Fishing is what I’d like to be doing today…or any other day. I’ve been quite under the weather today and am feeling sorry for myself for not being able to get out shooting photos downtown tonight with my buddy Pete Talke. Life is still good though!
Photo taken at sunrise on the beach in Port Aransas, TX with a 50mm lens @ f/1.4.
I’ve gotten over my thing about missing the snow and am now thinking about getting back to the Texas coast. My 7-year old son brings it up constantly so we’re just going to have to set a date and do it. The shot above was taken on our last big trip which was during Sharkfest at Padre Island National Seashore. When we scheduled our trip we weren’t aware of Sharkfest and on arrival were very surprised by the crowds. This 63-mile stretch of beach has one way in and out (via land) as is mostly limited to 4×4 vehicles so it’s generally rather empty. Of course “crowded” is a relative thing and even with 10x the normal crowd there were still plenty of places along the seashore to fish and play in the water without crowding anyone out. Normally you can pick a place where you have at *least* 1/2 mile between you and your nearest neighbor. We had to settle for 1/8 – 1/4 mile this trip (once we made it 30 or 40 miles)…first-world problems. Unfortunately we saw no sharks being caught. On our “normal” trips we often see them and thought that with all these shark fishermen we’d see several. No luck.
For those of you not familiar with shark fishing in the surf, here’s the very rough description of how it works. Gear consists of short-ish, stiff rods with reels capable of holding hundreds of yards of approximately 100# test line. At the terminal end there are leader rigs made out of materials ranging from 400# test monofilament to stainless steel cable. Hanging from those are huge hooks (the size of your hand). For bait something like a big chunk (even half) of a jack crevalle is used. Once the rig is ready, the bait is generally paddled out with a kayak and placed beyond the third sand bar. Then you wait, and wait, and wait. When you get a decent sized shark on the line the fight often lasts well over an hour. It’s pretty amazing to watch. On a side note, it’s extremely interesting to witness the various vehicular rigs that people come up with for their shark fishing — giant platforms on top of trucks, etc. If I’d known how unsuccessful our fishing was going to be on this trip I might have just spent time photographing the shark rigs.
I processed the image to make it appear a bit like an old print from film. Kept the colors reasonably saturated (via the vibrance slider in Lightroom) and made the image warm like prints in the “old” days. In Lightroom I added grain to taste. I rarely use additional grain in images but really like it for this beach scene and if it weren’t for the vehicles it could pass for a pic from the ’70s. I wasn’t “into” photography in my film days so I can’t wax nostalgic about this film or that film or tell you that I mimicked a certain film. I bought whatever was cheap.
A recent sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico along Padre Island National Seashore. The image was processed with 4 or 5 different textures in OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite. After that I did a few Photoshop curves adjustments…that’s it.
I was very surprised to find that one of my (not-so-freshly-pressed) posts was featured on WordPress Freshly Pressed. I started thinking about what post I should follow up with to hopefully meet the expectations of any new followers, etc. I’m humble enough to realize that I’ve got nothing but photographs that *I* like — and hopefully others will like many of them. What’s the Ansel Adams quote? Something like “There no rules for good photographs, only good photographs”. And of course “good” is defined by personal taste. So…I’m just posting the next picture I had already planned to post in hopes that others like it too
On a recent trip to the Texas coast I was setting up for some bokeh shots with the 50mm f/1.4 and noticed this couple approaching. I quickly focused on the sand and recomposed to catch them as they passed in front of the camera. I said a quick ‘hello’ but otherwise pretended to ignore them and clicked off a couple of shots as they were in the frame.
My camera was already at what I considered a good aperture for this situation — f/2. From experience I knew that anything larger and the background would be too blurred to provide enough detail to give a sense of where the shot was taken. I had already experimented with some f/1.4 shots taken at a very close distance from the subject and the background was completely lost. For all you could tell, I was in a bright room inside my house as opposed to the beach. Sometimes that’s a nice effect but when I’m at the beach I typically want to show, or at the very least hint strongly, that I’m at the beach.
I knew my focus wouldn’t be perfect. With such a shallow depth of field it usually doesn’t work to recompose your image since you end up swinging the whole plane of focus away from the subject [see below for a short, lame-ish explanation of that]. I had no time to worry about that nor did I care for this shot since I didn’t really want to capture any detail of the couple — I was going for the overall scene of “some couple” walking on the beach. With the blown-out highlights and backlighting a precise point of focus wasn’t going to matter much anyway. I’m not wild about the composition but again, this was a hurried, serendipitous shot. The almost-opaque frame around the image was something I added while experimenting with OnOne Software’s Photoframe. I’m not sure if I like it but I’m considering this one “done”.
About those depth of field issues when recomposing a shot…When you focus your camera on a particular point, imagine a plane that is perpendicular to line between your lens and subject. Everything on that plane (including everything near the plane within the range of your chosen depth of field) will be in focus. Taking that further, if you focus on a subject 10 feet away it will obviously be in focus, but so will anything on the flat plane (NOT arc) which goes left and right from that point. [Here's an illustration -- not sure how helpful] When you focus and then rotate the camera (recompose) that whole plane moves. If you have a large depth of field (ie small aperture and/or fairly large distance to the focus point) that may not matter because the subject remains within the in-focus region even when you rotate the plane. If the depth of field is very narrow there’s a good chance that you end up moving the subject out of the in-focus region (actually you move the plane of focus away from the subject as you rotate it). I’ve seen a great illustration of this somewhere…I’m not able to find it with a couple quick internet searches though.
I don’t ever get tired of beautiful sunrises…like this one I recently witnessed on the beach in Port Aransas, TX.
I used two versions of the same exposure to create the image above. One version used daylight white balance while the other used (nearly) a tungsten white balance. A gradient mask blended the two, keeping the golden light in the lower portion of the frame and gradually transitioning to the blue sky above. Four or five curves layers were used to touch up portions of the image and create a vignette. Some minor cloning/healing was done to get rid of some birds zipping across the screen and a few other tiny elements.
As we were headed down Padre Island National Seashore to fish early Saturday morning, my older son and I were intently looking for bait fish activity, holes/cuts in the sandbars, etc. with the intent to find the best fishing spot — didn’t even notice the sun. My seven-year old piped up in a matter-of-fact voice, “Hey, Dad…you’re going to want to get a picture of this.” He’s in tune with my photography habit.
I hopped out of the truck and snapped off a few pictures. It’s amazing how quickly the sun rises in the sky at this point in the day.
Our family was supposed to spend last weekend in Rockport, TX but were unable to go to at the last minute due to medical reasons. As a consolation I’m taking a few of the kids to the beach this weekend. The shot above was taken on our last trip. We had just watched the sunrise and my daughter shed her shoes and went wading. On a whim I got down low and took a variety of shots. I wanted bokeh for the artsy look, yet enough detail to still see my daughter and the pattern in her dress. Turns out that the widest aperture on my Canon 17-40mm (f/4) just did the trick. I made a quick attempt at cloning the letters out of the shoes but it was soon clear that it would take a lot of work to make it look realistic…above my skill level.
This was the second shot I took (out of maybe 50). In the subsequent images I framed the shot in all manner of ways — no sun or reflection from the sun, put the sun at the 1/3 point in the frame, showed my daughter completely, etc. I like this one best. In particular, I like the leaning subject (partially due to taking a step and partially due to the distorted perspective of the wide-angle lens) and the motion implied here. I also like the extreme highlight in the left corner fading into the darker sky on the right.
My daughter and I watched the birds and the sunrise last Saturday on the beach in Port Aransas, TX. The weather was perfect and the Gulf was the calmest I’ve ever seen it. While I was playing around with photo stuff, my daughter waded out. I told her to freeze for some silhouettes and captured many photos like the one above. I underexposed a bit to be sure to produce a dark silhouette — the goal being to avoid any detail in the subject of course. Processing consisted of basic adjustments in Lightroom, including some purposely heavy contrast/clarity. I debated whether to clone out the birds streaking across the frame…I obviously elected to leave them in. There were a lot of interesting looks I could have gone for in this image and I had trouble deciding what I liked best.
One consideration in shots like this is the height of the camera. Low to the ground results in a lot more sky as opposed to beach and water. It also places the silhouette mostly against the sky which is generally nice IMO. Camera placement high off the ground — say standing height — gives more water and beach, plus a longer reflection/shadow of the subject on the water. There’s no “right” choice. In a beach situation I prefer to show more water in the shot but you have to be careful about having the horizon cut through the subject’s head and things like that if you place the camera too high (see image below — it’s OK, but not my preference). I think the shot above strikes a reasonable balance.
Later I played around with flash in the mid-day sun while taking pictures of the kids playing on the beach. I’ll post some of those soon.
Last summer I took my 6 year old son camping for the weekend at Padre Island National Seashore (PINS…see this post, and this post). I didn’t do a lot of photography but managed a few shots to document the weekend.
The night shot that I recently posted from Big Bend National Park brought to mind some of the pictures I took at night at PINS. The shot above had some really cool clouds and it looked to me like an angel with its wings spread across the ocean (kind of sappy I know). The surf is always pounding down there but I like how the long exposure gives the Gulf a smooth look.
I can’t explain why, but the view of the stars from the beach is every bit as clear and amazing as the view in the middle of west Texas (which has some of the darkest skies in the US). Depending where you are on the beach you may be as close as 15 miles from Corpus Christi — a decently-sized metro area of about 430,000 people according to wikipedia. There’s a lot of glow from the city but on a cloudless night the Milky Way is as clear as ever (looks like clouds in the sky). Obviously this picture was taken with a bright moon which kills much of the view of the stars so there were no Milky Way pictures that night.
My goal was to make this image rather dramatic given the cloud formation and the processing steps to get there were rather simple. In Lightroom I removed a couple of stars within the angel shape with the spot removal tool. They detracted from the aesthetics of the overall image because they were too bright. [My opinion is that one is free to do this kind of thing as long as they don't dishonestly portray the final result as 100% accurate]. Then in Photoshop I used the channel mixer to tone the image to a blue-ish monochrome — I didn’t want a straight black and white image. [David Nightingale's tutorials have inspired a lot of experimentation with things like the channel mixer and with "dramatic" images in general]. I used a vibrance adjustment to back off on the blue a bit (couldn’t quite figure out the channel mixer settings to get the color just how I wanted it). I added one general s-curve and then another curve masked in to provide a touch of vignette. Some noise reduction and sharpening for the stars topped that off the Photoshop work. Once I was back in Lightroom I tweaked the color a tiny bit more because I wasn’t quite satisfied upon a second look.
I bought the spinning rod/reel combo pictured above for my son’s recent birthday. I knew I’d be taking him fishing at the beach and wanted him to have something he could handle, yet something stout enough to handle the creatures one may catch in the surf of the Gulf of Mexico. My oldest son caught a 40″ redfish (yep, 40″) on a rig just like this when he was 10 or 11 years old.
I’m amazed again and again how young children are able to learn and accomplish much more than we give them credit for. [In fact, I think that some part of society's problems these days are related to expecting too little out of our young people from age 2 all the way to 25…but that's a discussion to have in person over lunch or something] There were some lousy casts at first as my son learned how to use the spinning reel, but within 30 minutes he was practically a pro. He put on his own bait, cast it, reeled it in to check it here and there, and landed some fish completely on his own. I still removed them from the hook…we’ll work in that next trip maybe.
I didn’t have my camera out much on the beach b/c I (1) the trip was about father/son time and (2) I wanted to keep the sand out of the camera. But, I did take a little time to record some shots of him fishing. I took many that included a wider scene — the entire rod, more background, etc. but this is really my favorite. This photo wasn’t posed at all and he looks like a little man “working the fish”.
There were several cropping options considered but in the end I didn’t crop it at all. I really like a square crop because of the focus it put on my son, but I wanted the dunes and sky to give a more complete sense of location. Having the fishing rod disappear out of the frame actually bugs me somewhat. Post-processing was minimal and consisted of simple tone/contrast adjustments…I believe I did everything in Lightroom.
If I were a photographer on assignment I suppose what I would’ve done is gotten out in the water further — almost straight in front of my son. This might have allowed me to capture the whole rod with the dunes and sky while keeping my son relatively prominent in the frame. I was on a father/son assignment though and I got what I was really after and what mattered most — shots that capture the memory of the trip.
This past weekend I took my 6 year old son on his first camping trip on the beach. Specifically, we went to Padre Island National Seashore, which has been the site of many camping trips with my oldest son over the years. It’s frankly not the prettiest, most pristine beach on earth but the solitude is hard to beat.
From the point where the blacktop dumps you on the beach, there are 63 miles of uninterrupted sand on which to camp. The first 5 miles or so are accessible by any vehicle but it’s 4×4 only after that point for the most part. That fact eliminates the casual beach trippers and helps keep the number of campers down.
Our normal modus operandi on our beach trips is be very minimalist and not set up a permanent camp. This allows us to be mobile and chase the fish so to speak (often you can drive and spot them silhouetted in the surf as the waves roll over). We might go up and down sections of the beach several times in a day. However, since it was this son’s first trip, we just set up a camp and concentrated on spending time together having fun rather than worrying about how good the fishing was. He had a grand time fishing, finding shells, chasing crabs, throwing the football, swimming…he was never bored for a single moment.
The picture above was taken by our campsite as the sun rose Saturday morning. As you can see, there isn’t anyone in sight as far as the eye can see. It was the same in the other direction. Those tire tracks represent the long road back to civilization — 28 miles to the blacktop in this case. No cell service available anywhere on that road. It’s great to be isolated like that occasionally…we’re headed back in a couple weeks.
The image is not an HDR (you know you do HDR a lot if you feel like you have to specify when it’s *not* an HDR). I had bracketed the shot with the thought of tonemapping mainly to bring out the texture in the sand. However, I ended up using Topaz Adjust, levels, and curves on a layer then masking the original sky back in.