Looking at waves captivates us just as much as looking at an open fire. Digital photography provides us with very short shutter speeds or exposure times static, better: frozen images of the ups and downs of water movements.
There are no creative limits when trying to extend exposure times (or shutter speeds) instead of further shortening them, at most technical ones. Longer exposure times merge several moments of water movement and thus paradoxically have a dynamic effect, meaning a look and feel of a movement.
There is no right or wrong exposure time. There is a special impression for each exposure time in the fusion image of several moments.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. By experimenting with a neutral density filter of 10 EV I managed to get at a not too long exposure time of 1/4s to 1/3s making waves look like painted. With only economical digital post-processing worth seeing images were created.
On the penultimate day of our Out of Yosemite conference in Yosemite Valley, the Bridalveil Fall with Charlotte Gibb as instructor was on the agenda that Saturday morning at 6am. I hoped that by participating in her workshop I would gain a less technical or more creative approach to photography of waterfalls.
She gave us the topic of long time exposure in the preliminary discussion. The spot offers little freedom of movement. There was not much room for all of us, and on top that there were every now and then some people walking around in our compositions.
Bridalveil Fall shows a strong variability of location due to the influence of air movement. Especially at sunrise you can clearly feel the rising winds. So you don’t have much time for camera setup. An ensemble of stones in the waterfall can all of a sudden become dry and the composition becomes useless. In return, the neighbouring region becomes dripping wet and appears in a new light.
I know pictures from long time exposures with moving water. They’re interseting sometimes. I rarely find them really good. Often they exhibit a strong technical assessment and their message ist not really accessible to me.
I begann to study sections of the waterfall, which meant that the rock formations in the composition always showed a new character. That way many compositions can be made.
Probably an image that expresses changeability and constancy is best suited to make us think about the origin of the world. Planets orbiting their central star are a well known example for this. Or stars that orbit the black hole of our Milky Way in 11 years.
My last picture of Bridalveil Fall, with its interplay of light and dark, of flowing and solidification, steps and flow, forms and dissolution of forms, shows the coexistence of changeability and constancy. That’s what makes it so attractive to me.
Inspired by a photography of german photographer Michael Wesely, I tried to superimpose the movements of orange tulips in a white vase to create an equivalent to a longtime exposure image. A longtime exposure with 3 or 4 days exposure time was unfortunately not possible for me. Therefore I took 35 pictures with my camera at irregular intervals dictated by occupational requirements whose pixels were to be averaged. Here 4 examples of the highly active flowers in a vase:
Each RAW image has a file size of 125 MB, after RAW conversion this was 580 MB per image as TIF. The entire stack had a size of 21,5 GB. The image of the average then becomes 580 MB again. The pure mean value image was interesting to me but not exciting. Therefore I took this image and layered in parts of original images. The result became convincing: