Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A really stressful coast shoot

Yesterday I spent the afternoon shooting at the coast at South Shields, Tyne and Wear. My location for the shoot was a small, isolated cove called (rather unimaginatively) ‘The Cove’ in rock climbing circles. I like this setting because it seems surprisingly little known and it’s rare that you see anyone in there (apart from the odd climber.) Great! A good location, a private setting where it’s unlikely to have people wandering through my shots, a nice overcast day with soft, wrapping light, what could go wrong? Well I’m a complete fool. That’s what! To my surprise and immediate frustration, when I got out my camera I found a glaring lack of quick release plate. Like a pillock I’d left it at home and what was more irritating was the fact it usually stays on my camera 100% of the time- I’d only removed it this time to make it easier to apply a screen protector to my LCD. I had the tripod, but no way of attaching my camera to it! Many expletives ensued since my main purpose for traveling to the coast was to capture the sea using slow shutter speeds during the day through via an ND filter. There was no possibility of getting the shots I was after shooting handheld because the shutter was going to be open for several seconds per exposure. I therefore had to improvise- I may not have a useable tripod but I still had my camera bag, a worthy camera support substitute. I climbed down into the cove and want straight to the water’s edge to see how I could position my gear safely, without everything I owned getting a bath! The main problem I had was the angle of the pebble beach- in this particular bay the beach is greatly undulated, with pebbles and shingle piled up in waves; getting the camera to lie straight wasn’t easy and I didn’t want the camera to flop forwards into a rock pool. I had my spirit level with me which helped and the 7D has a built-in virtual horizon, so combined they gave me a better idea of how well I was coping ‘tripodless.’
4 secs, f/32, ISO100 @ 73mm, Polarizer, ND8

For the first shot here the ground I had my bag rested on was particularly uneven and getting the horizon level was proving to be a bit of a nightmare:- I therefore opted to just take the picture and crop it later, which is what I did; on this occasion I thought a square crop worked well (6in x 6in.)

2 secs, f/22, ISO 100 @ 17mm, Polarizer, ND8

For this second image I was right down at the waterline, squatting amongst some rock pools. I was quite nervous as I didn’t know how fast I could react to the incoming tide (usually I could confidently grab the tripod legs and go.) I quickly managed to get a level shot this time, but I now couldn’t get the lens to stay level; it kept flopping forward. Inspiration! I pushed a pebble under the lens hood to hold it up for the duration of the exposure. I then cropped to 16:9 format and converted the image to mono. Both photos were edited entirely in Canon’s DPP software.
In the end I was quite pleased with the results of the shoot, although the imaging process was far from stress-free- I’ve never sworn as much in a long time! It just goes to prove however that with a little improvisation (and a little luck) you can make the most of a potentially lousy situation. Actually the lower-than-usual shooting height from the bag gave my shots an unusual perspective that I really like. I might even try it again sometime- fancy that…!

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