Despite what people may think from time to time, Jim and I do not have the ability to conjure good light (shhh, don’t tell anyone!). Nay, in fact, we were as happily surprised as our students when this past Saturday on a Santa Cruz photography workshop we had textured clouds during the day and fiery red colors at sunset. In fact, save a brief spell of bluish skies in the middle of the afternoon, we had pretty darn decent light all day.
Things got off to a ripping good start at Panther Beach, where our group -some clad in sneakers, others in knee-high red rubber boots- scampered down the trail to the sand. Jim and I took the students through our standard “learn from our mistakes” seascapes 101 lecture: Don’t turn your back on the ocean, don’t set your tripod up all cockeyed, don’t get smashed by rogue waves into the cliffs. Because man, the paperwork for that kind of thing is a bitch.
Then we split the group in half: Jim took Brian, Kevin, Bill, and John to talk composition, and I stole Sujit, Raveesh, Shiva, and Grace to go over the finer points of shooting in manual mode for seascapes. Since I can’t be in two places at once I’m not 100% sure what Jim and his group talked about but I can only assume it was some radical composition theory involving golden ratios, Fibonacci sequences, and lines of the leading kind. My students had a million questions and before we ever even got to manual mode, metering, and histograms we went over wide-angle compositions, choosing appropriate foregrounds, methods of enhancing mid-ground depth, creating intriguing perspectives, and the practical and creative differences between f/8 and f/22. It was a photography info smorgasbord!
But eventually the siren song of the ocean lured these four shooters away from my ramblings and they got down to taking pictures. I used this opportunity to go see what Jim and his four guys were up to. I found them at the south end of Hole in the Wall beach using ND filters to catch some awesome watery streamers as the pounding waves cascaded over the rocks. But even though the ND filters let us get slow shutter speeds to play with the water motion the afternoon light was somewhat harsh so after another 30 minutes or so we packed it up to head to Four Mile beach.
Immediately upon arriving we saw some fantastic mackerel clouds inhabiting the sky and a number of our photographers used their wide angles to compose photos with the clouds and the sea. Still others had more specific compositions in mind and set about searching for some mud stone rocks they had seen in a few photos on our website. Luckily for us the sand on the beach had recently been eroded just enough to expose the mud stone. And as an added bonus the tide ensured that the rocks were receiving a regular wash from the waves. I think at one point I looked over and saw at least four of our group down in the surf shooting watery streamers as the waves swirled around the mud stone.
It seems to me that time speeds up toward the end of the day, and it was no different during this workshop: after we had been at Four Mile for what seemed a scant few minutes I looked down at my watch to see that sunset was nearly upon us. And sure enough, the afternoon light was taking on ever more warmer tones as the sun sank toward the horizon. Then the “oh crap!” moments began as the clouds to the west began luminescing (did I just make that word up?) with ruby, magenta, and pink tones, and all the photographers in our group locked in their best compositions to take advantage of the color. And while the color lingered awhile eventually it did fade, and we made our way back to the cars to say goodnight.
So to Shiva, Brian, Grace, John, Sujit, Raveesh, Kevin, and Bill, thanks! You guys were a wonderful group and Jim and I had a blast spending the day with you. From Jim and myself, take care and happy shooting!