Wondrous Waterscapes: A Quick 5 Step Guide


The Silhouette on the Ganges Basin Photograph/Rahul Sharma

Do you like exploring, trekking, camping, river-rafting or swimming? Have you ever looked at water-bodies during your expeditions and felt the need to click a photograph? Have you clicked photographs of waterscapes which have looked plain and ordinary?

Here is a quick guide on improving waterscape photography.

Capture the Vastness of the Waterbody
Appropriate frame space should be given to the waterbody In order to achieve this, the horizon line should be kept appropriately—not too high, not too low so that a clear distinction between the sky and the surface of water can be made. Shooting with a wide angle lens or a wider focal length can help create space in your frame.

Position the Elements From the Surroundings in your Frame
There can be various elements in your surroundings including boats, trees, men, people bathing, rocks and bridges. It is important to place them well to construct a well-balanced composition. The rule of thirds is an important technique that should be considered when highlighting an element of your choice or the main subject in your frame.

The technique suggests that the frame should be divided in nine parts with two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. These lines intersect four times in the frame and these points of intersection are called power points. These power points are where you should ideally place your main subject or an important element.


The Rule of Thirds. Diagram by/Rahul Sharma

While shooting photos from your camera, you can switch on the grid (consisting of two horizontal and two vertical lines) on the viewfinder and then appropriately click the image. The second way is to crop it appropriately when editing. The former method is more preferable. Rule of thirds can be applicable to a lot of photographs but is especially useful for waterscapes. Apart from the rule of thirds, unnecessary elements in the frame should be avoided.

Shooting at the Right Time of the Day
It is a followed standardised guideline in photography that the golden hours of shooting constitute the morning and evening light. It is true that the effect of the sun’s light is more balanced and less uneven at both these times of the day. But sticking to these guidelines does restrict experimentation. You can try shooting at odd hours too!

Shooting in the bright afternoon light can help you achieve water silhouettes due to the harshness and the shadow formations which can look aesthetically pleasing. This will hold true especially when you have a subject placed inside the water. On the other hand, shooting during the night-time can help you catch reflections of the citylights, lamps, lanterns or the moonlight. Therefore, you should experiment with all kinds of lighting!

Try to Capture the Reflections in Water
This tends to spark up for your photographs, especially when shooting waterscapes. Reflections of certain elements or your main focus subject can enhance your image giving a timeless quality. The image becomes expressive and looks appealing. It is important to remember that movement can affect the kinds of reflections you obtain in your photograph. A smoother reflection is obtained when shooting calm waters compared to restless water surfaces which have distorted reflections.

Both these kinds of reflections can enhance your pictures. Wider frames will also give more width and frame space for adjusting the reflections in your frame.

Try to Monitor Colours to Give a Certain Emotion to Your Waterscapes
Waterscapes can help you in portraying certain feelings and emotions as you experiment with colours. A serene, light blue river will tend to suggest a feeling of relaxation whereas dark-blue, restless sea will signify tension. Simiarly, a reddish-orange sky will make the water look reddish signifying hope and a purple-hazed sky will suggest a feeling of redemption as the purple would fade from the sky into the water.

Therefore, experimenting with colours can help you portray feelings with your waterscapes. If you aren’t able to get the colours when shooting the photographs, adding hazes and changing colour temperatures during post production can be considered as an option.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: better photography, reflections, trekking, rule of thirds, time of the day, positioning, waterscape photography, camping, river rafting, horizon line, elements, wider focal length, experimentation, smoother reflections, distorted reflections, monitor colours, serene, redemption, wider frames, width, reddish-orange, haze, silhoutte