Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

What a difference the speed makes

with 20 comments

After Austin got a bunch of rain, I headed over to Bull Creek off Lakewood Dr. on October 14th to see what sorts of pictures I could make of a waterfall there. I took the top photograph at a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second and the bottom one at only 1/1600 of a second. Neither of the images matches what my eyes and brain saw when I was at the waterfall, and that once again raises the question of what is real.


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From reading Jonathan Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge, I’ve learned a little about the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce [pronounced Purse], who lived from 1839 to 1914. Here’s a relevant passage from Peirce:

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Upon this first, and in one sense this sole, rule of reason, that in order to learn you must desire to learn, and in so desiring not be satisfied with what you already incline to think, there follows one corollary which itself deserves to be inscribed upon every wall of the city of philosophy:

Do not block the way of inquiry.

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Alas, in today’s academic world, ideologues are increasingly blocking the way of inquiry by peremptorily declaring certain topics off-limits and attacking anyone who investigates those topics.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 7, 2021 at 4:27 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Looks like the water is converging.
    Excellent picture.

    rabirius

    November 7, 2021 at 7:15 AM

  2. Instead of freezing the water, you let it flow, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    November 7, 2021 at 7:28 AM

  3. Interesting, one is slow and one is fast. The eye saw something in between: what is real? Good question.

    The Snow Melts Somewhere

    November 7, 2021 at 10:25 AM

  4. I like all the realities of fast and slow of moving water.

    circadianreflections

    November 7, 2021 at 11:05 AM

    • Me too. Historically I’ve more often gone with high fast shutter speeds, I’m willing to explore both. What seems consistently to fail is an intermediate speed like 1/100.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2021 at 11:10 AM

  5. These provide examples of one of the elements I love about photography, how it can capture “reality” in ways we can’t see. I most often opt for slower shutter speeds with water, but sometimes it’s really nice to instead use the fastest shutter speed you can, freeze all that action and see the details it reveals. Nice comparison here.

    Todd Henson

    November 7, 2021 at 11:18 AM

    • This time I played teacher and showed both fast and slow for the sake of comparison. My impression is that most nature photographers have swung heavily toward slow shutter speeds for moving water. That alone might be why contrarian me has leaned more toward high shutter speeds for moving water, even as I’ve done my share of long exposures as well.

      An interesting experiment just occurred to me: two photographs of the exact same waterfall or stream, one long exposure and one short, blended to make a single image. The opacity of each layer could be varied to produce different effects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 7, 2021 at 11:36 AM

  6. Two examples of why I always tell people when they ask what shutter speed to use for water in motion that “it depends”. Firstly, what look are you after and secondly, how is the water flowing, and thirdly what kind of light are you shooting in?

    Did you choose not to use a polarizer? I usually don’t like to freeze the action of water’s motion but that second is a nice abstract.

    Steve Gingold

    November 8, 2021 at 3:18 AM

    • I do carry a polarizer in my camera bag but have to confess I don’t think I’ve ever used it for a waterfall picture. Your answer to people who ask what shutter speed to use is a good one. For each instance of moving water, it’s good to try out different shutter speeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2021 at 3:37 AM

      • I think it would have added a lot to the top picture having less glare above but as in all things it’s a matter of taste.

        Steve Gingold

        November 8, 2021 at 3:39 AM

        • Good suggestion. I’ll have to try it out the next time the creek is flowing strongly enough.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 8, 2021 at 3:44 AM

  7. Loved both photos! I think it is all real, Steve – perception is limited by our natural senses and the prostheses that we use to capture and measure it yet so many creatures see the world differently than we humans do. So who are we to limit what is real?

    composerinthegarden

    November 8, 2021 at 1:30 PM

    • Well said. We perceive only a tiny portion of all that surrounds us. Fortunately we’ve developed amazing instruments like telescopes and microscopes and CT scanners to gain access to some of the realms we couldn’t previously get access to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 8, 2021 at 2:18 PM

  8. I’m intrigued by the discrete yellow areas in the first photo and the yellow glow in the second. I can’t remember seeing such color in water photos before. Was it the light? Something about the ground or rock beneath the water? Vegetation or dissolved solids in the water? Whatever the cause, it’s interesting and attractive.

    As for fast and slow, you’ve brought to mind the Welsh poet W.H. Davies, who wrote:

    “Now shall I walk,
    Or shall I ride?
    ‘Ride,’ Pleasure said.
    ‘Walk,’ Joy replied.”

    shoreacres

    November 8, 2021 at 10:07 PM

    • Those yellow areas do stand out, don’t they? I don’t know how to account for them; next time I’m there, especially with a reduced flow of water, I’ll try to remember to check the sorts of rocks that are in those positions.

      That’s a good segue from camera shutter speeds to Welsh poetry. I don’t remember hearing about W.H. Davies, of whom Wikipedia says: “He spent much of his life as a tramp or hobo in the United Kingdom and the United States, yet became one of the most popular poets of his time. His themes included observations on life’s hardships, the ways the human condition is reflected in nature, his tramping adventures, and the characters he met. Davies is usually classed as a Georgian Poet, though much of his work is not typical of the group in style or theme.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 9, 2021 at 5:01 AM

  9. Beautiful images – I especially like the abstract nature of the second one. I suppose video would be closer to our own vision than still photographs – it can capture the effects of time.

    Ann Mackay

    November 20, 2021 at 5:18 AM

    • Well said: yes, video adds the dimension of time.
      I’m big on abstractions, as you’ve no doubt noticed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2021 at 5:30 AM


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