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10.08.2013

Playing in the Sand: Part Two

In “Playing in the Sand: Part One,” I discussed how to turn a cloudy day on the beach into an exploration of photographic possibilities. I showed that each wave follows a different pattern on the beach, allowing photographers to experiment with their own seascape themes and variations.

When photographing wave action along a beach, find a fixed object against which to capture a various wave patterns. Along Drakes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, I found an interesting water-tossed rock. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

When photographing wave action along a beach, find a fixed object against which to capture a various wave patterns. Along Drakes Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, I found an interesting water-tossed rock. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

While part one discussed capturing general wave movements with wide fields of view, part two focuses on depicting the details of waves, namely by zooming in on specific of objects along the beach.

During our recent Sigma-sponsored Point Reyes National Seashore Field Institute “Seascapes and Wildlife Weekend” photo workshop, I created both wide angle and close-ups along Drakes Beach. One object that I focused on was a rounded stone being inundated along the edge of the surf.

As waves wash onto shore, sometimes they come with small bands of bubbles. A slow shutter speed creates a softened look in for the water while the anchor object, here a rock, remains tack sharp. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

As waves wash onto shore, sometimes they come with small bands of bubbles. A slow shutter speed creates a softened look in for the water while the anchor object, here a rock, remains tack sharp. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

In and of itself, the stone in the sand was attractive. With an off-center composition, I allowed viewers to see the rock with great clarity and contrast while anticipating the surf filling the large empty space to the side of the water-tossed rock. Centering objects creates a static images, but leaving space on one side or another suggests movement of subjects or entrances of unseen but expected subjects. In this case, as viewers recognize the beach and the stone, they anticipate the water flowing into the empty space.

Larger waves can inundate objects along the beach, meaning that only the flow of the water reveals the shapes anchor objects like this Drakes Beach rock. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Larger waves can inundate objects along the beach, meaning that only the flow of the water reveals the shapes anchor objects like this Drakes Beach rock. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

After creating an clear anchor image of the rock and sand, I began to play around. I took picture after picture at the same slow shutter speed—one second—showing the various ways that waves ebb and flow around one point on the beach.

In some images, the rock completely disappears under the swirling of waves. In others, the rock is partially visible. In some cases the advancing surf is visible as a bubbly line, and in cases the water seems to be receding in softened bumps outlining the contours of the rock.

Take many pictures and then sort them, ending up with a handful of images showing theme and variation. Depict not only the drama of waves crashing but also the soft ebbing of the surf. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Take many pictures and then sort them, ending up with a handful of images showing theme and variation. Depict not only the drama of waves crashing but also the soft ebbing of the surf. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Such slightly-varied images, in the end, are paradoxical: they depict how oceans are always the same with waves coming and going, coming and going; at the same time they depict how oceans are never the same, showing how each wave is slightly different from the ones that come before it and from the ones that follow.

One of my favorite frames of the water-tossed rock along Drakes Beach is this foggy, impressionistic image. Slow shutter speeds allow viewers to see water in a novel way, capturing our experience but not necessarily the exact way we saw things. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

One of my favorite frames of the water-tossed rock along Drakes Beach is this foggy, impressionistic image. Slow shutter speeds allow viewers to see water in a novel way, capturing our experience but not necessarily the exact way we saw things. Nikon D800E. 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens. f/16, 1 second. ISO 50. Sigma 86mm Circular DG Polarizer Filter. Gitzo GT2451EX tripod with Gitzo ball head. Processed in Photoshop CS5. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Overall, my goal is to create a gallery filled with a range of images: ones that depict details on the beach, ones that show the wider views, and ones that fill the spaces in between these. Ideally, your gallery becomes filled with photographs taken at different times on different days and during different seasons.

When you photograph any subject, imagine what your viewers are thinking. Do audiences want to always see the same types of images? Sure, beautiful sunrises over spectacular waves are great, but well-rounded slide shows, album of coastal images, or online portfolios work better when a subject is featured through theme and variation.

 Read David’s Playing in the Sand: Part One here. 

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