Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stand Still

High on the bucket list of locations to visit during the Charleston trip was Botany Bay. The beach here has suffered severe erosion resulting in dead trees standing in the ocean. Quite a visual juxtaposition. The place was once part of an old plantation. Now it is a natural resource area managed by the state of South Carolina.

After considerable research to pin down the location, Donna and I drove down from Charleston to check it out one afternoon. At the front gate everyone entering has to register before proceeding. The parking lot appears after about a two mile drive in. Then it is a half mile hike over the marsh to the beach with the famous trees. We encountered an extremely high tide, according to the volunteer monitoring the beach area. The rules are best summarized by, "Look but don't touch." We wandered around, exploring the beach to make a basic photo plan for when I returned. After following the weather for the week, I determined the next morning offered the best chance of some sunrise clouds. On our drive out, we took the long loop to see the historical remnants of the plantation. At one stop, Donna got a bunch of pictures a large white egret just off the road. The man at the gate informed me that the gate would open at 6am.

The next morning at 4:15am I got up to make the hour plus drive over. I arrived first at the gate and it did not open until 6:30. By that time there was a long line of photographers waiting to enter with the same objective in mind. The large group behind me stopped at the marsh to catch the spectacular red sunrise reflection. I was sorely tempted, but knew if I stopped, I would miss what I came for. On to the beach! As predicted (I have a handy tide app on my phone), the tide was especially high resulting in quite a scramble over the downed trees to get into position. I really wanted to go further up the beach but time was running out so I picked a spot I had identified on the recon. I wore boots hoping that would suffice. Wrong. Should have brought the waders or waterproof foot ware. I could easily have gotten nearly waist deep to compose what I had in mind. But then how far does one want to risk going into the surf with a few thousand dollars of gear?

As always at sunrise, the light is fleeting and one must work fast and decisively. Especially considering that each exposure took 6 or 7 minutes to make. The only way to portray smooth water is to use a very dark filter to create the long exposure. You can't tell from this image, but the surf was one to two feet high as it crashed ashore. I had a new 10 stop ND just for this purpose. Compose. Take some test shots. Figure the exposure (there are apps for that). Attach the filter carefully without dropping it in the ocean. Check for spray on the lens. Shoot. Repeat. Before you know it, the sun is up, the tide is out and it is late morning already. It makes for a very exciting morning. Maybe next time I'll talk Donna into the early start to come along? Because this is one of those places you just have to return to.

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