Naturally, photography from a canoe means that most of my images will contain water in them. And because the shoreline of south Florida from the Gulf to Atlantic is primarily lined with mangroves, these are also a big part of my photography. It is a constant challenge to photograph mangroves and water in a fresh way. But, I keep trying. The other morning, I set up to capture some sunrise scenes on Biscayne Bay and located a single small mangrove to work with. I lined up with it so the tree stood between me and the impending sunrise. I examined the scene from various positions, estimating where the sun would appear relative to the tree. If I stood up, the horizon line would be above the little tree, if I crouched down, it fell behind the dense leaves. I decided to work with the latter.
This would be luxury as I would set up the tripod in the water while I sat in the boat with my legs over the side and feet on the ground (shallow waters here). I decided to experiment with water movement. By gently rocking the canoe, I created water ripples that would appear at the bottom of the composition and continue traveling toward the mangrove. Without filters, I set the exposure with a shutter speed of 1/4 sec, aperture at f11 and ISO400. I wanted a slow enough shutter speed to give the water a smooth appearance, but not too slow as to dampen the ripples.
I rocked the canoe gently and evenly in order to create ripples that were evenly spaced. Fast and short motions created thin ripples with little distance between them, such as the image above. For the most part, I liked the effect, but there is some unevenness and the ripples continue on toward the horizon. So I continued playing. You can see in the next image the ripples are wider and all but disappeared toward the middle of the composition. The shutter speed was 1/2 sec this time, which smoothed out the ripples. I liked it.
By now, the sun was beginning to appear and it was getting lighter. I put the filters on, a total of 5 stops. Below is a typical image, using a shutter speed of 3.2 sec. I decreased the aperture size to an extreme end, f22. With a narrow opening, light entering through the lens becomes diffracted or bent. This in turn creates points of light. This would make it possible to capture a sunburst as it appeared behind the leaves. The effect of the slow shutter speed was quite nice on the water, but I was not able to get that burst effect on the sun as I wanted.
I went back to making ripples. This time, I kept the aperture at f22 and increased the shutter speed to 0.4 sec (increased the ISO to compensate). I repositioned the camera so the sun would have more space around it. The result is seen below. I was pleased with the ripples, gentle yet dynamic and quietly disappearing into the middle of the composition. And the sun rays are noticeable around the mangrove. I love it! Could this image be improved? Of course! I don't like the dark line of water just below the horizon line and maybe the stringy marine debris hanging from the mangrove is unattractive. But, I do like the horizontal ripples against the vertical mangrove roots.
I really enjoy these little experimental sessions. This prompts me to go back out there and refine the "ripple technique" and search for creative ways to use it. That's what it's all about, creating through a camera lens.