By Ricardo Da Cunha (One Stop Photo Workshops tutor for Melbourne)
For a long time the vast majority of my images came as a result of planning. They were born from a pre-visualisation in my head and patience for the right conditions to come together. However these days I must admit I do very little planning prior to a shoot. I now prefer to walk into a scene without my subconscious being influenced by images I had previously imagined and instead I now like images to naturally present themselves to me. This way I don’t worry too much about waiting for the right tide to align with the right lighting, etc. Definitely makes life much easier, that’s for sure! ;-)
This occasion was an example of my new approach. I arrived at Miners Beach in Port Macquarie on NSW’s rugged mid-north coast an hour prior to sunset hopeful of some dramatic light with the fast moving storm front. Without having done any planning whatsoever I was content to just stroll along the beach and wait for an image to present itself to me.
In the image above, the water rushing out around the foreground rock immediately caught my interest, and together with the sun setting directly behind me and hopefully lighting up the storm-clad sky, I was hopeful of making a strong image. Using a wide angle lens on a full-frame DSLR at 16mm focal length, I composed the image so that the foreground rock is balanced with another rock further away to the right-hand-side. To get set up, I positioned the tripod-mounted camera very low and close to the foreground rock in order to help place emphasis on it and make it appear bigger than it actually is. I also ensured that I really pressed the tripod down firmly in the sand as tripod legs have a habit of moving gradually in the wet sand – a problem I have experienced one too many times! I then focused on the hyperfocal distance point using an aperture of f11 by zooming into 100% magnification in Live View, a great feature of most current dSLR’s that allows you to get the best possible focus in a single frame. It was then just a case of capturing exposures with the water rushing out over the foreground rock to see which shutter speed would give me the optimum water movement and preserve just the right amount of texture in the water.
Initially I found the shutter speed to be too fast and so I used a 3 stop neutral density (ND) filter to extend the exposure time to around 1 second. Had my exposure been too long I could have reduced it by increasing the ISO. With a strong ND filter combined with the power of ISO you can achieve just about any shutter speed you like! Using the optimum shutter speed I then captured several different exposures of the water flowing around the rock with the camera set to burst shooting mode and using a remote cable release. Whilst doing all of this, I was lucky to have a rainbow appear to add some interest so I also captured another separate (and slightly darker) exposure for the sky.
Having multiple exposures at my disposal once in front of the computer, I selected the best two images for the foreground that had the best water flow/movement and then I selected another for the sky. Using masks on separate layers in Photoshop I manually blended all three separate images together. I then added some local contrast improvements and a warm colour cast to help amplify the warm tones of sunset, before finishing the image by adding some vignetting to the edges to help draw the eye in.
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