Posts Tagged ‘wa’

We had breakfast this morning in a little cafe in Ocean Park, down along the beach access road. Anyway, I walked out after a last cup of coffee and spotted the distant suff down the road and in a flash this shot jumped into my head – I even tried to describe it to my wife.

To my wife’s consternation, I drove my Honda Civic out onto the sand (we usually bring our Subaru Outback) and parked it close to the edge beyond which two driven wheels would not be enough. I’d known from the first instant that I wanted – needed – as flat a perspective as I could get, so I threw on my 70-300mm, mounted the camera on a tripod, extended it out to 300mm and started framing.

Making the photo: What I was seeking was a confluence of waves and wind where all the random bits would come together in a dynamic whole. Yeah, right – just like that… I’ve spent lots of time with cameras on tripods all framed up and ready to shoot when the perfect waves roll by, but usually I’m waiting for a line of waves to match the other elements in the overall design. This had an added twist: there was nothing to frame in reference to – other than ocean – it was all waves. I picked a patch based on a bit of watching the overall wave patterns and the sun and clouds and hoped I was pointing at (or at least near) a spot that would give me what I wanted (ok, the camera wasn’t that rigidly fixed; the ball head was set to allow some slight panning to follow wave patterns, but you get what I mean). Basically: wait as sets of rollers comes through then combine “critical moment” timing with occasional high-speed shooting bursts and go for the best.

This is very similar to shooting sporting events where you try to position yourself, plan the shot and then start shooting as the critical moments come and go. Shooting waves is unlike shooting sports in that you can know pretty much where a runner’s feet will fall or where a jumpers shadow will pass. Not so with waves, so they’re harder to get just right. Accordingly, unless you are incredibly patient, lucky, or skilled, you will be cropping the image to a greater or lesser degree. That was certainly the case here.

The hardest part of cropping is knowing what to crop – and when shooting something as chaotic as waves it isn’t always easy – not for me at least – to spot a fragment of order amid the chaos. The “subject” isn’t just sitting there – a duck on a pond so to speak. It is camouflaged by all the surrounding action. Cropping amounts to paring away everything that isn’t “the shot”.

As a consequence, on the beach I didn’t know for sure that I had “the shot” until later, back on the computer, scanning through all the images. This was on the third to last shot out of a couple of dozen exposures; I can only wonder if subconsciously I knew this pattern had flickered in front of my eye during the shoot, causing me to stop. 

A problem shooting material in stormy conditions is that the scene, while begging for drama, tends to be rather flat; the contrasts are mostly of texture and shape, not light and dark. Nature co-operated here, throwing a Flickr of weak sun across a portion of the scene for just a few seconds, giving the white froth a bit of added brightness to capitalize on. Even so, the overall contrast didn’t exceed 4 or 5 stops, if that. Photoshop curves set the white and black points giving the scene contrast it lacked in nature. But the small textures, little micro waves and ripples, while interesting and accurate, seemed like noise, distracting from the design, so I used Topaz adjust on a duplicate base layer to smooth the smaller details, then blended the original and smoothed layers to strike a balance between texture/detail and shapes.  The final step was some judicious burning and dodging, mostly to punch up the highlights.

This “subject” invites repeat attempts; no one version will ever be definitive – a be all, end all. Each attempt will generate moments of crystallized chaos – raw material to mold into finished images. Great fun :-)


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