How to Photograph Rivers and Streams

How to Photograph Rivers and Streams

There are many reasons for shooting rivers and streams in landscape photography and there’s a lot involved so here’s part one (probably).

Being in the landscape regularly will inevitably lead you along rivers or creeks. A lot of joy can be found being immersed in a shot from within a river. The bubbling rushing sounds, water drop splashes, glowing mossy rocks and birds whooshing along catching insects are some of the many highlights. You really do feel alive photographing from a stream and often the challenges it presents are well worth overcoming as the visual rewards can be fabulous.

Compositionally water presents excellent opportunities for a photograph such as making leading lines to another subject – like a mountain or waterfall. The patterns and shapes made by flowing water offer endless possibilities and can be the main subject in themselves. You will sometimes find S shapes and curves which are sought after compositional devices. Looking closely and exploring will reap visual rewards and you may see reflections plus reflected colors which help build a composition if the water isn’t too fast flowing. If you are lucky and the sun is shining at the right angle, water spray can form rainbow prisms which can make welcome color splashes too!

Don’t be a pussy, get in!

Eventually, you will want to get into the river or creek you are photographing, it happens to everyone. Unless you’re going to drown. Stay out if you intend to drown – yes it can be dangerous. Often the best compositional leading lines and action is from within the river, there’s no getting away from the fact you will want to get in at some point. When you do decide to take the plunge (waka waka), you’ll want to consider investing in appropriate footwear because if you wear your regular hiking shoes they will fall apart quickly. And they’ll get stinky quickly!

Use our very scientific and informative Arctic-ometer© infographic to pick the most appropriate footwear. Here’s a brief rundown: