Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

1/8000 of a second

with 27 comments

Turbulent Water in Creek 1815

After the rain finally stopped on April 21st, I spent a while in the main tributary of Bull Creek that flows through Great Hills Park, as you saw last time. To photograph some of the whitewater there I set a shutter speed of 1/8000 of a second. For several years I’ve had cameras capable of that fast a shutter speed but hadn’t ever gone down to such a narrow sliver of time. The point was to stop the action of the water that was moving much too fast for the human eye and brain to distinguish details. One consequence of so very brief an exposure was my need to use flash to get enough light for a decent picture.

If you want to play the pareidolia game again, I’ll suggest a side view of a rightward-facing elephant getting a shampoo. If that’s too fanciful and you’d like to stay in the real world, click the excerpt below for a better look at some of the turbulent water at 1/8000 of a second.

Turbulent Water in Creek 1815A


© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2016 at 5:04 AM

27 Responses

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  1. Definitely an elephant in the bubblescape. And I am reminded of these words “Life is mainly froth and bubble / Two things stand like stone / Kindness in another’s trouble / Courage in your own”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Lindsay_Gordon


    May 31, 2016 at 6:11 AM

    • I confess I’ve never heard of Adam Lindsay Gordon, whom the Wikipedia article you linked to identifies as “an Australian poet, jockey and politician.” Now that’s an unusual combination, don’t you think? I also like your description of what the elephant is in as a “bubblescape.”

      At http://alldownunder.com/australian-authors/adam-lindsay-gordon/ye-wearie-wayfarer.htm

      I found the entire poem from which you so aptly quoted, including the relevant stanza:

      “Question not, but live and labour
      Till yon goal be won,
      Helping every feeble neighbour,
      Seeking help from none;
      Life is mostly froth and bubble,
      Two things stand like stone,
      KINDNESS in another’s trouble,
      COURAGE in your own.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2016 at 7:02 AM

  2. Ah, the power of suggestion–I can easily see your elephant. My camera too can go that fast and you may have inspired me to see what I can get at that speed.

    Mike Powell

    May 31, 2016 at 6:12 AM

    • Brevity can be a virtue, Mike, so give it a shot—or many. Yours is the second of four consecutive votes for the elephant.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2016 at 7:05 AM

  3. Good morning, Steve,
    I can see the elephant, too. Great camera – up to such shutter speeds. Mine isn’t. But then, way too often I just rely on the automatic anyway. I really should take more time when I take pictures.
    Have a great day,


    May 31, 2016 at 6:28 AM

    • You’ve made it three votes in a row for the elephant. By the way, have you noticed the elephant on the façade of a building on the Hauptstraße in Fredericksburg? It’s shown in the second picture at


      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2016 at 7:12 AM

      • I think I really go through this world with my eyes closed! 😉 I’ve taken a picture of that building [https://pitsbilderbuch.wordpress.com/galerie-2-fredericksburgtx/#jp-carousel-237] myself, walked past it countless times and never noticed that elephant. Thanks, Steve, for making me aware of it.


        May 31, 2016 at 7:56 AM

        • You’re welcome. I think we’ve all had that experience of suddenly perceiving a detail we’d previously missed, even though we’d looked at the thing many times.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 31, 2016 at 8:02 AM

  4. Horton Sees a Who

    Jim Ruebush

    May 31, 2016 at 6:47 AM

  5. What a difference a preposition makes: not by the creek, or near the creek, but in the creek. It was well worth it. The bubbles are fun, but I’m just as fond of the way you’ve captured the flow of the water across the creekbed. The crinkling reminds me of wet kelp.

    When I enlarged the detail, the two pairs of large, symmetical bubbles — the largest on the right, the other on the left — reminded me of butterfly wings.


    May 31, 2016 at 6:49 AM

    • Along that part of the creek there are ways to advance on land, as you saw on the right in yesterday’s photograph. In other places there’s no way to push on through but to walk in the water (and that’s especially true for the tributary of this creek leading to the overhang on which at other times I found mud dauber wasp tubes and a daddy longlegs group).

      That’s a nice conjoining of opposites: the mass of an elephant and the insubstantiality of a butterfly.

      After last year’s New Zealand trip, any mention of kelp brings back scenes from that country’s coasts.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2016 at 7:27 AM

  6. Neat!


    May 31, 2016 at 7:04 AM

  7. I see the elephant and do believe I’d have seen it without the hint. Your bubbles closeup reminded me of cells packed tightly together. And they also reminded me of this.

    Steve Gingold

    May 31, 2016 at 4:02 PM

    • As you know, I’ve envied you all the opportunities you get each winter to photograph ice formations, including the ones with bubbles. Those take a good while to congeal, while mine appeared and disappeared in a tiny fraction of a second, yet the two do look similar.

      More often than not I purposely don’t say in my text what something reminds me of; that way people are free to imagine what they will. I don’t know why I announced my vision this time. Maybe it was because I thought the likeness was pretty obvious and other people would see it the same way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2016 at 4:21 PM

      • The interesting challenge of 1/8000 of a second is getting something you like…there is no control or predictability to the composition as it changes so much in such a short bit of time. Frozen in time doesn’t change at all. You got a good one.

        Steve Gingold

        June 1, 2016 at 1:57 AM

        • When taking high-speed pictures of bubbly water, I often go into burst mode, which means I get 5 or 6 images a second. Of course with the subject changing so quickly, that usually means consecutive frames look very different. Even more so if I take separate single shots, as I did here. Nevertheless, when I looked back just now at the whitewater pictures from this session, I was surprised to see that 40 seconds before this picture I could imagine an elephant, but I couldn’t do that with the picture from 2 seconds later, and then I could again with the picture from 1 second after that. Strange. There was something about the configuration of the rocks in that place that allowed the bubbles to re-create an elephant every so often.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 1, 2016 at 5:44 AM

          • Yes, I have found that to be true also. There’s an ebb and flow around the rocks that does create similar albeit different patterns most often. It does sometimes take many exposures to see the repeated patterns however.

            Steve Gingold

            June 1, 2016 at 12:59 PM

            • You seem to have been more perceptive than I, because I don’t remember previously noticing the now-you-see-it-now-you don’t cycling of an imagined form in a series of frames. The next time I come across a sequence of bubbling-water pictures in my archive, I’ll check to see if that on-again-off-again pattern is there.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 1, 2016 at 1:12 PM

  8. Another elephant vote here. Nice detail of the bubbles as well.
    I doubt that my camera equipment can get to 1/8000, but I do enjoy watching the flow of water and the patterns it makes, at whatever speed the human eye is capable of capturing.
    I am reminded of a book of photographs by John Chang McCurdy with selections from Oriental literature by Marc Lappe, titled “Of all things most yielding.” and starts with a verse by Lao Tzu:
    “What is of all things most yielding
    Can overcome that which is most hard
    Being substanceless, it can enter in
    ever where there is no crevice.
    That is how I know the value
    of action which is actionless.
    But that there can be teaching without words,
    Value in action which is actionless
    Few indeed can understand”


    June 1, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    • Positively pachydermic.

      I remember that book, though I never owned it and haven’t seen it mentioned in a long time.

      A few years before that book came out, I did some reading in Oriental religion/philosophy/poetry, including Lao Tzu.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 1, 2016 at 1:02 PM

  9. I might be one of the few not to see the elephant.
    I see tightly packed cells that could be insect or fish eggs…

    My Small Surrenders

    July 16, 2016 at 10:16 AM

    • I don’t always see what other people suggest is in a picture.
      I’ll bet there are clusters of insect eggs or fish eggs that do look like this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 16, 2016 at 4:00 PM

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