So I'm kinda hesitant to offer such a shot here. If you want to call me a talentless amateur, just keep it to yourself, okay?
Aira Beck, Cumbria, October 2010 - 1/8 sec, f9.0, ISO 100
Just for comparison, here’s a more conventional version. Unfortunately, at the time I wasn’t thinking about doing a side-by-side slow shutter versus freeze-action shot, so this was only shot at 1/60 sec – not fast enough to freeze fast-flowing water, but the effect is probably closer to what the eye/brain normally perceives.
Aira Beck, Cumbria, October 2010 - 1/60 sec, f3.5, ISO 100
So what's the verdict? Is it art or is it a gimmick?
These were taken just above Aira Force waterfall, in the English Lake District. By way of contrast, here’s a situation where slow shutter definitely doesn’t work, looking down on the falls from above. First a shot of he falls themselves, for context:
This is looking down from the bridge in the photo above. Freezing the action with a shutter speed of 1/500sec (the fastest available at ISO 1600) manages to capture something of the rush, the turbulence – the violence even – of the falls...
...whereas a slow shutter shot communicates very little. There's no form or structure to the flow, just a meaningless blur.
Here though is a photo where, to my mind at any rate, use of this effect is 100% justified. One of my favourites from our trip to Zambia last year.
Victoria Falls, Zambia, July 2009 - 1/8 sec, f13.0, ISO 100