Tip of The Week - Use The Ocean To Eliminate Distractions
Ok, so two weeks ago I started off a new Blog Series entitled "Tip of The Week" (see the first post here) whereby every week I will provide some quick and useful tips which should aid you greatly in improving your own photography skills and enable you to produce stunning images.
Of course, you may have noticed that I actually did not post any last week, which was only the second week of its existence, so apologies for that and shame on me! But there was a good reason for it though as I was actually busy shooting some new images up along the coastline of County Antrim in Northern Ireland and also scouting out some new locations for a Landscape Photography Workshop/Photo Tour that I plan on hosting up there in 2017 as well as running two back-to-back Landscape Photography Workshops in the beautiful region of Ireland that is the Killarney National Park in County Kerry.
So now without further ado, let's dive into the Tip of The Week and the topic is that of how you can use the ocean to remove unwanted distractions from your coastal and seascape images.
Improvise When You Have No Other Choice
When you are shooting at the coast, the scene in front of you can often be filled with seaweed and other oceanic debris that might not be pleasant to the eye and which could very well be taking away from the visual impact and overall quality of the image that you are trying to produce. And while it can be rather easy and not very time-consuming to remove man-made rubbish from the scene (litter, bags, bottles, cans, etc..) as there tends to be fewer of those offending items at the water's edge, removing the natural oceanic debris such as seaweed is an entirely different matter.
In the image on the left in the above graphic, you can clearly see some seaweed within the foreground and while it is not completely ugly in this particular instance and is not subtracting too much from the image, at the time of shooting I did feel like the scene would be better off without its presence. And so I actually started to physically remove some pieces with my hands but there was simply too much to remove, the precious "magic hour" light was fading quickly and plus there was just too many incoming high waves continuously hitting me while bending over to pick up the items, that i just had to give up and improvise!
While a very real disadvantage (and sometimes perilous danger!!) of being at the water's edge is that of getting hit by incoming waves and getting wet or worse, it is also true that one of the great advantages of being close to the water's edge is that you can actually use the water to hide the unwanted offending items and thus removing the distracting elements from your composition and your overall image.
The key to this is naturally timing and knowing when exactly you need to fire off the shutter. And a big factor in this is knowing what shutter speed you are working with and what final "look" you are trying to achieve in the image. I am a fan of long exposure images so I typically use a Lee 0.9 (3 stop) ND Filter to reduce the incoming light into the camera sensor and thus allowing for a slower or longer exposure which provides my images with a sense of motion blur being present in the overlapping water over a period of time. Sometimes, if the light is stronger then I will use my Lee Little Stopper (6 stop) to achieve the same effect.
In order to achieve the look that I managed to capture in the image on the right hand side of the above graphic, I knew I wanted the water to cover the seaweed in the foreground but I also wanted to keep the rocks visible. To do this, I had to intentionally watch and observe the incoming waves and sea swells and judge when I would need to fire off my shutter so that I could hide the seaweed while keeping the rocks visible. It took a few attempts to get just the right amount of water motion captured so that the rocks were still visible and at the same time that seaweed was hidden by the overlapping water.
Truth be told, I kind of like both images, as the bright yellows and orange tones of the seaweed in the foreground contrasts nicely against the darker tones of the rocks, however overall I still prefer the image on the right so the ocean did its part and helped me out. Success!
Until the next time, keep shooting, keep learning and keep progressing!