Cult of the Underworld

This was a little riffle of water over ice that caught my attention back in December when I was just starting to explore the Prairie River. We hadn’t much snow, but it was cold enough for quite a lot of ice to form. I liked the sinuous S shape here as well as the crusty details in the ice itself.

I do a lot of work with rivers, streams and waterfalls, this kind of thing always snares me and I never tire of the endless shapes and possibilities with these formations. When I shoot ice and flowing water I always try to use a slow shutter speed so that the water that is liquid contrasts with the water that is solid. Freezing water (action) against frozen water (ice) just seems too much the same thing to my eye, but YMMV.

Specific Feedback Requested

This isn’t a crop in software, but in camera and maybe it’s too tight. Is it too dark? I did a little playful processing so maybe that’s too weird. The water itself is tannic, so brown and not conducive to this kind of thing IMO. Also, maybe I should have tried focus bracketing so I could stack - the moving water though…I don’t know how I’d manage that.

Technical Details

Is this a composite: No
Lumix G9
LUMIX G VARIO 35-100/F2.8 @ 38.0 mm (76mm equiv.)
ƒ/9.0 | 13 sec | ISO 200
Tripod w/CPL & 6-stop ND filters

Lr processing for general exposure, texture & clarity in the ice & tone. Used a creative preset (can’t remember which an Lr has had a meltdown so I can’t look) to add blue tones. Ps for some TK6 masks to manage the many luminosity tones in this. Also did some dodging and burning in the flow of the water itself. Applied Smart Sharpen as well.


Since the water is out of focus any image in the stack can be chosen and used for all the water. You just manually brush that one in instead of stacking the water.

I like this as presented. For me anyways, no it is not too tight, and no I don’t think it’s too dark. In terms of too dark, you need dark tones in the water to create contrast, and better reveal the shapes in the ice. If anything, I would reduce the snow/ice highlights, especially in the ULC and the URC. In terms of too tight, I’d say no its not, I think your composition has a good balance between the amount of snow on the left and right, and the proportions emphasize all the nice diagonal lines you have here.

Regarding the focus stacking. When shooting down on streams and other bodies of water from a shoreline like this, it can be hard to align the plane of your sensor with the plane of the stream, so it is a situation where focus stacking might help get more DOF, however I think this image’s sharpness and DOF is good enough. And as @Igor_Doncov said, most Focus Stacking software lets you use layers to brush in parts of an image from one or more of the bracketed images, I use Helicon, and it has that feature.

Whenever I shoot moving water, whether its a straight shot or a focus stack, I will bracket different images varying the shutter speed while maintaining overall exposure via changing ISO. This gives me different looks in the water flow, that can be masked into the image using layers in Photoshop. Think of it as bracketing for water flow. I use this technique a lot when shooting seascapes along the ocean, to get different looks in the waves, however the same principle applies to stream flow.

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Thanks for the tip, Ed. That’s a very good idea. I’ll try to put it into practice on my next Prairie River field trip. We have pretty close to full ice out so the flows on the local rivers and streams are picking up.

This looks really good. I like the strong graphics of the image. No nits here, I quite like it as presented.

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There’s actually a lot more texture in the ice than I would have expected, and that for me makes the scene. It provides maximum contrast against the silky water. Nicely done, Kristen.

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Thanks peeps. Just got a dusting of snow and freezing temps overnight so there might be ice again on the Prairie. I can’t check it out today, but maybe later this week.

Hi Kristin! This is really cool! It looks like a drone shot of a great river through some barren mountains! Or like lava flowing out of a volcano! Nice capture of the ice!

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That’s kind of what I was going for and I’m glad you picked up on it. Years ago I took another ice/snow and water shot like this only on the edge of a pond and I called it Cartographer’s Dream because it looked like a piece of a map. :grinning:

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