Blurred water photography


Yes it’s true, I really took these initial photos without a tripod.

Now let me explain what happened before you all write me off! I had gone all armed with filters, tripod, shutter release cable, all ready for some nice blurred water stots that you know from a previous post I’m a fan of.

We parked near the beach and walked down to the sea front only to see it had all be fenced off due the damage from the recent storms. I went back to the car to get rid of my tripod but kept my bag on my back as I thought I’d get some family shots anyway.

As you can see from the following photo, we did get to the beach further up and as I had my filters still on me I couldn’t resist having a go. The stones may have worked but i wanted something more adjustable so I used my camera bag. Now you can actually get little beanbags for this very purpose and as an alternative I could have used my jacket but the bag worked fine.


So what did I do with the camera settings I hear you say, ok I’m getting to that.

Well the aim of this type of photography is to get the shutter open for as long as possible and as you’ll know from my post about balancing aperture and shutter speed, if I want the shutter open longer I have to… well done, close down the aperture by going for a high number.

So I crank up the aperture to it’s highest setting f32 on my Canon 5D, take my ISO down as low as it will go, to 100, and all I’m left with is my shutter speed and this is going to be determined by how light the day is and how strong my filter is.

Now before I put the filter over my lens I attach the shutter release cable, focus on one of the pillars and lock the lens to manual focus. This is because with the strength of my filter the auto focus would never work. Now I can slide down the filter but what shutter speed should I use? Honestly, I guessed at about 10 seconds and took the shot. Too bright and I’d have had to reduce the time the shutter was open, too dark and I could have slowed it down, simples.

Now I’m afraid I deleted this shot from the camera without thinking so you’ll have to trust me here. Now these two ended up being shot at 2.5 seconds and 1.3 seconds. Partly as I didn’t have my strongest filter on and I didn’t want ot push the length of time as it was only resting on my bag. I think they came out rather nice though.

When I got back to my laptop I edited them in Aperture as they were RAW files and simply did the following. I altered the colour balance as my cheap filters tend to come out a bit pink, I reduced the highlights, increased the definition and sharpness and that was it. I also cropped one as you can see because I felt there was too much empty space and it suited a panoramic format.

Now I’m sure you’re keen to know about the Pier shots I teased you with in the header, well that one I caught on the drive home. Thankfully my wife is really understanding and she and the kids stayed in the car while I took 20 minutes to try my luck at this shot.

I took my tripod this time and set up exactly the same way but used my stronger filter and set the camera to get a 13 second shutter speed at f22, ISO 100. I’ve shown one of the originals and then a couple of edited shots so again, what did I do?

Well as you can see from the original I have altered this one more and if you’re interested in a more detailed explanation let me know and I’ll add to this post.

Let me run over my workflow.

  • I adjusted the white balance by setting it to the white of the Pier,I boosted the contrast vibrancy and saturation,
  • I reduced the highlights and boosted the mid contrast and possibnly the most prominent change was
  • I added a strong vignette

Now I didn’t really have a set idea for all this I literally played with different sliders and watched the picture unfold, it’s great fun!

So that’s how I took a new batch of beach shots and had a lot of fun creating some art which I’d be happy framing, and that’s the mark for me of how well I’ve done.

All of that could have been done with your camera and the accessories mentioned at the start so if you like these, why nore head to the beach next time you get a chance. We didn’t even have a particularly sunny day, in fact a stormy shy works in your favour.

I hope that’s been inspirational and would love your feedback as ever.