My kids cannot wait till its warm enough for the opportunity of some sprinkler related fun. Remember that freak warm weekend in February this year? I was fielding - 'can we have sprinklers on' - questions already.
But my own kids commitmemnt to sprinkler fun aside, they are fabulous fun and make for fantastic photos.
My top tips for capturing sprinklers :
- fast shutter - if your shutter is to slow, rather than little round droplets, you'll record lots of little lines as your camera will record a journey of the droplets through time and space. That doesn't necessarily mean bad, but can be distracting at times.
- back or side light - this will make your water really stand out and make it shine. It works best if you can take the photos when the sun is relatively low so morning or late afternoon. The last hour before sunset will be the prettiest!
- Pay attention to your background - if you shoot water against a bright sky, you are unlikely to see much of it (water I mean) - anything darker - a hedge, a building, etc will make a difference.
- Use a longer lens / zoom in from a safe distance, rather than getting too close to the action - it's for everyone's safety, but especially your camera's. But also, it allows you to create more compression in the space between you and your subject and you might be able to catch some of the droplets sharp and some dreamily defocused and blown up like gorgeous little drops of light.
- Vary your composition - it's tempting to find a good angle and just stick with it, but challenge yourself to try at least 2 or 3 different compositions - go for more zoomed in detail, shoot from a very low angle shooting up, go extra wide angle to fit more of the environment and the action in.
By the way, same principles apply for splash park or floor fountains or slip-and-slide!
Paddling pool and water play
If your kids are having a more gentle, less frantic play in a paddling pool or around a water table, you have more time to get yourself set up for shots.
I'd recommend going for a mixture of storytelling shots - showing more of the space and what's going on, action shots - to focus on all the joy, and detail shots where you focus on the little things the're doing, looking at and exploring.
- For the storytelling shots, either go for short focal lenghts to bring a lot of the background into the shots (remember Focal lengths from our first week in this project? Short Focal length means as little zoom as possible - colloquially speaking. )
- If you're focusing on the action or detail, you may be better off moving back a little and zooming in. This will help blur the background and make your subject stand out more.
- Go for the less obvious, tighter crop shots too - especially when put together with the action or wider shots, they tell the full story.
- If your children are playing with any water toys, look for opportunities to frame them with those toys or create a little textural variation blurring some foreground ( through a combination of close proximity, zoom and if you know how to do it - aperture settings) to help introduce a sense of depth.
Pool side and underwater
Some of you lucky people may be holidaying around a proper pool and it wouldn't be right not to include a few bits of advice for those as well.
Take all precautions to keep your camera safe. It will not like it, if it even survives being dropped in water so take photos at your peril! Obviously keep your children safe as well.
For casual shots I just use my phone these days ( with a waterpoof case - amazon stocks loads for all phone types) but I couldn't be without my proper camera either and I always make sure it's safe.
So if you're off somewhere nice and warm with a pool, I highly recommend investing in a waterproof case that will allow you to even take your camera safely into the pool. While you can buy one that's designed specifically for your camera, these tend to be pro-grade and therefore $$$$ BUT you may want to look at an affordable Dicapac ( or similar) case instead. I know a number of photographers who take these on holidays with them and while they are not the slickest accessory out there, they do the job and keep your camera safe, while still allowing you to manipulate the settings ( there are some clever finger inserts in those that allow you to get to the buttons and dials - within reason! ).
Now that your camera is nice and safe, let's talk pool shots. Settings wise, for me, I'd mostly make sure that your images are not overexposed ( if shooting in manual and priority modes) - with the amount of light there, you are pretty much guaranteed fast shutter and fast focus.
- THE Jump shot - who can resist a cooling leap into the water, especially when loads of quality splash is involved. Getting your angles right will be the thing that will make it special. As with any jump shot you want to mke sure there is 'air' - a gap between the jumper's feet and the water to emphasize height. This is beat achieved if the camera is low - my favourite shooting spot would be right from the water level ( with my camera nice and safe!) or failing that, the edge of the pool. I would also HIGHLY recommend using the burst ( drive) mode on your camera - so that with one press of the shutter, you can take multiple shots documenting your child's journey into the water.
- Use the pool inflatables, slides and other elements to help strengthen your composition - they bring a pop of colour to the photos and since they usually require some sort of action, they make for more dynamic shots.
- make the most of the clear background - shoot directly from above water. Whilst our children's world is often littered with brightly coloured distractions, letting water be the only, or main background in your images, can proove a welcome relief. To get the best effect, shoot directly above water to minimise the sun glare and maximise colour depth.
It would be a wasted opportunity to have a well protected camera in and around the pooll and not take it underwater. I have written a blog post with advice on capturing underwater photos so I rather than repeating all the same advice, I'll just let you read it HERE
Any questions - just give us a shout on our Facebook group!
Puddles ( and other reflective waters)
Let's be British about it, you're far more likely to see this kind of water in Britain in summer that a warm water pool!
And while this may be a bit disappointing, listen, puddles are BRILLIANT for photography! They are like little mirrors reflecting your children and sky and everything around. They create THE best splash crowns. With a little clever work with light direction and angles, you can make them look amazing.
Here is the three top things you need to know:
1. Light direction matters!
Seems like it shouldn't what with all of it coming from above, but unless you're shooting when the sun is just above you, it will make a difference. When you shoot roughly speaking AGAINST the sun ( backlight - remember? ) you will get a lovely reflection of the sky, but your children in it will look a lot more shadowy ( as they're effectively blocking the light). But if you walk around the puddle and shoot from the other side ( with light behind your back ) you will get a much clearer reflection of your subjects.
Please excuse the phone pic but I had to grab the opportunity while the kids obliged!
2. Your Focal length matters too:
While your longer lens, will create a pleasing compression effect and give you lots of background / foreground blur, a wide angle lens ( short focal length) placed close to the edge of the puddle will make it appear much much larger
This is the fun play part - I like to shoot very low down to the ground, almost hovering above the surface of the water. It creates a unique reflective effect at the bottom, but raising it a little will let you fit more of the reflection in. In general low-ish down is better than from the SAS* position.
* SAS- Standard Adult Standing position
And if you have not had rain recently, you can replicate what my daughters recently came up with when they wanted to do some puddle play but there were no puddles around...
Open waters - seaside, lakeside, pondside...
Summer for me is not complete without at least one trip to some open water location. There is something about seeing the horizon that just lifts my heart and gives me peace.
Water-side photography has amazing potential but again, protecting your gear is really key. This time the enemy is not just water ( and salty water so more corrosive) - but also sand ( unless of course you're on a pebbly beach). I have personally wrecked a lens through a single grain of salt that got in the fcocusing mechanism and before it ground it to a halt, caused fatal damage to my lens. Sand can get from your fingers under buttons and into scrollers - all of which will mean a trip to a camera repair shop.
So by all means, do take your camera with you but also absolutely make sure that it's as safe as possible!
For me a beach is a possibility for those wide shots which show the glory of the sea and the vastness of it, and that means using your least zoomed in lens - really nice and wide angle is so great!
Pay attention to the proportions - I often see a person in the middle and then half of the frame of sky and the other half of the water / sand. I'd like to challenge you to shake these up. If you give equal visual weight to both sky and water, neither really shines. Instead, try giving the sky 2/3 of the frame with the rest reserved to water. And then reverse the proportions and go 2/3 water - 1/3 sky.
It'll work as well if you go 1/3 sand - 2/3 water ( and reverse) - you get the drift.
And while we're at it - wonky horizons be gone! Do make sure that you keep the horizon line nice and straight - yes it can all be fixed in post editing but if you have a relatively tight crop with your subject in it, you risk having to chop off a limb or two.
Try to experiment with low angles that grab and blur the foreground a bit - it'll create an interesting and more textured viewpoint
Don't forget about the reflective qualities of the wet sand - you know that space, close to the water, that gets washed over by the waves - that'll act like a mirror - again, being on the right side of the light will help!
And then there is my favourite - the amazing light. I remember the time when I was able to just sit on a beach and watch the light change. Now that I'm on sun cream patrol and 'don't go too deep' patrol and 'why is there sand in my sandwich' patrol I don't get to do it much, but I still enjoy it! If you can time it to be on a beach at around dusk or dawn, you will be rewarded by the most beautiful light imaginable.
Candy Floss Water
This is a fun technique which can be applied to running water and give it a candy floss like makeover.
It relies on you slowing your shutter down SUBSTANTIALLY - and by that I mean, 10s and more ( yes I know this doesn't sound like lots, but for a camera that's LOOOOONG).
When your camera's shutter is open for such a long period of time, all the ripples from flowing water get recorded as they move with the water so your camera records their journey between when your shutter opens and closes. This then creates this unique soft effect.
There are two difficult bits with this technique :
1. You really need to make sure your camera is super still. And by that I mean NOT hand holding it but instead placing it on somewhere and ideally, triggering it with either a remote control or self-timer function ( to minimise anything that might introduce some movement into it) . Tripod is best, but if you haven't got one, any other hard surface will do.
2. Light - while in most situations we worry about not having enough of it, when it comes to slow shutter captures, we worry about having too much of it. Let me tell you this straight away - forget about trying this technique in bright sunshine, or even on a bright overcast day. A shimmering brook in the woods is perfect. Especially at dusk, or dawn.
Professional photographers get around this obstacle by applying neutral density filters to their lenses which act a bit like sunglasses for your lens and dim the light coming in.
Most point-and-shoot that I know don't really allow you to set it up for this kind of shoot, but if you have a camera where you can control the shutter and ISO, make sure that your ISO is as low as you can possibly get it and your shutter speed no faster than 5s - ideally slower. If you're shooting in full manual, you will need to match it with a narrow aperture ( big number)