I would like to take a better picture of that fjord where water is crystal-clear.

enter image description here

The idea would be to include immersed stuffs in the foreground (whether ice or stones, algae...) and mountains in the background.

My main concern is about water transparency. I was not able to avoid reflections. Is it all about angle of incidence on the surface when taking a picture, but also ambient and polarized light? What would you recommend?

I use a Canon EOS 450D camera with a 18-55 mm lens and tripod.

All tips are welcome!


You'll want to use a polarization filter. Rotate it until you get the effect you want.

By the way, make sure you get a circular polarizer (most modern ones), the older linear polarizers can confuse the light metering and autofocus systems in the camera (no damage, you'll just not get good results).

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  • You can also meter and focus before putting the filter on. Just copy your correctly metered settings over to manual mode or keep the shutter half pressed. – Belle Apr 4 '18 at 6:48
  • @Belle-Sophie Yes but since polarisation blocks light, they should also do exposure compensation, stepping it up a notch or two. – MichaelK Apr 4 '18 at 7:48
  • @MichaelK yeah, indeed. Forgot to mention that :# – Belle Apr 4 '18 at 7:49

In addition to a CPL as @remco said, which will kill unwanted glare in the water and sky, and somewhat off the snowcaps too, for this scene in particular you would also need to control for the naturally high contrast in brightness between the dark water and the snowy mountain top.

To do something like this scene, you may need to stack the CPL on top of a ND (neutral density) filter to prevent over-exposure of the mountains or under-exposure of the water. Four stops is a good strength for general purpose. If you use an ND, you may also have to change other camera settings as well, if you find the camera making bad automatic choices with the filters on. In the worst case you might have to disable the automatic shutter, aperture and ISO adjustments and manually set all of them, to get the picture you're after. (That's what I do whenever I use NDs.)

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  • OP can also use bracketed shooting for an HDR effect. – JonathanReez Apr 3 '18 at 22:56

as @remco mentioned, a circular polariser is what you need - it can help you to either emphasise the reflective qualities of water or make it more see-through.

below is an image I took with a circular polariser, and you can see the beautiful reflection in the lake. Be careful to buy a strong polariser to achieve the effect needed, as stronger (and more expensive) polarisers do a better job removing or emphasising the reflection, but only on non-metal surfaces.


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This is a purely artistic comment with little technical merit, but isn't one of the basic requirements of a photo that there's a clear subject?

You can mess around will all the polarisers, ND filters (graduated or not) and bracketed exposures, but there has to be something to attract the eye. The lovely mountains are far away. The bottom of the lake is finely pebbled with little vegetation. Even if you managed through technical wizardry to entirely remove the water, the foreground would have the same texture as the background. Your gaze would wonder across the image without coming to rest on anything specific. Even with an obvious full colour image, the quasi monochromatic palette is blending the background into the foreground. It smudges the two into a single square of bluey grey.

You need a strong focal point somewhere. Relocate to where there's something more interesting (and larger) in the foreground. Like a swimming crocodile or rusting submarine. An interesting rock formation, colourful plant, or dramatic golden hour relief lighting may be more realistic. The last thing's difficult, especially for travel photography as often your schedule precludes it.

My screen does not indicate the focal point of your photo, but make sure that you've focused only a few metres ahead. An eye of that crocodile would be ideal. This hyperfocal technique will ensure that the maximum area of the scene is in sharp focus when using a wide angle as the depth of field will be maximised. This will help emphasis the lake bed.

One of the most disappointing lessons I've learnt in landscape photography is that even the best 2D camera cannot easily capture the essence of a majestic 3D scene. In many respects, you have to completely ignore the existence of the third dimension for this kind of photo. Another learning I've taken is that surprisingly often, a landscape photograph is not of a landscape, but something within it. Do GoogleImages("transparent water landscape"). Sorry for the brutality; my leg's hurting again.

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  • I completely agree with you, making the water actually transparent would be of detriment to the overall image, but I think you should perhaps migrate this 'answer' into a wiki page. Great point though! – bearmohawk Apr 4 '18 at 11:29

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