This simple image is a long (one second) exposure from the side of a ship. These are swells from hurricane Oscar that was over a thousand miles away.
The captain took us south to avoid the worst of it, but for about two days we saw some impressive swells, more massive than these. Even the largest cruise ship in the world will rock in these conditions. The swells hitting the side of the boat sounded exactly like waves crashing on the shore. It was relaxing, and for two nights we slept with the balcony door open so we could hear the soothing sounds.
To make a one-second exposure in daylight, I set the aperture to f40. That’s a tiny aperture, maybe the smallest I’ve ever used. An F-stop higher than 20 does not have a lot of practical uses, but long exposures are one. One second is long enough to make an in-camera motion blur effect without resorting to photoshop tricks.
I took this earlier in the year before the red tide came in, back then there were plenty of seabirds trolling the coast for fish. The red tide is finally decreasing so hopefully now the birds will return in more significant numbers.
Here’s an interesting photo that uses focus stacking to get the effect of both the foreground and background in focus. It’s a typical scene along the beach with the ever-present sandpiper.
To make this I took two photos, one focused on the piper and one on the people further off. Then by blending the two, they both appear in focus. This technique is not so good for scenes like this because the movement of the water complicates the blending. You can see a little blurriness between the two in-focus points. Nevertheless, I think the overall effect is rather nice.
When I hear the word dune, I think of the desert, but these along the Florida beach are a different variety. Unlike the shifting sands of the Sahara, these are covered with plants and are meant to hold their shape in a storm. They are what keeps us from being washed away completely.
If you look carefully through the top of the dune, you’ll see orange tape marking a sea turtle nest. Scores of volunteers comb the beach for nests, erect barriers, and take careful notes over the incubation period. Once hatched, they’ll dash for the water so as not to be eaten by birds. Only a few survive to adulthood; it’s a rough start to what will hopefully become a long life in the sea.
Nothing is permanent, yet everything is trying to hold on. The dunes and turtles are both pitted against the forces of nature. Perhaps the tension in the environment is what produces the beauty on earth. It seems that elemental pressures are a creative force. Without them, we’d all be washed away and overrun with too many sea turtles. On second thought, you can never have too many sea turtles.
I’ve been avoiding it, but on Wednesday evening I went to Bradenton Beach to see the spectacle for myself. If you haven’t heard, Florida is in the middle of a massive red tide. So I drove to the beach, and as expected, was greeted with the smell of fish washed up on the shore. Maybe because of the breeze, it was not as bad as I feared. After a few minutes, I relaxed and let it fade into the background.
I came primarily to take pictures of the sunset because red tide or not, when the atmospheric conditions are right it’s still astounding to see. However, as I walked along the beach, something seemed out of place. I struggled to put my finger on it as I continued and then it hit me. It was too quiet; there were no birds. All of the gulls, pipers, and pelicans had either succumbed or escaped, and there was not a single one on the beach. The lack of avian sounds and activity left me with an eerie feeling. That was the moment it hit home.
I am heartbroken, of course. I rationalize to myself that we are moving through the worst it, but that we will make it to the other side. The conditions that allow the algae bloom will eventually cease, and the fish, birds and sea mammals will, in time, return. I’m glad I went, and now I know that I will go again because I think it’s important to witness it first hand, not just from TV. People are avoiding the shore, and the beach is empty in more ways than one. As for myself, being there to hear its silence is in some way, essential.
Sometimes I feel the urge to try and articulate the main idea behind my pursuit of photography. For whatever reason, this photo seems to evoke that in me.
Here is a picture that portrays an idyllic scene along the beach. Maybe we project ourselves into the scene. In doing so, we may walk on the shore with the vastness of the sea on one side. The expanse is an enigma. The longer we look, the less concrete our thoughts become. Our legs move as our minds begin to wander.
Rationally I like taking photos of idyllic scenes, yet, in doing so, I also attempt to capture something less rational. I aspire to capture scenery or people in the landscape that hints at something more elusive.
This idea is why I keep coming back again and again. Ironically, I try with images to evoke thoughts or feelings of something that cannot be seen by our eyes. To do that I may include space for the scene to breath, and then I hope that thoughts will fill the void. When that happens, my desire is satisfied, and perhaps yours is just beginning.
I love the pier at Fort Desoto Park in St Petersburg. Not always, but often at dusk, the colors in the sky get so amazing that I go a little crazy with my camera. But the sun eventually sets, and I head home after an hour like a drunken patron after the last call. I wish it would last longer, but I’m glad its over. I know I have to leave so I can get up and go to work the next morning.
One of the places I want to go (big time) is Iceland. But in the back of my mind, I wonder how I would survive. I see myself getting in a photographic frenzy, taking photos of waterfalls and landscapes to the point that I drop dead from exhaustion. But then, I can think of far worse ways to die.
But back to the beach here in Florida. When the conditions are like this, I go into hyperdrive. My mind is simultaneously racing and remaining calm. If I get too excited I’ll make mistakes or worse, drop my camera. It’s important to keep moving, but not frantically. And I don’t even know what the next image will be. I walk on when I finish one and look for another. Imagine if I did that all day in Iceland. I would inevitably end up lost or dead or at the bar until the last call.
Here’s a photo I took over three years ago when I still had my Nikon. Now and then I go back to old images and process them with new tools. What’s unique about this images is that the pier no longer exists, it’s replaced by a stronger one. With the tropical storms we get each year, the piers and docks take a beating and, as you can see, eventually need replacing.
In fact, that reminds me of the Anna Maria Island Pier. It was ruined in a hurricane last year, and it’s now demolished for new construction. It will be rebuilt, along with a restaurant in about a year. I have a ton of images of the old one, so maybe I’ll repost one this week.
Images are memory aids. Without the pictures, we would forget the things from the past. When finding this picture in the backlog, I forgot for a minute where I had taken it. I’m so used to the new pier that I almost forgot how the old one looked. Pictures are like vitamins for the memory or some such thing.
On Saturday evening I visited the pier at Fort Desoto Park. I don’t know why I waited so long to return here; it’s one of my favorite places. I was lucky because as you can see, the sunset was epic.
From the moment I got out of my car, I was busy taking pictures. I go camera-crazy whenever I’m in an idyllic setting. I dare say we all do; when I looked around nearly everyone was holding a camera of some type (be it phone or DSLR) taking pictures.
To make this final image I combined three exposures into Aurora HDR, made a few adjustments and then used Luminar 2018 to make a few more. I never repeat the same process twice. I do everything by feel, and I don’t write anything down. It’s a form of improvisation, similar to what a musician might do. It’s no wonder, so many photographers are also musicians, the creative process has certain similarities. Which got me thinking, I wonder what this scene would sound like if translated into music?
This image is an example of the kinds of things you’ll see just by showing up to a location and observing. It’s not staged, yet it has receding elements: a girl, a bird, and a sailboat, not to mention the evening sun. The objects are receding, and from a compositional perspective, that’s pretty cool. Let me explain.
There were other objects and people around, but I positioned the frame to simplify the image. Unconsciously our eyes are drawn from the close-up objects to those far away, and in that split-second traverse, each observer (you) creates a story. I refer to “story” a lot in my images, but what I mean is the musings of an observer (you). When you muse, you automatically make up a story. That makes me the story-teller, and now I’ve connected with you. It’s pretty simple really, and it’s the idea behind stories in photographs.
We can create stories in different ways; for me, it often involves simplifying a scene and engaging the viewer. But each person is different, and we could take a complicated scenario and do the same thing, there are no rules. My photos at the beach are simple, but I also like busy city streets with a lot of things to explore. (In fact, I’ll post one like that next week.) But I digress. When taking photos, you want to tell a story. No matter where you are, you can compose the shot in such a way that when I see it, I make up my own story.
This is Ocean Beach from Point Lobos in San Francisco. My wife and I were having dinner at the Cliff House restaurant when the colors started changing and, as usual, I had to excuse myself from the table. There’s no getting around the fact that the spouse of a photographer is long-suffering.
It’s interesting how the people on the beach are evenly distributed. Have you ever notice how crowds of people seem to mimic fluid dynamics? Here they’re evenly dispersed like little water molecules on the sand. You can see this phenomenon when you view crowds from a distance. At a certain level, people follow the laws of physics. We observe the same behavior in traffic patterns which is then used to model highways and ramps.
In a previous post and similar picture from this beach, I compared the grains of sand to stars in the universe. It seems that whenever I look at this scene I’m reminded of the order of things, and how that order repeats regardless of the scale. Food for thought from someone who can’t sit long enough to eat.