I’ve always been drawn to photographing moving water and experimenting with the way the moving subject is captured in the still image, as this always leads to some level of abstraction in the final result, regardless of how it is done. Fortunately the Yorkshire Dales boasts a variety of natural water features so I have no shortage of subject matter, from the lovely waterfalls walk at Ingleton with the mighty Thornton Force as its highlight to the many steps of Aysgarth Falls across the wide River Ure in Wensleydale and the variety of waterfalls around Keld in Swaledale, such as Wain Wath Force. One of my favourites, however, is the delightful little waterfall tucked away in the corner of the village of West Burton in Wensleydale. It can look quite dramatic when the beck is in full spate, but I prefer it when there is a gentler flow of water which tumbles over the rocks in a series of ribbons, revealing the mosses growing behind. This was how I found it on one visit on a quiet spring day, so I set about photographing the “ribbons” which hadn’t been in evidence on my previous trip (after heavy rain). I soon had an image I was pleased with, but after the experience of capturing my ‘Swirling Leaves’ image down in Strid Wood I was left wanting something more. So I took my camera off its tripod and started to experiment with accentuating the movement of the water by moving the camera in the direction of the water flow whilst taking the photograph. Obviously this is a bit unpredictable, so I had to take lots of images to get a few good ones, but after a bit of practice I was getting the hang of how quickly to move the camera and how far to produce a good effect. So I thought why stop there? I wondered what the effect would be if I moved the camera perpendicular to the flow of the water instead, or even in a circular motion! All produced different and fascinating abstract results and by the time I had exhausted all the ideas for twirling the camera around I had over a hundred images from which to choose the few that I really liked, the Water and Moss sequence being my favourites.
With this in mind, I tried the same ‘intentional camera movement’ techniques on a later trip to the Yorkshire Coast at Whitby. I’m fond of the contemporary style of seascape painting; images which are just made up of layers of blue – sea and sky punctuated by clouds and waves and the light interacting with these elements. So, by using camera movement along with the movement of the waves I tried to create similar images of the sea photographically. The camera settings became less important than usual in this process, with the speed and shape of the camera movement having more impact on the final image, like the brush strokes of the paintings that I admire.
Back in the Dales I’m trying to develop this idea further and use the camera movement techniques on larger dales landscapes. Of course, I still like to produce more traditional images of the Dales, but when I’m out doing this I’m learning to recognise opportunities to produce these abstract images when the conditions are right. I look for strong colours in good light and sweeping shapes which can be enhanced by the movement of the camera. I like to think of this as simplifying the landscape – the detail normally associated with photographs is lost from these images, but the resulting emphasis on colour, light and shape still conveys the feeling of being in the Dales.
To photograph moving water at West Burton waterfall, why not join us on our Aysgarth Workshop?