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Capturing Oceans on the Move

The ocean is both the quiet calmness and a raging entity; each of its forms is admired and well documented, but it is no easy task to master shooting a body of liquid. Yuyun Yuniarti is a photographer based in Indonesia whom after exploring a myriad of subject matters over the years, has found that natural landscapes which host waters of every kind speak to her more than anything. Her style of work aims to relax the viewer and communicate a scene accurately.

Whilst water can be crystal clear or have vivid motion to the naked eye, it takes the right techniques to portray them accurately in photography. Yuyun shares her techniques, which should be considered when capturing both still and moving water in nature.

The Set Up

Along with Yuyun’s D810, it is crucial for her to have a wide angle lens on hand, in her case, that is the AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR. A tripod is essential to every shoot, especially for long exposure shots where you can’t risk having an unstable camera. She also suggests having several filters on hand to assist with lighting and colour. Yuyun keeps a graduated neutral-density filter, a neutral-density filter and a circular polarizer lens with her and uses them based on the weather and atmosphere.

Neutral-density filters come in handy when daylight is too bright to allow a slow shutter speed without having an overexposed image. These filters reduce the amount of light that enter the lens allowing you to capture the right kind of moment of the water. Based on the amount of light available, you would have to adjust your camera settings to work with the filter.

Before even packing her gear, Yuyun would have already scouted her desired locations in advance. “Usually I look for a good location during sunrise and sunset, this is done the day before so I can take note of the direction of the light beforehand.”

Composing The Scene

In addition to setting up your gear, framing is just as important. Yuyun always tries to capture a new aspect of a scene even if they are familiar to her. “Note the foreground, middle ground, background. Note the timing of day. I feel the best time is around dawn and dusk, also known as the golden hour.”

Weather can be influential to your set up, but a stormy day shouldn’t discourage you. Whilst sun can certainly simplify your process, a storm can add drama. Yuyun believes that “an overcast sky or extreme weather can give your photo a whole lot more character. It is also cool to capture something that might not be experienced or seen ever again.”

Selecting your focal point is next, whilst water might be the centrepiece, there may also be rocks or a ship that also command attention in your image. Make sure your camera is in manual focus to prevent it from auto focusing away from your desired focal point.

Water In Motion Vs. Still Water

Depending on the light condition, and especially when using filters, you need to adjust your shutter speed and experiment with different settings to achieve an optimal result “Usually when photographing moving water, I want that cotton texture effect to show the liquid in motion so I use a low speed technique, but if I want the water to look frozen in time, I use a high speed technique”

The slower the shutter speed, the silkier the texture of the water. Depending on the light, it should be ½ a second or longer. When it comes to a still body of water, the focus may be in its reflective nature or what lies beneath. For this a quick shutter speed is required to capture it fast and with stark detail.

Methods of Releasing the Shutter

The tiniest movement can cause your camera to shake and cause motion blur. When it comes to long exposure images, a shutter release cable or remote trigger comes in handy. You can also utilise your camera’s timer function so that there is some delay between triggering the shutter release and when the camera takes the image, this guarantees a shot with unwanted blurring.

Try and Try Again

Yuyun’s biggest lesson is to “Train in patience and capture the moment”. There is no exact method to getting the effect you want, therefore it takes experience and time spent adjusting your settings image by image to get the shot. Make sure you set aside ample time for each shoot in order to land the perfect symphony of settings. To round up, Yuyun gives her top 5 tips and tricks to remember:

• Select the place you want to photograph carefully. Consider the foreground, middle ground, background and focal point ahead of time.

• Use slow shutter speeds to give moving water that silky texture

• Use filters to your advantage

• Use water for reflection

• Always, always, always use a tripod

About Yuyun

Yuyun Yuniarti is a hobbyist photographer from Indonesia. She describes herself as a housewife, a mother, a wife and a landscape photographer. Along with her husband and best friend, she began experimenting with photography in 2014 and together they explore it till this day. With a love for nature, she is expanding and growing her skill set in order to master the genre.