I don’t have much occasion to take photographs of running water during my normal daily photo walks. But as I was walking around downtown Akron, working on my “Urban Abstracts” theme assignment, I discovered Lock 4 Park. Located along the Ohio & Erie Canal, it is a renovated plaza, home of outdoor lunches for downtown workers and evening jazz concerts. Quite a surprising discovery within the downtown environment, the area provided a wealth of urban abstract photo opportunities for my class project.
The park is also home to a small waterfall – perhaps part of the historic canal lock system. In any case, I took advantage of the moving water to test out the concept of “creative exposure” from Bryan Peterson’s book, Understanding Exposure. As Peterson says, “Most picture taking opportunities have at least six possible combinations of f/stop and shutter speed to get a correct exposure”. This is based on the concept of reciprocity between the elements of the photographic triangle – aperture, shutter speed and ISO. However, in Peterson’s view, what will set the final image apart is whether the photographer captured the best “creative” exposure – the combination of depth-of-field and motion capture that yields the most dramatic and imaginative shot.
For the Lock 4 waterfall, I took two different images-one where my goal was to freeze the motion of the water (fast shutter speed) and the other where I attempted to create a silky, cotton-candy feel to the flowing stream (slow shutter speed). Since I am photographically motion-challenged, I was pleased with the final results of my experiment – shooting in shutter-priority mode is a walk on the wild side for me.
And yet, I’m not sure which of these images would qualify as the best “creative” exposure. What do you think? Do you prefer the silky smooth flow or the crashing, plummeting water? Which do you think captures the essence of the scene?
Regardless of which image is your favorite, this exploration certainly demonstrates the truth to Peterson’s idea that, as the photographer, we hold the key to what our images communicate. The same scene taken with two different exposures results in two distinct images; two photographs communicating different ideas and emotions. Soft versus hard; smooth versus choppy; flowing versus rough.
So, have you thought about what it is that you want to communicate?