Santa Cruz Seascapes Coastal Photography Workshop – April 8th

A very cool thing about teaching a private group workshop is that all the students already know each other.  On our most recent workshop Jim and I taught a group of photographers from Apple, and these guys were laughing and joking with each other from the get go.  I think the fact that we were finally going out shooting after the tsunami and some serious rainstorms had forced us to reschedule a number of times was also contributing to the jovial mood.  In any case, the guys’ positive attitudes really set up a fun, supportive, and dynamic teaching environment.  So it was on an immediate high that we set out for the beach to shoot shoot shoot!

Wanting to take the guys to beach that is less-visited by photographers, Jim and I headed to Laguna Creek beach to start the day off.  As soon as we arrived at the beach, one of the big thunderclouds in the sky decided to unload and dropped hail and rain on us.  Of course, this was the perfect opportunity to talk about the importance of protecting your gear from the elements.  Luckily, the precipitation didn’t last long and the guys got out their cameras, eager to shoot.

The rocks at Laguna exhibit a wide array of lines, patterns, and cracks, and we used these to talk to the guys about creating foreground interest, leading lines, visual contrasts, and visual flow.  The drama in the ocean and the sky was superb and our students were making some bang-up images right off the bat.  With a huge range of styles, skills, and experience levels, this group was a hoot to teach, as before long they were scattered all over the beach, catching crashing waves, the flow of Laguna creek, mossy green rocks, and every other interesting feature they could find.

If you’ve never been to the Santa Cruz coast, Laguna Creek beach seems like one of the coolest places to shoot.  Our group was definitely stoked, and I think a few of them could have stayed there all afternoon.  However, after convincing them the Laguna doesn’t hold a candle to the next beach on our itinerary, we shuttled the group off to Four Mile beach.

A much-needed snack and coffee break recharged the group and we hit the ground running at Four Mile beach.  The amazing thing about Four Mile is its variety.  With  its boulders, shelves, stream, and seastack, Four Mile has everything you could want to shoot.  We started off at the north end to work on simplifying our compositions and using near-far techniques to create visual anchors and layering.  The group also discovered some amazing reflections in the sand and we spent time talking about how to best capture them as well as the interaction of the waves with rocks and Four Mile’s seasonal creek.

About an hour before sunset, the group moseyed down to the south end of Four Mile where we got into what is most students’ favorite part of the workshop: learning how to slow down their shutter speed and using timing to capture wave action.  It’s amazing to see the different effects that are possible with a few subtle changes to shutter speed and when the shutter button is actually pressed.  The splashes, crashes, streaks, curls, and washes that were appearing on the guys’ cameras were outstanding.

It’s a shame that this part of the workshop goes by so fast, but as the sun sets light drops off in a hurry, and before we knew it it was too dark to shoot.  So it was back the cars to say goodbye after a killer day of photography.

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