At the Ocean’s Edge: Shoreline Photography

Dune fencing, Isle of Palms, South Carolina, 2012. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Dune fencing, Isle of Palms, South Carolina, 2012. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

I’ve had the incredible good fortune to spend the last few days in a beach house right on the Atlantic Ocean, out on the Isle of Palms along South Carolina’s barrier island coast. It’s incredibly beautiful here: open windows, the sound of ocean surf lulling me to sleep each night, a breeze blowing in throughout the day. And luckily for me, yesterday the weather was terrible!

Sea oat mats roll into shore as a stormy dawn breaks. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Sea oat mats roll into shore as a stormy dawn breaks. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

A big storm had blown up a couple of days back and we had about 24 hours of rough surf, rain and dark clouds, howling wind. My kind of shooting weather! I’ve been hard at work, seeing what I can make of this wonderful edge where land and ocean meet.

I’ve always been fascinated by water: its power, mystery. The overwhelming sense of something far stronger than any of us. It shapes a lot of what I’m drawn to as a photographer and here I’ve gotten a chance to reinterpret this source of inspiration in a new way.

Like icebergs or furry beasts, dead sea oats wash ashore in the half light of dawn. You can't see it here but it was actually raining during this shooting session. I used a handle towel to keep the camera dry and the front of the lens clear of water drops. Canon 16-35mm lens @ f24mm, 30 seconds @ f16, ISO 50. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Like icebergs or furry beasts, dead sea oats wash ashore in the half light of dawn. You can't see it here but it was actually raining during this shooting session. I used a hand towel to keep the camera dry and the front of the lens clear of water drops. Canon 16-35mm lens @ f24mm, 30 seconds @ f16, ISO 50. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The first morning before dawn, I was out with my gear: tripod, digital timer and Canon camera. The storm had blown in big piles of dead, matted sea oats, rising like dark beasts or icebergs in the surf. The clouds were ominous, the sound of the surf deafening and the ‘icebergs’ moving back and forth with each new wave hitting the shore. And it was raining! I found it terribly interesting and at the same time demanding: you need to work quickly as you set up each exposure when they tend to be long ones, since you won’t get a lot of opportunities to be successful. I worked as fast as  I could in the half light, trying to keep my tripod steady in the shallow surf. This is ‘Bulb’ exposure country, my lowest ISO (50) and long, long exposures.

Ocean waves receding leave interesting shapes behind in the sand. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Ocean waves receding leave interesting shapes behind in the sand. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

The next day was different.The sky had not yet completely cleared, still loaded with interesting clouds, but it was obvious we would get a visible sunrise. My attention shifted to details: the sand here was surprisingly dark, the beach very compacted under foot. As the wind blew through the fresh, wet sand deposits, different granules took flight first, leaving almost sedimentary-like deposits discernable by color. Some of the sand was almost black, others areas various gray shades, all the way to an off-white hue. This made for more, and different, images.

Sea oats and sand, Isles of Palms, South Carolina. Wind-blown sand creates layers of different colored granules as it dries. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

Sea oats and sand, Isles of Palms, South Carolina. Wind-blown sand creates layers of different colored granules as it dries. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

 

A sand crab tries to decide which way to run, early morning, Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Canon 50mm macro lens, 1/60th sec @ f5, ISO 400. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

A sand crab tries to decide which way to run, early morning, Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Canon 50mm macro lens, 1/60th sec @ f5, ISO 400. (Copyright 2012 / Andrew Boyd)

So different shooting conditions have yielded different results. As always,  success can be measured by the images you come away with. For me, the second half of the creative process was just starting: editing, toning, seeing what works and what is just an also-ran. This is just as vital as the actual shooting to my artistic process and something I enjoy.  A rich feeling indeed!

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Gallery

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

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