light, and I grabbed the shot. The result is that the water almost looks frozen; however, the light is the focus of the shot.

3. Power.

When you’re confronted by tons of gallons of water crashing in front of you, it’s pretty hard to ignore the power that water is capable of. Here are some great examples of how to capture it.

I love this shot shared by Ylwstonegirl98. Oftentimes, when you’re in the vicinity of a waterfall, the temptation is to step back and capture the full length of the waterfall, so that the scenic setting around it also makes it into the shot. By all means, do this; however, don’t underestimate zooming in close to really show the volume of the water that is crashing to the river below. This amazing shot by Ylwstonegirl98 is such that I can almost hear the roar of the falls.

Similarly, this shot, shared by Patrick Powers and captured in San Clemente, California, is pretty great as well — after all, is there any more clear communication of the ocean’s power than the image of a surfer being thrown around like a rag doll? Fun, exciting shot, here.

4. Reflection.

If you ever find yourself face to face with a body of absolutely still water, pay attention to how it might be acting like a mirror, reflecting everything above it. I have to admit that it’s often hard to remember that when you’re framing a shot, you don’t just have to take a photograph of everything above the water, the fact that the water is mirroring everything makes it twice as beautiful. One great example:

The shot of above was shared shared by bovinemagnet, taken in Melbourne, Australia. It’s framed beautifully, so that the lights above the water are mirrored below — as is the beautiful deep blue hue of the oncoming dusk. Wonderfully framed.

And lest you think you need a deep body of water to make this happen, check the shot below:

This image, shared by PDPhotography in Toronto, Canada, was made simply using a puddle on the top of a roof deck. So remember: you don’t need a glacial lake to make the reflection work, any still body of water will do nicely.

5. Up close.

Admittedly, my favourite way to shoot water is using a macro lens, and shoot tiny water droplets. I love the way that the surface tension of raindrops makes them almost defy gravity, and look like little crystals. The following images were taken after area rainstorms:

Had I taken the shot above from farther away, you would’ve seen a rather unimpressive, bedraggled, seen-better-days spider lily. But by getting close up, you notice the beautiful little raindrops, and the same bedraggled petals add a splash of bright red colour.

In the image above, I love how you can see the grasses behind the flower reflected upside down in droplet hanging from the petal. It was hard to focus on such a small space, but I’m thrilled it worked.

Notice the surface tension I was talking about, and how it makes the tiny raindrops cling in almost perfect spheres on the clover, above.

6. At the surface

Another great way to shoot water, particularly if you’re at a beach, is to take a waterproof camera (or place your camera in a waterproof housing), and shoot images taken simultaneously below and above the water’s surface. This is great for shooting snorkelers, or kids, or if you’re as crazy as our own Willy Volk, lemon sharks:


(But admittedly, some pretty spectacular shots.)

7. Kids.

And finally, there is truly nothing more fun than shooting kids playing in water. When there’s a lot of splashing going on (as there is in the fountains of Discovery Green in Houston, where I shot the following two images), the trick is to just set your exposure and other settings to shoot images of the kids (because, let’s face it, when there’s splash water, kids are not going to want to sit still while you try to adjust your shutter speed to create the lovely feathery flows that you see in (1), above). Simply take photographs of the kids having fun, and let the water do its thing:

So that’s it — and again, I’m sure there are lots of other ways to shoot water, and we’ve just — pardon the pun — skimmed the surface. If you’ve got any other great ideas or links to your water shots, I’d love if you’d share them below. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.

Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.