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.
Beautiful image and great story, Colleen. I love “accidents” like this that just happen and present themselves. I especially appreciated the Adams quote. Being a huge Minor White fan, he agreed by saying “every picture is a self-portrait”. Kind of amazing how great minds thing alike ! :O)
Love your work and words… it was great meeting you a few weeks ago in Sedona.
Thanks David for your lovely comments and for the Minor White quote. I had forgotten about that one! Great meeting you as well in Sedona. Hope you’re making some excellent images this summer!
oops…. “think” alike… not “thing” alike !
I thought I would check out your blog. I really like that picture. I think what makes it for me is how the blue streak in the sky mirrors the shape of the kelp. Thanks again for such a great class. It was inspiring. Roy
I always look at the technical information about a photo, it’s a great way to learn as a photographer. In your photo you had the aperture set at f/22 and a 3 stop graduated neutral density filter. From what I learned about using graduated neutral density filters I thought you always had to use an aperture of around f/11 or f/13. With an aperture of f/22 the camera sees right through the filter and effectively minimizes any effect of a graduated neutral density filter in front of the lens.
Hmmmm, Jens, I’ve not heard about how the various apertures effect the intake of light differently while using graduated neutral density filters (grad NDs). I’m definitely not experiencing that with my work – all grad ND’s work to hold back light across a part of the scene – typically the sky – at all apertures for me. I haven’t studied the magnitude of the effect across apertures, but if there is a variation, it’s small and not noticeable to the eye (at least mine!!).
I’d be curious to learn from you where you heard that from – do you remember? Do you have links you can point us to?
Now, I have heard that photographers should use f/22 cautiously because of the diffraction that occurs (e.g. not as sharp as f/11 or f/13) unless they absolutely need the depth of field it offers. As a rule of thumb, a lens is sharpest two to three stops smaller from the max aperture. In this photo’s case, though, I was working right on the edge of maximum depth of field for f/22 – anything larger, including f/11 or f/13, wouldn’t have helped me render the photograph I wanted to record. I traded image softness for a greater depth of field.
Appreciate your comments! Thanks for stopping by the blog!
[…] Cape Blanco, Oregon (May 2013). Read the story behind the photograph on a previous blog post at “Making the Image: Moved by the Sea.” “Moved by the Sea,” Cape Blanco, Oregon (Prints available – click on photo to […]