With the blissful freedom to choose “where ever I want to go” for my photographic outings, I normally select my photographic destinations based on a number of factors, including, but certainly not limited, to the specific visualizations I’ve developed for a location or subject, the anticipated weather, and seasonal considerations (e.g. wildflower blooms, fall colors).
With that in mind, I ventured to Redwoods National Park in northern California last week in hopes I’d catch the tail end of the rhododendron (affectionately referred to as “rhodies”) bloom. A storm brewed off-shore in the days prior to my scheduled departure, and I kept my fingers crossed that photogenic inclement weather like light mist and fog would help me record images with vibrant pink blossoms offset by the towering, gi-normous redwood trees.
Over the course of three days, though, the dark stormy skies unleashed in unrelenting, non-stop downpours. The storm arrived onshore earlier than predicted. On top of Mother Nature dumping buckets, the number of rhodies on the ground far, far exceeded the number of blooms remaining on their lanky branches.
After making the most of the few rhodies still intact and with 100% chance of rain forecasted for my fourth and final day, I decided to seek refuge in a drier place along the southern Oregon coast. I had no final destination in mind for the evening and made the decision that I would start looking for a campsite around 5 pm, wherever my travels took me.
Under partially clearing skies, I arrived at a lovely forested spot in the Cape Blanco State Park just after my arbitrary deadline. Mentally exhausted from my Redwoods trip, I thought a casual stroll along the beach at Cape Blanco would refocus my creative thoughts. One whiff of the ocean breeze as I hiked down the steep hill to the shoreline was all it took to rejuvenate my soul. (Oh, how I love the ocean!).
From a distance, I spotted this long bull kelp resting on the shoreline. Likely a remnant of the last high tide, as I approached it, I wondered where the sea would take it the next high tide. Where had it been before this evening? Where would it go in the days ahead? Would it remain here and dry out? Like me at this moment, it had no set, pre-defined destination. It went where ever the waves and winds took it.
Now connected with this wandering whip, I knew I needed to record an image of it. Watching the next storm develop on the horizon, I set up my camera with my wide-angle lens. One snap to confirm my composition and exposure revealed the need for some adjustments. I repositioned my tripod to intentionally align the bull kelp with the parting line in the sky, placing it in the middle of the frame and breaking the “rule of thirds” on purpose. I then needed to balance the exposure difference between the land and sky with a three-stop graduated neutral density filter.
Pleased with the results but wanting to see how different light would affect the outcome, I waited for sunset in hopes the sun would poke out one last time before disappearing. The skies parted gloriously for a mere seven minutes about 8:30 pm (sunset officially occurred at 8:48 pm). Though the beach received warm, glowing sidelight, the clouds’ shape had changed completely to a flat, even, overcast sky. When comparing the two results, I preferred the earlier version which appears above.
As I trudged back up the hill to my campsite and considered how well my “casual stroll” along the beach turned out, I recalled one of my favorite Ansel Adams quotes: “Every man’s work is always a portrait of himself.” Reflecting not just the serendipitous moment but also my experience during this particular photographic adventure, I decided to title this image, “Moved by the Sea.”
Tech info: Canon 5DMII, 16-35mm at 16mm, ISO 50, f/22 at 1.3 seconds, three-stop graduated neutral density filter, basic post processing.