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The Virgin River, Zion Canyon

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 28 November 2010 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.


Winter Big Sur Photo Workshop - Magic Light and The Pfeiffer Beach Arch - January 11-14, 2011 (Workshop Sold Out)
Northern Arizona Photo Workshop - Grand Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Sedona - March 16-20, 2011
(Workshop Sold Out)
Spring Big Sur Workshop - 4th Annual Wildflowers and Color - April 17-20, 2011 (space available)
Springtime in Lake Tahoe and the Mokelumne Wilderness Photo Workshop - May 14-17, 2011 (space available)
Northern California - 3rd Annual Redwoods and Mendocino Photo Workshop - May 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Second Annual Garden Isle and Tropical Paradise - Kauai Photo Workshop - July 8-12, 2011 (only 5 spots remaining)
Summer Big Sur - 3rd Annual Mystical Fog and Colorful Headlands Photo Workshop - August 23-26, 2011 (space available)
Full Moon Over Red Rock, Arches, and Canyons - 3rd Annual Arches/Canyonlands Photo Workshop - October 9-13, 2011 (only 5 spots remaining).
New Articles on my Website: Combining Beauty With Beauty - Photographing An Athlete In Big Sur With The Help Of Smart Flashes And Pocket Wizard Flex TT5 Remotes and Behind the Scenes at NHL and NBA Media Days

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Refined Vision: 50 Lessons Designed to Improve Your Digital Landscape Photography (e-book and printed versions - 160 pages)
The Photographer's Guide to the Big Sur Coast (e-book version - 102 pages)
On the Edge (printed version - softcover and hardcover - 120 pages)

One of the questions that comes up quite a bit in my workshops is, what is the correct shutter speed for photographing water? My response is always, what type of look do you wish to achieve?

It seems nowadays the the smooth water look, as seen in this image, is a popular choice, but it isn't the only choice and I believe one needs to determine why they wish to have the water look smooth versus frozen or even rough. Each choice will evoke a different emotional response from your viewer.

I'm photographing around lakes, oceans, and rivers all the time. There is not one look to fit all tastes, no more than there is one shutter speed to fit all tastes. With our digital LCD's we can immediately see if the motion of the water fits the scene we are photographing. In film days, I had to refer to meticulously recorded notes (yes I did carry around a notebook listed with various headings). I tend nowadays to make decisions based on what I am seeing on the back of my camera.

For this scene, I wanted to offset the ruggedness of the sandstone canyon walls and rocks so I opted for the smother look. I felt freezing the water added no relief for the eye (though I did try some frames). I also wanted to put some visual motion into the scene and smooth my highlights. This scene was very detail oriented from the vibrant fall color of the cottonwoods lining the banks to the carefully placed (and cropped) rocks in the river.

I loved the rock with the leaves in the lower left of the frame and wanted to strongly position it and build the frame around its placement. Once I felt my composition worked, I carefully allowed my eye to scan the perimeter of the frame looking for any element not carefully cropped.

Rivers present special problems due to the number of rocks in the scene. I try to avoid nipping elements and in-turn, I look for bold and intentional crops. This is easier said than done as each adjustment may introduce an unwanted result in another portion of the frame. With patience you can achieve a clean frame meaning no unwanted or unrelated elements and nothing distracting jutting in from outside the frame. As my friend and colleague Gary Hart says, you don't want to remind the viewer that there is a world outside of your frame. A great visual and something to strive for when checking the edges of your frame.

And as for the smooth water look in this frame I went with a shutter speed of 5 seconds. Why? Because it felt right. No magic formula, just a feel. The more you practice the more you will develop your sense of feel for an image - many of you already have it. Just tune into your feelings and trust them. Formula settings result in formula looking images. Forget the rules and trust your feelings - your images will benefit in the long run.


BTW - Nik Software's BLACK FRIDAY sale on all of their amazing software is still on until Tuesday night. Check out the prices below when you apply my code: DSMITH. Prices good until 11:59 pm November 30!

Discount Pricing:

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Viveza 2 $139.95 ($60 savings)

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 5 seconds F/22.0 ISO 100 28 mm

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This image has been featured in 2 Remix collections.

Nature by Akbar&Armaghan

Flower ,planet.color by Behzad