The Pacific coastlines of the United states is very beautiful and full of beautiful gems, some lesser known and some very popular destinations. The Natural Bridge Beach park in Santa Cruz is one one the more popular gems. It features a small beach area where people can come camp, play, surf etc. But it also features a Natural bridge which adds to the beauty of the area. Some of you wondering what a Natural Bridge is can find more information here ..
These are some of the shots I got on one of the evenings i was there few months back. I have only been there once, but I know I will be going back because this location promises some great light and gorgeous shots, and I don’t want to miss that🙂
To keep it simple the trick is to keep a long exposure. But that would work in low-light conditions so adjust the shutter accordingly. You cannot predict when the next lightning will strike and its so quick that you can’t keep your hand on the shutter and coincide your click with it. But what happens with the long exposure (10-30 sec or even in bulb mode) is that the shutter is open long enough to catch one if it strikes again in that 20-30 seconds. If you are lucky you can get multiple lightning strikes in that 1 exposure.
So go out, take some shots BUT REMEMBER to keep yourself safe, needless to say thunder storms and lightning can be very dangerous. As you can see I kept myself safe by not staying out for too long.. hence not too many of them.
The New Jersey Shore line is a little over 200 miles of coastline spanning from Sandy Hook all the way to Cape May in the south. I have visited and photographed most part of the shoreline. My favorite being the Sandy Hook and Cape May point. Its a popular vacation destination on the East Coast. Unfortunately we were hit by a devastating Hurricane Sandy in Oct’12 and that has pretty much ruined most of the coastal communities and state parks.
Its been over two months now since Sandy, but most part of the coastline is still closed for visitors. Last week I drove down to Island Beach SP and just a few miles before the entrance, there was a barricade beyond which no one is allowed. Today I checked for Sandy-Hook and that’s shut down too. It sucks not to be able to go back there now. I hope they open it by Summer time, else the tourism industry would take a huge financial hit. I was quite bummed about it, was going through some pics I had made in the last two years and thought will share with you all. Hope you enjoy them:
Island Beach SP
Sunset Beach, Cape May
Broken Pier at Ocean City
One of the most important rule I have learnt about landscape photography is to capture the right kind of light. Just like any other rookie, initially I scouted for locations and created images. Not that it is wrong to do that, a great location makes a huge difference. The problem comes when you travel to a great location and shoot average images which anyone could shoot. Although I always knew at the back of mind that I need to shoot at “Golden Hours” because that’s when the light is right. But I never knew its importance until I compared my shots with the top landscape photographers in the US. The main difference apart from many other differences, I realized the natural light they captured along with the great location made the image incredibly awesome. Needless to say, in order to improve my images I started shooting during the Golden Hours as well and started getting great results.
However, that was not good enough for me. Every good landscape photographer I spoke to mentioned “Light” as their first rule along with location and other things. So, I thought to myself, if Light is such an important part of an image then the “Right” kind of Light should make an ordinary location look awesome too. The image below is an example of such. This is a spot in Sandy Hook Beach in new Jersey. I have made “believe it or not” more than 20 unique photographs in the same location. And I don’t mean a 1 mile radius, I mean 50 steps radius at the most. What makes every image unique? It’s the “LIGHT” along with other composition techniques. Its a very simple shot, with soft light at sunset falling on the dramatic clouds with a slight long exposure to capture the motion of the waves.
This image landed up as SIGMA Corp’s Fan Photo of the Week. The image below is of the exact same spot, except that I am looking North instead of east. The clouds are not so dramatic, however the afterglow after the sunset is crazy here, and makes the image so much more interesting.
So, my theory was proven correct. And this was important because it helped my improve the quality of my images a lot. All Pro Photogs know and understand this, and that’s why they make quality images. I thought of putting this blog for the rookies who might underestimate the power of Right Light in Landscape Photography.
I have been looking for this spot for quite some time now. I saw couple of shots of this pier on 500px and Flickr, but for some reason nobody had put the location to this place. So, a few weeks back I stared searching the Jersey coastline on GoogleMaps, beach by beach to check where exactly it is. Finally found it on 59th Street in Ocean City about 2 hours drive from where I live. That evening I decided to drive down there. It was quite a long drive to take just one or two shots..
As it turns out I didn’t take 2 but 7 unique shots🙂 . And I like all of them. Also do checkout the Free Desktop I have made from one of these shots.
I reached this spot at around 7 pm. The sunset time was 8:27, so I had a lot of time to kill. Unfortunately the natural light was not so soft at 7 pm, and I wasn’t planning to stay the night there, and it was a long drive back. So In order to make these long exposure shots I stacked two .6ND filters on my Sigma 10-20 and one .6ND Grad filter to make sure Sky doesn’t get washed out. That allowed my to keep longer exposure, more saturation in the colors and good texture on the water surface.
Recently I have been trying some minimalism abstract coastal shots. I have mostly in these case used a 70-300 Nikor VR lens VR. For these shots I had to isolate the subject from the rest of the scene, hence the telephoto lens. Another reason is that since I am playing with waves, its important that I keep my camera away from the high tide so as not to risk it from getting wet. I have already once almost destroyed my Sigma 10-20mm lens by getting to close to water. I had to drive 2.5 hours to Sigma office to have it fixed. Don’t want to do that again🙂 . A telephoto helps in such scenarios.
The images below are all long exposure shots, essentially 1s or more. For these photos I had to make sure that I don’t go to more than 2-3 seconds ( based on natural light) so as to get good texture from the waves and not make it look like “mist”. For some reason there are a lot of rock jettys on the beaches of Jersey, which really helps when you are looking for crashing waves or a foreground interest or even leading lines.
For the image above, I timed the shot so that the waves go over the small rock and give the bump in the texture.
This image in my opinion emphasis on the art of seeing. As a photographer it is imperative that you have a keen eye on such details. There are no waves here, just the groves on the beach as a result of receding waves.
In my last post I said that I am kinda bored of going back to Sandy Hook beaches again and again. It still holds true but I did make a recent visit again. The problem of going to the same spot again and again is that you eventually run out of compositions. All you can hope after that is you get a different dramatic natural light, which might make the image unique. One of the reasons I keep going back is the distance. Its about 45 min drive from where I live, so its easily accessible.
So, now the problem I face is how to get creative every time I go there. And I take it as a challenge. Now, importantly I look for dramatic clouds, and high tides and prefer to go during coastal flooding, which may sound dangerous but its not. Essentially, what happens is that the water comes into the beach bit more than usual. Also, another thing I have started doing is using props. There is a lot of drift wood on the beach, so once in a while I pick one up and put it in my frame as a foreground interest.
The shot below is an example of such:
And this shot below shows the movement of the waves. The idea was to keep the exposure long enough to capture the movement but short enough to capture just a short burst. Because of that I was able to capture the right mood of the waves at that time, and adds a lot of texture.
I also used the rocks from the jetty as a foreground interest:
In my posts you will see a lot of photographs from Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey. There are few reasons for that – a. Its very close to where I live, b. every time I have gone there I have got atleast 1 unique shot and c. there are plenty more opportunities there in terms of flora and fauna as well.
Last Friday I woke up early at around 4:30 so decided to drive back and catch the Sun rise. I check the weather and it seemed great. There were supposed to be broken clouds and that is perfect for sunrise because that gives a lot if unique opportunities in terms of light. But unfortunately it wasn’t my day. When I started from home it looked promising but when I reached, there was a lot of fog. Visibility must be less than 1/3 of a mile. I thought since I am already here will just wait it out and hope it might clear up. I was there for an hour and a half and got nothing. Well not exactly nothing….
It occurred to me that this might be perfect for Black and White images..
One of the country’s oldest vacation spots, Cape May is at the southern tip of New Jersey. It has one of the top award winning beaches, it is a designated birding location and has a Lighthouse, and also most importantly one of my favorite places in NJ. During WW-II it was a big Naval base, apart from that it has a very rich history in terms of architecture, tourism, movie shooting locations etc.
Though my focus was more on the beaches in terms of photography and had a great time shooting there. My favorite spot there is the Sunset Beach, which as the name suggests gives a clear view of the sun-setting over Delaware Bay. NJ being on the east coast all the beaches are East facing and this is the only part which faces South-West. I have been here a couple of times but mostly during the winter time. I think in one of my posts I mentioned why I go to the beaches during winters. Not because I am crazy but because people don’t get out and you get a People free landscape to shoot. However, its not a bad idea to have people in your shots, but that’s a different conversation.
There are a couple of more interesting beaches you can go check out. I like to drive through the town, gives a very cozy feel of a small town. If you guys visit, do make it a point to stay the night, there is a lot to explore there. Spring and early summer would be a good time.
I have been frequenting Sandy Hook for a year now, and as a photographer one would really get bored of the same spot. That’s the thing about Sandy Hook, every time I have gone there I have found a different play of light, weather and composition. I have seen the most amazing colors in the sky right from Red and orange hues to light green. Some might find that surprising but its a fact.
What makes any place lively is the people, and here I have seen many – families, individuals, artists, photographers, surfers, bikers, bird watchers, fitness freaks etc. All in all it has something for everyone. There are about 2-3 nice sea-food restaurants if you want to stay back for a nice meal. These are open all day long.
I mainly come here just for the fun of photography. I am not a professional, but the landscape here is so wonderful that it would make a hobbyist look like a professional too. The east side of the Sandy hook is more interesting compared to the west. Mainly because on the west you will not find high waves, although you would definitely enjoy a beautiful sunset. Also the vegetation on the sand dunes turn golden and deep green as the sunsets and eventually disappears. The most I have enjoyed coming here is in the winter time. Now of course why would anyone go to the beach in winters? excatly for the same reason, there is no human in sight, you have high tide and lovely opportunity for photography. Summer time is equally great because then on a clear sky night you can sit back late and enjoy gazing at the stars, enjoy the cool breeze and hear the gushing sound of high tides colliding with the rock jettys. Sometimes there are coastal floods, when the water comes inland and covers up most of the beach, but that gives a whole different experience of being there.
Spring and Early summer also witneses a lot of birds there. If you come in May you can see many HorseShoe Crabs which cover most of the beach laying eggs. Couple of times I have seen Dog Sharks and Sting-Rays as well. Although people fish and then let them back into the Ocean, but I am not a big fan of such sport. Its more like harrassing them, but I am no one to judge.