Monday, 24 September 2012

Not drowning…

Ansel Adams produced a rather famous surf sequence with surf rolling up a beach photographed from above. According to the site in the link he was taken by the patterns formed by the waves and felt that he could turn them into a sequence. I first saw these shots years ago, and have often wondered how he got the elevated viewpoint. I feel the same looking at Misrach pictures of swimmers and I guess in both cases the answer is that they were taken from a cliff top. The opportunity for a similar sequence has never presented itself, but it occurred to me as I was walking along a beach on holiday that there are other angles – perspectives if you like – that might work as well. In particular I wondered how they’d look up close and personal as they were reaching the end of their travel up the beach. And so this series was born:

Wave Study 1 Wave Study 2 Wave Study 3

A couple of technical challenges to be overcome:

Focussing on the moving wave – for this I set the 7mm at f8 and relied on depth of field;

Exposure – More tricky as the sunlight catching the line of white between sea and sky was unpredictable, as was it’s reflectivity – so in the end I fired off a few shots and chose the best;

Getting the leading edge large enough in the picture to be of interest – for this I relied on the waterproof body and lens and got down very low to the sand. In the shots above the wave is typically no more than a few inches from the front of the lens, and none of them are more than an inch or two tall. The big ‘boulders’ are a similar size.

The colour balance as such was not a challenge – I shoot in RAW so can adjust it at any stage. However, in trying to make the sand closer to human perception IO found it was impossible to find a colour temperature which gave a satisfactory result with sand and sky – using the white foam as a target for the white balance tool gave a brown hue to the sand but lost the saturation in the sky and just made the images feel muddy. In the end I decided to go with the overall blue cast

I am more and more attracted by these low angle viewpoints, especially when presented in a panoramic format – which in this case enhance the overall effect. Perhaps they contain something of the ‘Reveal’ which Michael Freeman discusses in The Photographers Mind – requiring a little study before it’s clear what we are looking at and the true scale of the scene in front of us.  The panoramic crop enhances this effect as we are used to seeing them used to cover expansive scenes. As with my ‘Two lane blacktop” series they provide a view of the world which we seldom see or contemplate – a view which is physically and metaphorically beneath us.

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