Coffee Talk - Notes from David
One of my newest releases, Glowing Tide, was the result of a two minute sunrise I almost skipped. The night before I was looking at the weather to see what kind of sunrise we might get. The weather was supposed to be rainy and little chance of a great color show. The winter time is my favorite sunrise time, mostly because the sun rises later in the morning, so I can get up about 5:30 and get setup in time to enjoy the light and the fairly empty pre-dawn beach. This particular morning I decided to at least crawl out of bed and go look out our window over the marsh towards the sea. I could tell the cloud cover was there, but the best I could tell, it was broken up some out over the Atlantic. Since I knew the sun would come up out to sea, I decided to make the trek. Here’s what happened...
Great photographs tell a story, no matter the genre. Some stories are easier to see, especially with photojournalism. Other stories may be more complex. My landscape photographs tell stories, but they may not always be evident. This image was taken at the east end of the island - an island called the “Edge of America” by the locals. The coast looks out over the entrance to the historic Charleston Harbor and across the Gulf Stream of the Atlantic Ocean. Geographically, this part of the island takes a pounding from the cross tides and the deep channel to the harbor. We photographers call this type of area a “Bone Yard” because it is full of dead trees and driftwood resembling old bones. Mix all of this with colors from the sun setting behind me, and I have a canvas ripe for storytelling.
The wind had picked up after two days of torrential rain and the cold front was pulling down the temperature to the forty’s quickly. As I shut the car door, I looked down the tree lined road blocked off to vehicles. I still had about 3/4 of mile to walk and the sun was setting. Carrying a 6 pound lens attached to my camera, I slung the tripod over the back of my shoulder and started walking. As I thought about several images I wanted to capture with the Morris Island Light, I crested the path on the large sand dune before the beach below. I stopped as I knew this would be a great elevated spot to shoot the lighthouse. Little did I know it would be a once in a lifetime moment.
My favorite phrase about photography and fine art is “it’s all about the light™.” Last time I talked about challenges of long exposures which help blend the motion in the waves. Today, I want to talk about how we see a photograph or an image and one way you can be drawn into an image. I’ll start with the light.
Recently, I discussed an image titled the “Golden Hour” but, did you know there is also a blue hour? It really is all about the light, and as the sun rises and sets each day, colors are reflected through the sky. While one of the most technically challenging images I’ve made, the colors drove me to succeed. What makes this image challenging to capture? What makes up the blue hour? These are the questions for this edition of Coffee Talk.
This image, Golden Hour, was one of those special moments of success. After over a dozen different images, I knew this was a winner. Here’s a few of the challenges in getting an image to come out like this one. First, I have to tell you, this house is one of my favorite on the coast. It is the essence of a beach front home. You may have seen it in several of my images, but that is common for many artists
Two words that do not often go together, painting and photograph. Two separate mediums, one by an artist and one by a photographer, the creator is labeled. Or, are they separate? Honestly, I prefer to be labeled an artist. I imagine how I want something to look, and then I create it. The difference is my strokes on a canvas are from a camera instead of a brush, and I use light instead of paint. Here is how I paint a photograph.
Imagine standing beside me taking in this majestic storm cloud system going out to sea from the mainland. Imagine the sound of the waves lapping the shore, the seagulls squawking and all the colors. Then, imagine a parade of pelicans that just appears and keeps on coming. If you are smiling right now, you know just how I felt. Here people are walking around, the storm clouds are moving through and suddenly a pelican parade enters from behind me. Talk about chaos! How did I setup this photograph and how did I choose this particular one? Today’s coffee talk is a little long, but I wanted to share this experience with you. So, grab some coffee or tea, or whatever your fancy, and enjoy reading something fun today.
I was standing in the surf as it rose and fell around my knees. Holding my tripod and pushing down into the sand, the three inch spikes were doing their best to stay in place. There was so much going on in front of me I just stood there for a few minutes taking it all in. Normally, I think of myself as the artist, as the one with the paintbrush. But standing in the surf, I knew nature was painting the canvas today.
Impressionism is a form of painting created in France during the mid 1800’s. How can my photography be compared to that? This french style of painting is defined by the creators ability to create the appearance of movement, especially using light and color. The biggest difference between the canvas and the photograph is the medium used - a paintbrush versus and camera sensor. Yet, when I work on an impressionism piece, I am trying to convey movement, not the super-high motion stopping shutter speeds. I may try to convey motion of wind-swept sand, a palmetto tree or a simple boardwalk. Or, I may try to pull you into a place where there is already motion, but intensify it. For example ...
Black and white photography has roots over 100 years old. One of the reasons black and white photography remained even after the invention of color film, was that black and white images last the longest. The Smithsonian Museum has an extensive collection of black and white and some images are from the late 1800's. Black and white photographs from a darkroom use silver in the development and printing process, and most black and white dark room papers are natural fibers and acid free. But what good is an old photograph if no one likes it? Why would I photograph something as colorful as the ocean using black and white?
I love the entire creative process of making a photograph. Each step brings a smile as I’m one step closer to hanging a print on the wall. Naming a photograph is not a step, but happens throughout the development of the image. Sometimes I might name an image and change it a week later because something better comes to mind. The fun part of the challenge is to keep it short and simple. I mean, if I named an image “That Really Fun Sunset I Took One Morning on the Beach When I Almost Didn’t Get Out of Bed in Time,” would you take me seriously? I’m laughing just typing this!
I often like to walk in the very early evening on the beach and the hard part about sunset photography is that you never know whether it will be great, or just kind of ok. This particular evening was great. I was walking towards the pier and the sun so when the sky just turned bright yellow-orange, I started snapping images. When I say, it’s all about the light™ this is a great example - without the sunset light coming towards me, the images would probably have been just ok.
I had just finished taking some sunset photographs and was walking home when I stumbled across this section of sand fencing. This section was clearly broken through by a person, because the dune is intact, no water broke through. Here is an artistic example of the impact people have on the coast and represents part of the constant change.
The more you talk with me, the more you will hear me say the coast constantly changes. I mean literally, it changes from wave to wave. But, that is one of the biggest draws to me. I remember the excitement I had walking down the coast as this sunset started. Anytime there are clouds like this, I know the colors are coming.