Shooting Pools

Some people shoot pool. I shoot pools. With a camera rather than a cue. This past summer, I had spectators--sort of like you might expect at a pool game. Maybe they were confused. Or just disapapointed, as I didn't notice them placing any bets on whether or not I would make the shot and they didn't stick around very long.

The crowd eventually thinned to one inquisitive spectator with a pocket-sized digital camera. She wanted to know about photographing pools. It would be interesting to see her shots. She probably got something fun that would be a challenge to pull off with an SLR on a tripod. At any rate, here are some of the tips I offered:

- As with any outdoor photography, watch the light. Although you can get some nice images of pools in open landscapes throughout much of the day (especially if you are blessed with blue skies and puffy clouds), you still get the best light closer to sunrise and sunset.

- Use a tripod. You'll need it to get front-to-back depth of field in lower light and also to slow the motion of water for any fountains, cascades, sheet waterfalls or naturalistic waterfalls. Those shots require slower shutter speeds.

- Watch your lines. Pools are architectural subjects and are often surrounded by other structures. Grid lines on your viewfinder will help you keep horizontal and vertical lines straight.

- Don't forget your polarizing filter. It is essential for minimizing glare, enhancing reflections, defining clouds and adding saturation to skies.

- Carry a wide-angle lens. You'll need it to get a good overview of most pools. That said, it will tend to distort images, so keep this in mind as you're composing. Shoot multiple angles and focal lengths.

- Get there early and carry a broom. I spend more time prepping pool sites than just about any other outdoor location. Not only do I need to clean leaves and other debris from pools, but there are the robots to remove, pool decks to sweep, chaise lounge cushions to adjust, toys to clear out, goggles to gather together and, quite frequently, parties to pick up after. If I'm lucky, I get all of this done before the irrigation system kicks on, drenching my gear, or the glaring sun pops over the treeline.

- Wear cool clothes and carry a water bottle--especially if you're shooting Arizona pools in July.

Photo ©2008 Lee Anne White. All rights reserved.