What is soft is strong…

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.

Lao Tzu

This month, I’m sharing this photo with Kat Sloma’s Photo Heart Connection. See why below.

I love water. I love living on it (literally). I love living near it. I love sitting by it and watching as it ebbs and flows…

I was born on an island, moved to another island as a child, grew to adulthood on island, lived near Lake Ontario when I attended university and beside a river in Toronto for a time as a young adult. For 17 years I lived with a canal at one end of my street and a river at the other — with all the bridges we had to cross regularly, it felt a bit like living on an island.

None of this was planned, and I only realized it recently, in fact. When we get to a certain age, we begin to see the patterns in our lives and perhaps start to understand them a bit.

These days I spend a good part of the year on a sailboat in southern waters. The rest of the time I don’t live quite as close to water as I used to, but we are fortunate to have a river running through our town and lots of waterfalls. Every time I go to our main street I stop to visit the waterfalls. These falls also provide the green power for our community.

It’s a challenge to photograph waterfalls, as you probably know if you’ve ever tried. Too short an exposure and the water freezes in a manner not characteristic of itself. The falls don’t look the way you experienced them. Longer exposures are the key to the soft, creaminess that appeals to so many of us. But long exposures can let too much light in, ruining the picture. Enter the Neutral Density Filter. It allows you to reduce the amount of light that can pass through the lens. So after adding a neutral density filter, you can use a slower shutter speed. In these photos I used an aperture of F16 and a shutter speed between 1/2 second to a second at 200 to 360 ISO.

I certainly need much more practice making photographs of waterfalls and rivers and lakes and oceans, but each time I learn a little more and am rewarded by the time spent near water.

I’d love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.

John O’Donohue

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.

Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

34 thoughts on “What is soft is strong…

  1. Pingback: St. Simon’s Island, Georgia | Two Salty Dogs

  2. Such a powerful statement Sherry, “what is soft is strong.” One of those paradoxes we often forget as we brute-force things in our lives. I love the pattern of water you’ve identified in your life. Water can be such a powerful source of peace and nourishment, and it seems like it is needed for your soul. Thank you for sharing this wonderful Photo-Heart Connection with us.

  3. Pingback: Weekend Reads « Visible and Real

  4. Love that last quote, ’bout going around obstacles. This a.m. at my spin class the instructor re-informed us that we are 60% water. Then he asked what the other percentage was. I said “coffee”. I’m not so good with the scientific stuff. You are entirely right about water. It has a mind of its own. Your images are gorgeous and thank you for including a little info about your shooting. This is an area I could experiment with to add to my tool bag. Have a great weekend.

  5. Lovely images of water and I love the Lao Tzu quotation at the beginning. I have the book on his sayings.
    I agree that water is difficult to photograph and allow it to look natural. Lovely autumn colours you have captured too! I join you with your love of water!

  6. I tried — and failed — to photograph waterfalls recently so I appreciate just how hard you had to work to create such lovely images. Not only have you captured that gorgeous, silky flowing water but also the beauty of Autumn all around. It’s easy to see how special this season is to you, Sherry.

  7. what a beautiful post. All my life I lived on the prairies yet I longed achingly to live by the sea. Now in my twilight years, we have moved here: to the hem of the sea. It has revived me, it fills me up every day, and nourishes me deep within. I understand. (dianeschuller.com/blog)

  8. Thanks, Laurie. They turned out better than I anticipated, so I am quite happy with them. They’re better than the last time I tried this technique, so that’s good. 😀

  9. Beautiful images, Sherry! I’m right there with you on the water-love!!! I lived on the East Coast (US) while growing up, now I’m landlocked in the south/midwest.

    PS – Thanks for visiting me at Camper. I’m bookmarking your blog to visit during my blog scrolls. You can also find me with 9 other friends at http://www.focusingonlife.blogspot.com.

  10. These are beautiful. I actually also lived near water for a long time, except these past 8 years. I have little experience with water falls, but you’ve given me inspiration to visit some of our rivers near by the city.

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