Revealing light is said to be a mandatory ingredient in landscape photography (and I definitively agree), however when you have few days to move around San Diego area and have to go back to your country with a set of publishable pictures, it is something you cannot always count on. I always try to work at sunrise and sunset, but the day I took this picture, my ambient photographs at the Gaslamp Quarter had higher priority and had to go back to downtown San Diego before dusk, so my visit to the beautiful beach of Coronado had to be at noon, with the sun beating down the world.
The light was harsh (you can see no shadows in this image), but tried to find a composition that could alone support a photograph. I was walking the shore and saw the dark lines that the waves were leaving on the sand while the tide was receding. These lines led my eye to three bathers in the distance who were walking in the same direction as me. They were clearly defined, small in the frame and the lines led the eye to the background while pointing at them.
These lines led my eye to three bathers in the distance who were walking in the same direction as me. They were clearly defined, small in the frame and the lines led the eye to the background
The 50mm I had already mounted on my D800 gave me a good perspective, and allowed me to compose the image giving most of the frame surface to the lines on the sand, so I shot a few frames without thinking, trusting that the matrix metering and a small amount of underexposure would work. And it did… nearly perfectly.
The biggest problem you have when you are shooting in a beach when the sun is near its highest position is that you run the risk of getting your image overexposed. The sun is a small, hard and too bright source of light at that time of the day. To make the matters even worse, the sand reflects a huge amount of light, that’s why I always set my compensation at -.7 (2/3 of a point, underexposure) when I shoot in very bright lighting conditions to protect the detail in the highlights.
If there’s an essence of outdoor photography it is the fact that you always gain at the expense of losing something.
If there’s an essence of outdoor photography it is the fact that you always gain at the expense of losing something. You usually gain in accuracy in exposure at the price of losing balance in your compositions, or you may gain focus in your subject, but losing a genuine expression. You cannot fight against the odds, that’s the way thing are. That’s why it takes so much effort to get a picture where everything (composition, lighting, expressions and gestures of your subjects…) falls into place. Even in studio photography, where you have everything under control (lights, a model that stands where you need, the lens you want, and plenty of time to think everything you need) you lose the authenticity of the moment… pictures lose the feeling of reality and begin to look what they are: something arranged, prepared or, as it is said in the ad industry, ‘produced’.
This image shouted for a black and white version since the first time I saw it on my screen.
Just let me make one final comment. This image shouted for a black and white version since the first time I saw it on my screen. I believe that the color version, although perfectly usable, lacks a bit of strength in contrast, something that can be improved in the monochromatic version you can see here.
Hope you like it and find these ideas useful and interesting and give a piece of thought to other photographers… your comments are always welcome. Please let me know if you have had similar experiences while shooting your own images…
EXIF DATA: Body: Nikon D800 | Lens: Nikkor 50mm AF 1.8 | ISO: 100 | Aperture: f4 | Shutter: 1/500 | Exposure Compensation: -0.7