I was walking down the street, camera bouncing against my side and the 4×4 and 4×6 glass filters in the back pocket of my shorts. I was slowly loosening the gitzo legs and retightening them after extending them fully. One by one, starting with the bottom section, I moved around the tripod until two sections were locked into place for each leg. I slung the tripod over my shoulder using one leg to hold it in place glancing at the long sand spikes replacing the rubber bottoms to be sure they were tightened.
This is a relaxing pose to carry equipment and gives me time to think while I am walking towards the beach. It’s early, but not so early the sun is below the horizon. I ignore most of the houses and the marsh around me as I think about what kind of image I am looking for. Flashes of Joel Meyerowitz Cape Cod images flashed before me, giving me ideas for composition.
Joel Meyerowitz used a large format film camera to shoot much of the Cape Cod landscape for a period of time before publishing a book titled, “Cape Light.” It was this work and my love of Folly Beach that inspired me to begin a medium format collection of images.
Creativity can be very rewarding when it is not rushed. Landscape photography provides a creative outlet that can be worked without having to rush – most of the time. I know the only cause to rush is changing light. The movement of light brings back the documentary style photography and makes me rush. Sometimes the rush is rewarded with a great image, and sometimes the delete button is the only result for the failed exposures.
Last night before the sun set, about 5:30pm and this morning about 7:30am, I was rewarded with a cloud filled sky covering the blue like dirty cotton balls. The ocean waits for no-one, so I began to look around. Waves littered with surfers this early is a common sight, and on a Saturday to be expected. I moved to the rock jetty at 13th Street East, just down from the washout, and it gave me two views. The left side had surfboards and the attached occupants bobbing up and down like rubber ducks in a bathtub, while the right side was free from all but the ceaseless waves.
I used the 45 mm lens on the Leica S007, which provides a viewpoint mimicking 35mm on a standard camera size. The large format sensor gives me 15 stops of dynamic range which allows a broad range of light levels and tones to be captured. Nonetheless, I added a hard edge neutral density split filter to the front of the lens. Covering the brighter section of the image, I pulled the ND section of the filter down until it just covered the sky. Making sure the camera was level and the f-stop set to f/11.0, I turned the focus on the lens until the back focus was at infinity providing the longest depth of field. Adding the 6 stop infrared neutral density filter over everything, I set the exposure to one second.
Pushing the button on the shutter extension so the camera would not shake, I waited. Click…. clap. The preview showed a histogram that was smack in the middle. I decided to move everything to the right just a little to gain as much detail in the shadows as I could. Opening up one stop more, I pressed the shutter and waiting two seconds. The preview showed no blown highlights, so I was done. The rest was up to nature and the artistic bloom of the waves and surf. I watched the back waves rear up before cowering over the sea foam below it and looked for the thin spreading near my feet as the energy was spent. When everything looked in harmony, I’d push the shutter. Twenty three images later I knew I had a wide range of crashing waves, all showing the wisps of long exposure.
Packing up, I slung the camera up and over one shoulder, bouncing on my side as I slowly turned the tripod legs and pushed them back in. I threw the tripod across the back of my neck, holding the leg once again and began walking home, the same smile on my face as when I started. There is nothing more relaxing than landscape photography.