Photo School: Water Tricks
Shoot swirling leaf eddies to make the most of fall color.
Find the spot.
Eddies occur everywhere, but you’ll find the most distinct swirls in pools below cascades and rapids where the water is moving slowly and has plenty of room to circle back on itself.
Dim the lights.
You’ll need low light to pull off a long exposure without blowing out the highlights. Shoot early or late, seek out shady north-facing falls, or target overcast days, which provide more even light. (As with any long-exposure shot, use a tripod.)
Compose your image.
Set up the shot with a diagonal line between your leaf eddy and the falls or rapids. Try getting low near the water to emphasize the eddy and make the falls feel distant. Experiment with letting the water features fill the frame or shooting just the swirl. Use leading lines like logs, steep banks, and runnels of water to draw the eye deeper into the photo.
Check your settings.
For the best sharpness, choose ISO 100 and keep the entire scene in focus with a small enough aperture (usually f11 or f16).
Gauge the water flow.
The slower the current, the longer the shutter speed you need to blur the leaves and water. It could be anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on the flow. Take a test shot with a 5-second exposure and adjust accordingly.
YI WANG & GUOHAI JIN