Incredible Iceland in Pop Photo

“Behind the Falls” Southern Iceland’s Seljalandsfoss on a bright, sunny evening.

I have a new article published in the May issue of Popular Photography magazine entitled Incredible Iceland. That’s their title, not mine. My preferred Warming up to Iceland was a bit too cute for them, I suppose. Anyway, the article begins on page 50 with the above image as the opening spread. The colors in the magazine are printed rather dark and dull, so enjoy this version before you read the printed word.

“Behind the Falls” at Seljalandsfoss was created during last year’s Epic Iceland tour and it was my favorite take from this location. I experimented with different shutter speeds, as I usually do, and this one – 1/250 of a second – projected the look and feel for which I was aiming. I really like the cascading water effect rather than the smooth, silky look of a longer exposure for this image. I’m often asked about “rules” concerning exposure times when handling moving water. No, there are no rules but I do have a few guidelines.

First, and this is strictly personal, I prefer to keep some detail and texture to the water. Long exposures that turn moving water into featureless white blobs smeared across the image frame do absolutely nothing for me. I want to keep the water’s texture and detail while still creating the illusion of motion.

Second, the heavier the water, the shorter the shutter speed. This goes back to what I just said above. It’s much more difficult to retain that texture and detail with heavy, fast whitewater than lighter water flows.

Third, since I am almost always much more interested in how the image will make people feel rather than how it will look, I want to ask myself how the choice of shutter speed will affect its emotional impact on the viewers. My own experience and emotional reaction to the scene will dictate that choice. For example, large waterfalls that move heavy volumes of water project power and rage and I want that emotional trigger embedded in the image so that viewers can feel that power, rage, or fury too, even if they can’t feel the ground vibrate or hear the cascade’s thunderous roar. A faster shutter speed seems to express the heaviness of the water and by extension, its power as well. Conversely, slower shutter speeds express lightness, grace, and fragility. Waterfalls and cascades with gentle water flows or elegant, stair-stepping design characteristics project an air of fragility and grace. That’s how I want those images to feel to my audience.

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  1. Posted April 25, 2013 at 10:13 am by Glenn | Permalink

    Excellent narrative on this topic, thanks. Richard.
    I try to share the feeling I experience with fast moving water by showing its movement in the image. At a prior workshop critique we were told the “cotton candy” look was the way to go. I kept wondering why, that’s not how it looks when you’re there.
    It’s amazing the difference even .2 seconds can make when taking these images.

  2. Posted April 25, 2013 at 6:29 pm by John | Permalink

    Thanks a lot for that post, and great image.

    I always wonder why I prefer my shots of the massive Salt Creek Falls in Oregon that froze the water. Usually I like the effect I get with the longer shutterspeeds, but not with that one. You opened my eyes w/that last paragraph, thanks!

  3. Posted April 26, 2013 at 8:36 am by Jeanie | Permalink

    Really a beautiful photo Richard, congratulations on the Pop article too., I subcribe to Outdoor Photo,
    But will pick up the Pop mag for your article. Ty for sharing your insights & techniques, and great photos.

One Trackback

  1. By Nowe szlaki | Szturchaniec fotograficzny on April 26, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    […] prowadzi warsztaty fotograficzne. Swój chłop. Jego najnowszy wpis, dotycząca Islandii notka „Incredible Iceland in Pop Photo” nie jest tak całkiem bez związku z naszymi planami […]

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