Saturday, January 14, 2012

Just beneath the waves...

On my trip up north my mom and I stumbled upon something very cool - a catwalk underneath the Avila Beach Pier! We happened to find this enchanting (and somewhat spooky) location at low tide where the waves would ebbe to show a world just below the usual waterline.

We didn't have the right equipment with us to capture the beauty that day but I was able to go back the next day, tripod in tow, and neutral density filter in hand.  The conditions weren't quite as good when I went back - the waves were bigger (causing the pier to shake a bit more) and it was a bright sunny day (which made for a more drastic contrast in light underneath the pier).

Even though it wasn't ideal I grabbed the opportunity to practice a skill that I've been longing to master - smoothing water using long shutter speeds.  I threw my camera in Manual, cranked my aperture as small as it would go (to minimize the light entering the camera and maximize my depth of field) and played with my shutter speed to find the right combination to maximize my detail in the highlights and shadows while being slow enough to smooth the water.

Here are my favorite shots:

ISO 100, 175mm, f/36, 20 sec

ISO 100, 115mm, f/36, 20 sec

ISO 100, 51mm, f/29, 20 sec

ISO 100, 24mm, f/22, 8 sec

Did you notice all of the starfish!? They were mesmerizing to me! I don't think I had ever seem them in their natural habitat before, only in aquariums.

What I learned: If I could go back and reshoot this I would choose a day that was overcast, and that the waves weren't quite as big.  (Did I mention that there was a high surf advisory when I was UNDER the pier?)

With overcast skys I could dial back my aperture a bit to my lens' sweet spot, probably around f/16 and would have gotten sharper images.

Finally, I would take a bit more time to compose my shots.  I was admittedly a bit spooked being under the pier by myself with the surf surging just a few feet below me. As a result I wasn't able to fully concentrate on what I was shooting.

Overall, I'm really happy with my images. I'm really looking forward to practicing this technique again.

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