The Spirit of Water

Lukas and I spent half a day in Killin in a workshop with Dave Hunt, in which I learned that the sun does not always need to be shining to do photography. In fact, diffuse light is sometimes a distinct advantage. The other thing I learned is that capturing fast moving water can be fun, despite my dislike of cliche long exposure milky water images. I vowed never to do anything like that!

On a drizzly day in Scotland in a town that features a series of small cascading waterfalls as it’s main attraction it’s not too hard to see how that vow was broken. There are two ways to take pictures. One is to have a plan beforehand and the other is to engage in post-hoc rationalization.

At that particular moment I had no clear idea what I wanted to do. So I just looked through the viewfinder at the water. Then I started to imagine many strange creatures floating below me. Just like looking upwards and imagining shapes in the clouds (not possible on that particular day since the sky was a uniform grey). And then I thought about a simple project focussed on capturing these ‘water sprites’ as I saw them.

Water Sprite 4

Although I had a tripod with me, I was trying to make do with handheld as much as possible. And I had no Neutral Density filter anyway, so multi-second exposures were out of the question (note to self: get at least one ND filter before doing this again). So the challenge was to use as low a shutter speed as possible (image stabilized lenses help enormously here). In fact, I think it worked better since a tripod and ND filter would have probably led me to useing multi second exposures. Having an exposure round 1/4 to 1/10 second gave the shapes a coherence and structure that would otherwise be lost with longer shutter speeds.

Water Sprite 5

Further upstream we see them (the sprites) leaping over the rocks like salmon returning to their spawning grounds. You can see that it is a laboured course and the effort required to gain higher ground is energey sapping.

Water Sprite 3

As more and more attempt the journey then at least some of them make it to their final destination where they blossom into phantasmic glory and reveal their true form.

water Sprite 2

Before they finally spawn and die amongst the still, calmer waters of the upstream rock pools.

Water Sprites 8

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