Primed Canvas

sunset beach seascape tide surf motion movement santabarbara california  photofool

Sometimes, I see the beach wet sand surface as a huge canvas – primed and stretched – ready to be painted upon. All I have to do is to hang around the water edge and wait for Mother Nature to finish one of her paintings, then take a few snap shots. In this shot, as the retreating tide met the incoming surf, I saw the top paint layers being rolled back, revealing the canvas underneath.

I stacked my Lee hard edge graduated neutral density filters (3 stops + 2 stops) to get this shot. In the age of digital blending and HDR, I still prefer to work with GND filters.

One of my Flickr contacts mentioned that he tried to shoot surfs movements similar to my shots, and his camera got soaked. I’m sorry to hear. If you do want to try shooting these, please try keep your camera and lens dry. Here are what I usually do to:

  • Watch the surfs for a while. They usually come in a set. Never rush out to the water and shoot.
  • After the surfs retreated, position the tripods, frame the shot, line up filter, take meter reading.
  • See tall waves on the horizon? Pickup the tripods and walk backwards. Get caught and can’t walk back fast enough? Pickup the tripods, raise the camera well above the water surface, stand still and take the hit. The worst thing to do is to panic and fall, dumping expensive gears in salt water.
  • As the surfs retreat again, walk out, plant the tripod down deep in the sand, re-frame the shot and fire away. Keep an eye or two on the horizon :)
  • Shooting wide and low angle shots on the wet sand? Expect to get wet.
  • High tide? I don’t get into the water with my gears.
  • It sounds challenging, but it’s not that hard to get the timing down after a few tries. I usually don’t have to venture out too far to get my shots.

    Good luck, take it slowly, and have fun.