Santa Cruz Seascapes Photography Workshop – July 23, 2011

Seascape photography is always a challenge. Salt water and electronics simply don’t like each other. The misty air can wreak havoc on lenses and filters and sand and salt are the arch enemies of a smooth functioning tripod. So why do we do it? Because we love it! And as we found out on our workshop, so do our students.

During our introductions, we like to hear about each person’s background in photography and ultimately what they hope to get out of the workshop.  It was determined that several attendees were hoping to get a little closer to attaining that “holy crap!” type image. The beauty and power of the ocean certainly make for the opportune backdrop for “holy crap” images, but we like to temper those expectations with the fact that for every great image, there are plenty of days where we come home with nothing spectacular to show for it. But with each trip to the coast, learning can take place. Location familiarization, refinement of compositions and stylistic choices, and gear familiarity all improve with experience.

The location was once again Four Mile beach and our weather for the day was overcast with a slight breeze which is perfect for teaching, albeit a bit lacking in the dramatic light category. But we will take overcast skies over a pure blue void or torrential rains any day.  We began the day splitting up into two groups. While Josh started off working with students on composition, my group covered some of the basic camera settings and how they affect the technical and artistic aspects of photography.

Once our mini-lectures were through, the group started “working the scene”. The rocky shelves of Four Mile beach and the surrounding sandy beach offered a variety of compositional choices.  And as Josh and I checked in with everyone, we got to see some really nice images being made.  As I was talking with Greg about personal vision and what things I look for in a scene, I decided to set up my gear and jump right into the surf for a few quick snaps. Sometimes I feel that if students see how I get immersed in the scene (literally and figuratively), it may help them overcome the hesitancy of getting wet. Yes, a healthy respect for the ocean is important, but slowly expanding your comfort zone can also help you break into new ground with your images. Of course, the ocean giveth and the ocean taketh away. I did lose a $90 graduated filter in my demonstration with Greg. Oops!

As the evening progressed, Josh and I like to give a final talk about composition and how each of use interprets a scene. By sharing our individual approaches, we hope the students can implement a little of each of our styles to find something that works for them. As the light levels slowly dropped, slower shutter speeds were more easily attained. This is the time of the workshop where it hopefully all starts to come together.

By this time of the workshop, more students were using manual mode, getting their compositions locked in, and using the shutter speed to create a specific look. Adding filter use to the mix also helped break new ground with some of the students. Not only is there the instant gratification of a more balanced exposure, but filter use brings up topics regarding metering, stops of light, and reading a histogram as well as several others. And at one point, I think I heard a “holy crap” after an exposure displayed on the back of a student’s camera.

A big thanks to Joanie, Sue, Mike, Sean, Sreenath, Shonna, Greg, and Kurt for coming out with Sea to Summit Workshops. Your enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge and photographic improvement made it a breeze for Josh and I to teach. We appreciated the opportunity to share our knowledge, tips, and tricks with you!

-Josh and Jim


2 replies
  1. Joanie
    Joanie says:

    Josh – this was THE best photography class EVER! Thanks so much to you and Jim for making it such a fun day! Really looking forward to taking more workshops from you!


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