How To: Arty Blur Water Shot

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was inspired by Trent Mitchell to take some longer exposure shots of empty waves, as my Aquatech housing gives me access to the top dial I usually shoot in shutter priority mode and make sure the shutter speed is at least 1/1000 of a second to get crisp images.

I was surfing and shooting on my own the other day so without a subject to worry about other than the wave I took the opportunity to experiment a bit with different speeds to see what I thought gave the nicest arty blur effect.


First, the control shot for my experiment, here’s one shot at a shutter speed of 1/2000, the sun was threatening to come out so even at that speed the camera managed an aperture of 4.5 and an ISO of 400.

Barrel shot 1/2000

It’s crisp, the high speed has frozen it as expected, this would have been perfect if someone had been in that barrel, but that’s not what the experiment is about.


Our first example is shot at 1/25 of a second, that’s pretty slow for a fast moving wave as you can see, f:14, ISO: 100:

Barrel shot 1/25

We get a nice blurry effect on this one and it definitely invokes a feeling of motion, maybe it’s just the slight blur on the background (I addressed this later in the session as you’ll find out below) that annoys me but I just don’t like the feel of it.


Next we start getting faster, this one at 1/40 of a second, f:9, ISO:100:

Barrel shot 1/40

This is getting closer to the arty blur I had in mind, I had also started rotating the camera whilst shooting with the slower speeds, I rotated it with the wave (so anti clockwise in this case) to try and blur any background without making the wave look weird, I tried rotating the opposite direction and it looks pretty strange, I didn’t like it but it’s an interesting effect to try out.


My last test speed was 1/80 of a second, f:10, ISO: 100:

Barrel shot 1/80

This is my favourite, it’s probably a lot to do with it being the best looking wave, the little section already pitching down the line and the other peak in the distance give it a definite edge on the others, plus it’s looking out of the barrel which is always a winner.

I reckon the rotation of the camera (clockwise for this one) adds something to it, there’s a little bit of wave that’s less blurred, possibly because it was moving at a similar speed relative to my rotation, whatever it is I think I’ll be shooting at 1/80 in the future to get the magic arty blur that I’m looking for.

Lesson Conclusions:

  • Experiment with one setting at a time and examine the results.
  • Try something simple like rotating the camera to give a different effect.
  • Use solo sessions as an opportunity to try something new.


3 responses to “How To: Arty Blur Water Shot”

  1. […] other option is to go for a slower shutter speed for a more arty blurry effect, after doing some experimenting myself I personally like 1/80th for blurring the wave enough but not too much, and at this speed I think […]

  2. […] Estrada prefers a longer shutter speed of 1/10 to my favourite 1/80 when doing arty in water blurred barrel shots and uses the kit 18-55mm lens on a 60D to stunning […]

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