A wave of inspiration

An assortment of west coast waves for wave-Wednesday. I’ve been feeling photographically uninspired over the past couple of months and have barely taken any photos, but a few days by the ocean was the perfect tonic.

I’ve really been out of sorts with photography lately. A combination of unreliable camera gear, software and storage annoyances, and plain old lack of inspiration have meant that I’ve been leaving the camera at home on many occasions where I would have put one in my pocket or over my shoulder.

And yet it was with some hope and a little trepidation that I ventured on to our first beach in Tofino last week. I was hoping that the time off work and the change of scene would allow my mind to unwind and take in the views anew, finding subjects to photograph. One of my goals was to try and create photographs and not just take snapshots. Usually I’m quite happy with just my snapshot-documentary style, but I realize I’ve come to rely heavily on photographing photogenic subjects. Watching a few professional photographers on YouTube has made me look at my style a little more critically, and given me a desire to be more creative in my picture-taking.

I kept the 18-55 mm lens on the camera the whole time, a deliberate attempt to limit my options so I wouldn’t try to capture everything I saw. I must admit I did miss having a telephoto lens; some pictures really needed that zoom to hone in on details, as well as the compression effect. But I had to be content with simply not taking those photos, and to concentrate on what I could take instead. And let’s face it, the 18-55 range is pretty flexible!

Distant action was out; but with 24 Mpix, I knew I had the ability to crop and still make an acceptable image for posting on Instagram. Having said that, I still regard Flickr as my main end point for photographs and Instagram is a bonus, a sampler. Nonetheless, it’s always at the back of my mind as an option.

Another factor in my renewed inspiration was the upgrading of my raw processing software from DxO to the latest version. Now the new version (called PhotoLab 1) has some new features that I was almost ready to move to LightRoom for: graduated filters, red-eye reduction, and de-hazing. Suddenly I felt like my hands had been freed and I could move beyond some of the frustrations and limitations of my previous workflow.

And so I experimented, taking my time when I felt it was warranted, passing on opportunities when I didn’t feel I could do them justice, and I found myself enjoying taking photos again. Not only that, but I found myself feeling more confident that I could be proud to say that these were photos I took, and that I would be happy to show these photos to others.

I really like all four of the photos in the Instagram post above.

  1. I was fortunate to catch a large wave breaking over the rocks: 24 Mpix and making use of DxO’s new graduated filter turned this into a photo I’m really happy with. I like the line of impassive seagulls on the rock, in complete contrast to the ferocity of the breaking wave.
  2. A bluebird day on the west coast with waves breaking along a shingle beach: just classic. I prefer the full-frame photo for this one over the square crop which I feel loses some of the drama of the shot, but it’s still pretty nice with the foam from the swash in the foreground.
  3. Time to experiment: hand-held long exposures! I waited for the right waves to break around this tree stump. Too strong a wave and I’ve had very wet feet; too weak and it wouldn’t be as effective. This one was just right, and for once I decided that black-and-white would work best. I also made use of the new dehaze tool (“ClearView”) to boost the local contrast.
  4. The Tofino Polar Bear swim: our timing could not have been better if we’d tried. We were walking back along the beach when we saw the participants lined up ready to run into the water. I managed to run ahead and get a little closer before the crowd rushed towards the ocean. My favourite of the sequence is actually one in which a square crop doesn’t work, owing to the long line of people stretching across the frame, but the two dogs that ran into this shot made it work as a square, lending some foreground interest and conveying some of the excitement and craziness of the event!

Whether or not this inspiration lasts remains to be seen, but spending time in Tofino was in itself an inspired move.

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Flow

Not a waterfall but flowing water nonetheless – some soft wave action from a glorious couple of minutes at sunset a few weeks ago.

This photo was taken the same night as this one when the sun broke through the clouds only moments before sunset. I was captivated by the gentle wash of the waves and the reflection of the pink light on the wet sand, which gave me the idea of taking a photo with a long-enough exposure to blur the waves and give the viewer a sense of that motion. It took many attempts as I did not have a tripod, plus I had to wait for the right combination of waves and wet sand. But eventually I got one that was more or less exactly what I had in mind (indeed, this was one of those rare photographs that I actually envisioned before I took it). To top it off, the contrast between the blue water and the pink reflection is just lovely to my eye.