One of the challenges in fluid dynamics is considering the instantaneous versus the average. Many flows — especially turbulent ones — are different at every point in space and in time. That’s a lot of data to collect and to wrap one’s head around. So often researchers will average turbulent measurements over a period of time and break that information down into two variables: an average velocity and a fluctuating one.
What does that have to do with this image? Well, by capturing the River Avon’s flow near Pulteney Bridge as a long exposure, photographer Peter Leadbetter gives us a look at the river’s “averaged” flow. The long exposure smooths out some of the intermittent features visible in a faster picture, and instead draws our attention to the overall path of the flow and regions that may behave differently, like those near the wall in the foreground. The averaging researchers do is much the same. It will erase or obscure some features while making the large-scale patterns more obvious. (Image credit: P. Leadbetter; submitted by Ioanna S.)