If you’ve been following my Wild Shropshire project on Facebook you’ll know that once again this Spring I was seduced by the local Great Crested Grebes.
They have been very late nesting this year in comparison to last, and so I have had less of a single spot to work with them from and therefore spent more time in other positions on the lake; as a consequence I have ended up with an array of different colours in the water around them.
These colours are generally created by the changes in foliage in the background to the patch of water that your subject is swimming or feeding on, although the nature and intrinsic colour of the water itself (is it a muddy site for instance) can also play an important role. In early or late light when the sun is low there is a whole array of different images that changing the colour in the water can impact on. The trick is to get down low to ensure the surrounding background is indeed all water and not an out of focus line created by a riverbank or similar.
Take these two avocet images for instance. Putting aside the change in scale and angle, the images have a very different feel to them because of the colour canvas that the bird is to be found on – in one instance the shallow wetland waters of Texel in Holland, in the other a muddy scrape in the Namibian desert!
The classic clear blue ripple free water is perfect for wading birds in particular and the change is then simply a question of the quality of sunlight you get to work with as these Oystercatcher, Little Egret and Black-Winged Stilt images highlight.
Even with more allegedly mundane subjects such as Coots or Mute Swans, colourful water can really make an image work.
It does need sunny days really for colours like this to be brought out – add in a dose of cloud and especially a bit of a breeze and the dreaded white water syndrome comes into play – high contrast between water and subject, no reflection of any significance and a resulting uninspiring image. It’s far better when searching out a water based subject to look for the corners of the lake where the light and lack of breeze give you some colour to work with – and there is almost always a corner of some sort that will do so even if it’s not the nearest to the car park!
In some locations buildings and other structures can add a completely different colour dynamic to the water such as these harbour based shots of Long-Tailed Duck and Kittiwake, the latter of which the very structure of the jetty providing a key and totally different element to the image.
So when water based images are on your agenda this summer make sure you look for the changing colours.