There are a lot of ways to create artistic backgrounds to your nature photos using water. Here are three ideas for adding a little creativity to your photographs.
Using a shallow depth of field blurs out the background so that your subject stands out, and this works wonderfully with water -- especially moving water. In our featured photo, photographer Marlin Harms has created a stunning and painterly effect by angling his camera so that the water of Stony Creek creates a soft, flowing background for a Sierra lily. The creek also provides a contrasting color so that the orange lily pops out even more for viewers. The stream looks like a canvas backdrop in front of which the lily is set.
Another trick is to use a slow shutter speed to blur the movement of running water. It creates a smooth, misty effect, and it helps those subjects standing still in the image -- such as a brightly colored fall leaf on a rock in the middle of a stream, or the leaves of green ferns in front of a waterfall -- stand out against it with striking contrast.
Finally, you can use water to reflect the surrounding colors in your subject to create a mirror effect or a colorful backdrop. For example, the layer of water over a sandy beach can reflect the colors of a sunset in the sky, making a pink and gold background for driftwood that doesn't look like a sandy beach at all. This also works well when plants along the shoreline are reflected in the surface of a pond, creating oranges, greens, reds or other streaks of color that can be used as an extra colorful and compelling backdrop for photographing the residents of the pond.
These are just three ways to use water as a backdrop, but there are certainly more!
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