In reviewing an archive of my images some years ago, I came to a firm conclusion—an awful, awful lot of them contain water. My water attraction, for lack of a better term, isn’t a conscious one; there seems to be something organic about it. During that session where I noticed the heavy presence of water in my shots, I also realized why: water is a phenomenal artistic element, simply because it’s so—again, for lack of a better word—flexible. There are so many different ways to use water; that, presumably, is why I find myself so emphatically attracted to it.
In this entry, I’m going to outline at least a few of the many, many ways that water can be used by the discerning photographer. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list; rather the intent is to provide some food for thought about ways you might consider incorporating water into your own imagery. And, perhaps, this will lead you to discover additional means beyond those I’ll touch upon directly.
As Leading Lines
Waterways, in the forms of creeks, streams and rivers, can be used to provide depth enhancement to your compositions in the form of leading lines. These lines naturally lead the viewer’s eyes through the frame. Obviously you don’t need water to create a leading lines effect, but this is one way in which water can be constructively utilized.
As an Element of Contrast
Water can make for an excellent contrast element in your imagery, whether in the form of color, texture or shape. Like all contrast devices, it can give the viewer’s eye an anchor upon which to rest
As a Source of Abstract Imagery
When you combine the reflective and transient properties of water, you have a natural abstract factory—and one that changes significantly with even the slightest adjustment in perspective. Water abstracts are a seemingly endless source of inspiration.
The Symmetry of Reflections
Water has the ability to produce—quite literally sometimes—a full circle image via the use of symmetry. When the conditions are right, it’s as though a mirror is being held up to the scene in front of you, naturally producing a yang to your subject’s yin.
A Technical Note: Slow Shutter Speeds
Few things respond as well to the transforming effect of dragging the shutter the way water does. Because water is rarely completely still (even without the effects of waves or running water, any appreciable wind will make water move), playing with the shutter speed is essentially applying leverage to the elements; you’re simply working with an existing effect, rather than imposing something on the scene.
The Mood Source
Few things better embody mood than bodies of water, and the impact manifests itself in multiple ways. Water’s reflective properties can be a marvelous herald of mood. But water’s role as transformer of atmospheric conditions allows it to double down on its mood enhancing role. Occasionally, it performs both tasks simultaneously.
That’s my ode to water—or the first few stanzas of it, in any event. Do you have any other positive attributes of water you’d like to add to the list?
Thursday Tips is written by Kerry Mark Leibowitz, a guest blogger on 1001 Scribbles, and appears every other Thursday. To read more of his thoughts on photography, please visit his blog: Lightscapes Nature Photography.