Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Put your best foot forward...

...Or in this case, your best shot. Cynthia demanded pictures in a more timely manner, and since there is no greater pleasure in my life than making Cynthia happy, I shall do so. A warning to the small but loyal readership, the blog will be getting a little picture-heavy over the next few weeks. My apologies to those who are uninterested.

Since this shot was probably the best one I took over the trip, I figure it will merit a nice long story. Those who don't like my storytelling, use the scroll bar.

After a good shoot in the rain forest (details which will come in a future post), William, Kenny and I headed back on the rain forest road. It was about 6:30. Kenny wanted to head back to Forks and grab some dinner and extra rest for the next day, which involved a hike to Shi Shi beach. I wanted to shoot for sunset at Ruby beach. We wouldn't be back at Forks until 10:00, eliminating dinner, but I was willing to live with it. I didn't expect a great shoot though. The sky was completely overcast and it had been raining off/on the whole day. Still, I wanted to give it a go. William was a complete wuss and refused to make a decision.

As we drove onward though, to the intersection of High way 101 and the current road, where we would have to chose between food and photography, we saw a small amount of light off to the West. At this point, I became quite enthusiastic about our chances for a good sunset and managed to convince the party to go along. As we drove along, the break in the clouds would wax and wane until we were within ten miles of the beach when it started to open up significantly. We made it to beach in good time, with plenty of time to shoot in the good light. However, the tide was rising which created some issues that I will mention later.

Looking up and down the beach was a great sensation. To the south, there was dense low cloud cover. To the north, dense low cloud cover. But to the West, there was the sun, miles of sky with a few interesting cloud formations and some of the best shooting light I have seen in some time. I set out from William and Kenny and headed down the beach.

There were a number of minor obstacles on this shoot. I was low on memory, with maybe about 2 gigs left. Normally thats more than enough but when you consider that I was heavily bracketing all scenes and shooting RAW+JPEG, it goes quicker than you expect. I spent some time actually deleting photos while shooting. The beach was a little more crowded than I would have liked. There were a couple photographers who got in my shots which was annoying. There was also a big ugly contrail to the northwest. I detest contrails. I can't edit them out and they usually ruin a nice cloudscape. For much of the shoot, I didn't point my camera West.

But the main obstacle was the rising tide. Anyone hiking the Olympic beaches needs to have a tide chart, or at least know that they are getting into when they head down. High tide and low tide are about ten feet apart, which means that if you hike down a beach to an outcrop during a rising tide, there may be no beach on your way back. Many hikers have been trapped and killed in this fashion. I wasn't in danger of dying, but I was in danger of having to make a nasty rock traverse if I stayed too long in an exposed location. It also meant that sand formations I wanted to shoot were short-lived. I'd get in a good position for a miniature stream and delta, only to see a wave wipe my scene clean. Or, I'd be marvelling a scene only to realize that a large wave has just come up to my ankles and I need to move inland.

All told, I shot maybe 10 different scenes which I will post later. I think 3 of them may become prints which is a pretty good haul and is almost enough to justify the entire trip. I also had a nice chat with a few other photographers/hikers on the scene (some of whom had no idea about the tides). As time went on, the light started to improve. The contrail had gone and the sun was below the horizon to the point where I could shoot to the west with no fear of overexposing anything in my image. I was out of memory at this point, deleting bad images as was taking what I hoped were good new ones so I became more conservative. One of the last shots I took was this one.

There's a lot of things that combine to make this shot work especially well. The most obvious factor is the light. Its low contrast so I can get all detail in the sky in nicely. I can get some silhouetting on the rocks but not a full effect which isn't a bad thing. There is a nice open area of clouds and I cropped out one on the top that was not helping the image that much. The color is very cool which accurately reflects the scene, and it is not oversaturated like many sunset shots can be. But what works the best in my mind is the water. I like how it breaks against the submerged rock in the lower-left foreground for a swirling effect. Since it was dark, I had a half-second exposure which is enough to nicely capture the motion of the waves.

There's a number of things I learned from this that I'm going to put into effect when I go back. The most important one was how to use the waves. Any shot greater than 1/500 will have some motion blur, so it makes sense to use it. I had other shots of this scene with better clouds but none had the water motion at the bottom, which is why this one wins. In the future, rather than relying on luck, I plan to get the water to look the way I want it to on camera.

Anyhow, thats a long explanation on how this photograph came to be. I hope you like it. Feedback (and title suggestions) are appreciated.


Cynthia said...

Pictures! I thought I left a comment but it seems I didn't. =/ How perplexing.

Val S. said...

My title idea: Blue-lit beach

Very nice shot - I look forward to more!