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May 20, 2014

How to take great shots of water in motion with your Lumia

You might remember Washington-based Bryce Mcnitt’s stunning Instagram gallery from back in March this year.


As Lumia Instagramer of the week, his incredibly varied selection of photos was received with huge enthusiasm. One of the techniques that most intrigued us here at Conversations was the way he shot beautifully abstract close-ups of water in motion. Needless to say we were keen to learn his magic, so asked him to share his secrets. Happily, he’s obliged us in fine style with a six-step guide to shooting water that will have you rushing for the nearest fountain. So without further ado, here’s the man himself, talking tips and tricks.

How I got into water in motion photography

When I first got my Lumia 1020, and started engaging with the Lumia Instagram crowd, I was seeing all of these great shots of water in motion, but they were all in people’s bathroom sinks. I was impressed by how clear and well defined the water was, but bathroom sinks aren’t the most appealing locations for photography, at least mine isn’t. I wanted to get shots like those I was seeing, but also wanted good light, color, and depth of field. So, I decided to take the concept and experiment with it outdoors. The results were both beautiful and abstract. Here’s how you can do it:


1. Find moving water you can get very close to

When I say close, I mean you need to get within a foot, and the camera might get as close as three or four inches. Fountains, of course, are great, and you might have to take your shoes off and walk right in to get the shot. People might look at you oddly, but don’t be embarrassed… they just haven’t seen anyone put their phone up to a spire of water before. Neither have I for that matter.

lumia water 1

For this shot I was standing directly behind a waterfall feature in a park.

2. Look for the right angle

If you can, look for something good to have in the background (even a beautiful colour will do), be it the sky or a wall, a friend, or more water. You’ll be getting good depth of field, so choose your best angle for an attractive, blurred background.

3. Focus

There are two ways to do this. Look at the shot on your screen and just tap on the stream of water, hopefully your lens can grab on to it. If that doesn’t work, or if you want to get very close and get the best depth of field, switch over to manual zoom and set it somewhere on the lower half of the spectrum. Then get the camera to the right spot so it’s focusing on what you want and blurring everything else. The distance is going to be less than six inches. This is only a little bit harder and provides the best effect. It’s also most likely to get your camera wet, so make sure you’ve got it protected.

lumia water 3

I was very happy with the depth of field I got on this shot, which I captured using manual zoom. Notice the subtle shades of purple that show up in the water, which I pulled out using Lightroom.

4. Take lots of shots, and change your angle once or twice

Just shoot a lot, that’s always the rule. As far as shutter speed and all that is concerned, I’ve found that the auto settings will work just fine in good light.

5. Edit!

Editing is where you can make the real magic happen. I shoot DNG files on my Lumia 1020, so that I can edit them in Adobe Lightroom. The beauty of Lightroom is not only the ability to draw out the best contrast with the light balance adjustments, but the additional ability to manipulate each color individually. Using those controls you can bring out the more subtle colors that are present in water that has sunlight passing through it. Other great apps for the Lumia are Nokia Creative Studio, Fotor, and Fhotogram.

6. Zoom and crop

Now that you’ve edited your file and are happy with the way things are looking, you can zoom in on the area of the picture that is particularly interesting. Again, this can be done in-camera or with software. Because the Lumia 1020 shoots such big files, you can get in pretty close without loss of quality, as you can see below.

lumia water 2


lumia water 4

I’ve highlighted the portion of the picture that I actually used – only about one sixth of it.

lumia water 5
lumia water 6
lumia water 7

I pulled the two shots above out of this one shot. I was unsuccessful in keeping myself and the camera dry in this shot. The next wave that came through knocked me off of this small pier and into the water. Thankfully I was able to save the camera from getting submerged, but not myself. That’s priorities for you.

We’re glad to hear Bryce always put his Lumia first! Particularly because otherwise these great shots might never have seen the light of day… Which one would you save, yourself or your Lumia? On a more serious note, which photo do you find most amazing, and are you willing to dip your feet into a fountain to get similar shots? Share your thoughts (and your Lumia’s water survival stories) in the comments below.