Santa Cruz Seascapes Coastal Photography Workshop – March 12th Write-up

Nothing better than teaching a group of eager, excited students, especially when you have great conditions!  After encountering mist, drizzle, a full-on downpour, and even a tsunami warning on our last few workshops, Jim and I finally got to teach in nearly perfect conditions: nice warm sun early on in the day gave way to textured clouds and crashing waves as the day wore on.  And our students took full advantage of this and nailed some awesome shots.

In addition to the excellent shooting conditions, this workshop was a bit different than our past Santa Cruz workshops in that we skipped Natural Bridges State Beach and traded the crowds there for a bit more privacy and awesome waves at our favorite beach: Panther / Hole in the Wall.  But I’m getting ahead of myself!

The day started at Four Mile Beach, where the low tide had exposed a wonderful array of shelves and rocks. We spent a few minutes talking about cultivating a zen approach to photography where instead of running-and-gunning the students should take a few minutes just to look around and find what appeals to them, and only then should they take out their cameras and start shooting.

Jim then took the more novice shooters and spent some time explaining the math of photography: the relationship between shutter speed and aperture and how to adjust them to get a good exposure.  Meanwhile, I took the other students down to the water’s edge to explain some fundamental compositional concepts and why they work.  And after addressing the rule of thirds, leading lines, and some other goodies, I turned these students loose to find their own unique shots.

For the next few hours the students roved up and down the beach while Jim and I circulated between them and addressed their individual questions.  And boy did they have some good ones: Jim and I talked about everything from using the histogram to fine-tune exposure, to how to exaggerate detail, curves, and lines by getting close to your subject.  It’s always so cool to watch the photos evolve in camera as the concepts click in the students’ minds.

As the clouds started to build mid-afternoon, we packed the group up and shuttled them off to the amazing Hole in the Wall beach.  Although the billy-goat trail down to the beach is a little steep, navigating it is well worth the effort, as Hole in the Wall beach is a photographer’s dream: it’s absolutely packed with rocks, shelves, and water.  There is just so much to shoot that even with six cameras, the students were all able to find unique and beautiful compositions.  We were especially lucky as the large swell was creating some magnificent pounding waves and rushing water streaks for the students to capture.

At Hole in the Wall we spent even more time talking about composition: in particular how to create depth in your photos in order to give the viewer a sense of being there.  Jim also mentioned the importance of watching the edges of your frame for distractions.  The cloudy conditions really helped the students work with longer shutter speeds, and I saw some amazing water action popping up on the backs of the students cameras.

Sunset came and lent some pretty color to the sky and as the students dodged in and around the waves, they were creating some really beautiful photographs.  Our sincere thanks to Andy, Tex, Peiying, Danielle, Jeff, and Troy.  You guys were and awesome class and it was really a pleasure to have you with us.


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