The Next Wave - (Photographing the "Coastal Wilderne


Being fortunate enough to live in Southern California and open minded enough to allow the ocean and coastline to become "my wilderness" (when I am not in my preferred forested locations) I have slowly been developing a strong passion for photographing the "Coastal Wilderness."

Working in the "wet zone" can be risky, dangerous and very rewarding. The risky part is working in or in very close proximity to water with fairly expensive camera gear can have devastating results if you are careless or simply not paying attention. ALWAYS keep one hand on your tripod or camera strap. The dangerous part is something to be taken very seriously. Working at the water's edge navigating on extremely slippery rocks in surf that can ruin your day or even take your life should never be taken for granted. NEVER trust the ocean. NEVER turn your back on the ocean. The ocean is very sneaky and unpredictable. It is deceptively powerful and can knock you off of your feet or completely drench you and your expensive gear in a moment's notice. You may have just spent several minutes in fairly calm conditions getting into position and working out a killer composition, but ALWAYS be prepared to bail and get out of harm's way as quickly as possible. NEVER trust the ocean. I personally leave my camera pack high and dry and as far away from the current tide level as possible. I take only what I will need for the current shot near the water. Most of the time I am out shooting alone and at both sides of darkness so I also wear a whistle around my neck just in case I do get injured or trapped. And that brings another important topic to mind. Before you venture out, do your homework and make sure you know the current tide schedule. There are two high tides and two low tides every day and knowing when these occur can help determine when the conditions will be right for your desired photography needs as well as help prevent you from getting trapped by a rising tide in some isolated cove. I use an app called Tide Graph by Brainware LLC. Not only does it display an intuitive tide graph it also provides other useful information like sun and moon rise and set times.

Now for the rewarding part. Why I am willing to take these risks. Yes, I do my homework before I head out, but still the ocean can be very unpredictable and that is part of the adventure. You really never know what you are going to get until you arrive at your chosen destination. Moving a short distance up or down the coast or around a protective landmass can provide a completely different environment. So be flexible. Photographing along the coast offers up countless photographic opportunities. The ocean is in constant motion - the same scene photographed multiple times will never be identical. Change the time of day, the time of year, the quality of light, your mood or the attitude of the ocean - all will impact your results.

I love the surprises that a new day brings along the coast. I especially like the challenge of trying to interpret and photograph the many moods of the ocean as well as all of the other beautiful smaller details found in the "Coastal Wilderness."

The image above was created along the shore in Laguna Beach, California. The tide was rising and some fairly powerful rollers were starting to explode into the offshore rocks creating some very dramatic displays. One after another the waves slammed into the rocks each resulting in unique splash patterns. I think this image tells a good story about the power and energy of the ocean. What do you think?

A few minutes later. I moved a few steps to my left, recomposed and fired away as the next wave erupted into this unique splash pattern. In this image the splashes are more delicate which helps portray the softer and more gentle side of the ocean. I would even venture to say that the prominent splash looks "pretty." Same rock, minor change to position and composition a new wave and an entirely different look and feel. How cool is that!

Do your homework, be prepared, be careful and head on down to your nearest coastline and see what experiences await and what you can create while working in the "wet zone."

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