Recently I have been listening to Ruthie Foster sing “God Moves on the Water – the Sinking of the Titanic.” There is something hauntingly beautiful about both her voice and the melody that recounts the tragic events of 100 years ago. The Titanic, the world’s largest and most luxurious ocean liner, was traveling from England to New York when it struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. Three hours later it had sunk, dooming 1,500 persons to the deep and less than 700 surviving.
Perhaps intuitively for this anniversary I was drawn to photographing water images. Water can be both tranquil and fierce at the same time and there are many photographic techniques and unique angles that can convey those emotive powers.
This last week has been so unseasonably rainy (climate change you say?) with thunder and lightening in the Bay Area that seemed to rival that usually experienced in the mid-west. The haunting words that Ruthie Foster sings are about destruction that seems to be directed by divine doom. I don’t see measures of natural destruction from that prospective. Yet I do sense within the natural world a divine presence and try to capture that in my photography.
With a strong storm brewing on the bay I did not want to get out of the car. So I figured I could use those sheets of water being wickedly blown across the windshield as a creative tool to measure the “movement on the water.” No Photoshop used here just wind whipped water creating a grey painterly effect.
What I like about the image is that you don’t quite know what is happening. Why is the pier appearing to be liquefying and trailing off into the distance diagonally across the water? Also the lack of contrast makes it feel like the sky and the bay and the water and posts are soon to become indistinguishable.
When you want water to look silky or capture the movement from one place to another you usually use a long shutter speed – you need to experiment to find the perfect timing. With waterfalls you might start with two seconds and you must put your camera on a tripod – hand holding it will never do – and never use flash. Choose a small depth of field like f/16 so that the image looks sharp.
BUT I was hand holding because the incoming foamy tide was moving fast enough to give me some streaks at 1/20 of a second at f/22. Remember to choose the lowest ISO you have available to you (for most that will be ISO 100) so you can get a slow enough shutter speed.
I stood in the incoming surf and waited for it to recede back into the ocean to photograph it moving over the pebbles. The best shots included some areas where little or no water was flowing over the pebbles. Sun on the water makes the streaking sparkle.
And in a moment of creative chaotic splashing it was “God/dess moving on the water” but this time in celebration and joy.