I walked right up to this scene on my way off the beach. The golden hour light was still coloring everything it touched, and luckily this was being front lit by those gold tones. My Treasures Found piece is a sight you might see (or one similar to it) just about any place along the beach. The shells were perhaps the best samples that a given beachgoer collected while on the beach. Since it is illegal to remove shells or any artifacts (and is punishable by a maximum fine of $470), folks apparently find and then put them on display. Particularly striking shells can be found exhibited in various patterns on driftwood or hung from palms like ornaments decorating tropical Christmas Trees. I liked the how these were placed as well as their colors. I also discovered a bonus while inspecting the image, but you probably won’t be able to spot the crab in the foreground (its camouflage is almost perfect).
I had been thinking about and searching for another spot in Botany Bay to watch a sunset. There is a fairly large open area facing West while viewing Jason’s Lake (in and around area nine on the driving tour map), but, having previously surveyed it, I didn’t care for any of the scenes at the lake surface because the background trees were too high. They were blocking the sun before any of the golden hour colors were available. On the map, the Middle Dike Road (which splits Jason’s Lake and the Upper Ponds) appeared to be worthy of closer inspection. Before leaving Botany Bay that morning, I walked the road with a compass to determine what the scenes looked like to the West. It didn’t look very good since West was too far right and the tall, close trees would hide the sun.
Some thunder storms had come through Edisto Beach between four and five that afternoon, and the trailing clouds were keeping the sun well covered. But when looking West from the dock behind our cabin, a little after 6:30, I saw that the sun was starting to break through. At that point, I decided to roll the dice, get over to Botany Bay, and see how things were shaping up. I parked at the Beehive Well (which is area 12 on the driving tour map), gathered my gear, and hurried out onto the dike. When I got to the open area, I discovered that the sun was actually setting even further to the right and was completely blocked by the trees. I wasn’t ready or willing to give up on the scene though and hoped that maybe the setting sun would light things up enough to get some color in the sky.
While waiting for some improvement to the West, I looked the other direction and was excited to see nicely lit clouds, water reflections, and good color on the horizon. I used the flora along the road for the foreground of my Jason’s Lake piece. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the suggestion from other landscape photographers to turn around and see what is happening behind you, but I’m glad I remembered their advice. That worked out perfectly in this situation. I would have missed a very nice opportunity if I hadn’t at least taken a couple of minutes to see if anything else in the vicinity was better than what I planned.
As the colors, clouds, and light to the East began to fade, I moved my gear and set up to compose westward again. For my Upper Ponds piece, I had exactly what I originally hoped for with the sun lighting up the clouds and nice reflections. I used the cordgrass patches and the edge of the water as leading lines that carry you through the frame and into the background. Even though the sun was completely hidden by the trees, it threw enough light on the remaining afternoon storm clouds to create a nice scene. The light show was short lived, but had some spectacular moments (especially in the sky above the trees blocking the sun).
With plenty of golden hour light remaining after getting off the beach the morning of day six, I drove down the driving tour road looking for possible macro subjects. We had a fairly warm late winter that continued into spring and that caused lots of early blooms. While most of the spring flowers had already bloomed, I was able to find some that were reasonably fresh.
I found the false dandelion in my Tubes piece beside Mrs. Pepper’s Oak near the edge of Picnic Pond (which is area eight on the driving tour map). Composing at two times life-size combined with close proximity to the subject results in an extremely shallow depth of field, which helps create a sense that the tube-like structures fall away into a sparkly mist.
Picnic Pond Flower is close to being a vertical companion to Tubes. It is the same flower, but the distance to the subject has been increased. I often create both a horizontal and vertical version for a piece (especially when the subject permits it), which allows both orientations to be available.
I discovered the flower in my Sea Cloud piece beside fencing that completely surrounds the ruins of the Sea Cloud Plantation (which is area eleven on the driving tour map). The map information states that the builder (Ephraim Mikell Seabrook) attached the Sea Cloud name to the property in 1825. It was apparently quite elegant with a ballroom that spanned the entire third floor and gardens both in the front and back of the house. A foundation and some walls are all that remain. I don’t know if anyone has knowledge of what was grown in the gardens, and I’m not sure what type of flower this is, but, while composing, I thought that it would be neat if it was something that once grew there.
The false dandelion in Untrue was also composed at the Sea Cloud Plantation. There was a patch of them about 25 feet or so from the fence where the subject in Sea Cloud was found. This flower is obviously in a different stage of life than the subject discovered at Picnic Pond since it has what appears to be open mouths at the end of crusty, coated stems (perhaps with pollen) that have emerged from the tube-like structures. I decided to put the point of focus on the stems because they were quite interesting all by themselves. I love exploring at the macro level – you just never know what you’re going to find.
When the sky has clouds like those in my Sunup piece, I will work scenes as long as possible. The sun had risen above the horizon, but there were so many clouds that you can just barely see it. Which led to some very nice golden hour colors in the sky and from the reflections off the wet sand. The additional available light allows for much more detail on the beach itself and on the trees and their root systems.
The foreground tree in my Weathered composition provides another example of how tough the trees on the Botany Bay beach are. With more light allowing additional detail on the tree to be seen, you can tell just how battered, torn, and worn it is. Several aesthetic decisions regarding placement went into this: first, I put the camera in a position to where the foreground and middleground trees wouldn’t touch each other (they come close, but I needed some room on the left hand side to keep that tree from leaving the frame); secondly, I put the sun within the V shape of the middleground tree (it’s hard to see exactly where it is due to all the clouds blocking it); and finally my goal was to maximize the amount of color in the sky and from the reflections off the wet sand.
With even more light available for Wave Reaction, a faster shutter speed could be used. That allowed the waves to be active and not quite so smooth. My favorite part of this piece is one of those serendipitous things that happen every once in a while. There is a bird in the sky above the branches on the right-hand side. I did not know that it was there until I processed the image. I’ve written in previous posts about how much I enjoy those little surprises.
My Golden Morning piece has the golden hour colors on full display. They have taken over nearly the entire palette. Even the dry sand has a gold tone. I love watching nature paint. When you compare the first piece in this post (which is the same group of trees) to this, the difference is incredible. And Mother Nature recolored everything and changed the light dispersion by altering the clouds in only twenty minutes.
I walked all the way down to the other end of Botany Bay beach to compose Alternative View. When arriving at the beach from the trail, I normally went left, but this is right and all the way down. I was curious about what was on the other side, and since I had lots of remaining golden light, I searched for other possible subjects. I was attracted to this tree by how many limbs and branches it has (especially some of the thinner limbs). I also liked how the sky above the tree had a wavy, bumpy look that was similar to the waves coming into the beach.
After the day five equipment issues, I was more than ready to get back on the beach. I’m not sure what I missed the morning of day five, but let’s just say that the magic light Mother Nature provided this morning helped make up for it.
I mentioned in a previous post how much I liked this tree. My Beach King piece is my favorite from all of the works created at the beach. Everything came together for this one. The sky is absolutely gorgeous, the reflections off the wet sand, the blues in the water, and the amount of available light on the tree itself. I love how textures and colors can be seen on the limbs and trunk. The fantastic colors in the sky come from a lower intensity light which allowed the tree to retain more detail against it.
With the muted, less intense colors, additional detail can be seen on the tree in my Pastel Beach composition as well. I like how the striations in the clouds above the subject are similar to the bare areas in the reflections of the wet sand. And how the shadows in the wet sand reflections create a path (almost like a leading line) that facilitates exploration of the entire frame.
The horizontal branches among the group of trees in Snarled are literally wrapped around each other. I wondered if they had undergone some type of a fierce natural event (e.g., like a tornado or a hurricane) when they were young and then they just continued to grow that way.
As the sun got closer and closer to the horizon, the intensity of the light picked up. It also started to paint farther up into the sky. I decided to compose Coastal Sky vertically so that the additional colors above the tree could be included. I love how fragmented (and almost bumpy) the colors in the top layer appear to be (especially since the foreground layer on the beach with all the shells has a similar texture).
I believe that Fitzharris extolled the colors of twilight in one of his photography books. To utilize those colors in the sky and place them where I wanted in relation to the tree, my Predawn composition had to break a rule (i.e., I let middleground objects leave the frame). Photography in general, and especially landscape photography (where you don’t have control over many of the variables that determine an outcome), is all about tradeoffs. In this case, one artistic decision outweighed another. I also feel that as long as you are OK with the choice, it was the right thing to do.
For those of you that have been following my Edisto Beach posts, you probably noticed that day four is missing. There is a simple explanation for that. Botany Bay is closed one day a week. I used that day to scout, hang out, relax, and do some vacation stuff. Nothing created during that time made the cut so there is no day four entry.
I was prepared and ready for day five though. I had checked the status of my battery the night before and the camera indicated that it was full. I learned a valuable lesson the morning of day five: ALWAYS carry a backup battery. I can’t explain what happened because my camera was off and the auto shut off is set for three seconds, but when I got on the beach the morning of day five and set up my first shot, nothing happened. The camera was completely dead. I was initially confused because I knew that the battery was full the night before. I thought maybe something horrible had happened to the camera and it had died. I couldn’t do anything and wasn’t able to create a single composition. The only thing I could do was pack up and go back to the cabin. The first thing I did was to take the battery out and put it on the charger. To my dismay, the charger indicated that it was completely run down. I brought two batteries with me, but I wasn’t even carrying the backup and it hadn’t been charged. I read that letting a battery drain down without using it will shorten life expectancy so I wasn’t charging both of them at the same time – until that morning. After the suspect battery had some juice back in it, I took it off the charger and put it back in the camera. The camera came to life immediately with nothing apparently wrong with it at all. Which was both a relief and a concern. On the one hand, there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with the camera, and, on the other, I had just experienced a battery going completely dead from a full charge overnight. I took the battery back out and put it on the charger until it was full. Then I charged my backup until it was full. From that day forward, I’ve carried two batteries that are both charged.
The morning of day five was spent charging batteries. I talked to Clarence after my battery fiasco, and if I hadn’t already made up my mind to carry two fully charged batteries, he would have convinced me. First, he told me that he had experienced the same thing on more than one occasion. And, secondly, he informed me how good the clouds were at the beach when I didn’t have any power.
After lunch, with full batteries, I returned to Botany Bay. As I wasn’t completely satisfied with the sky in previous attempts, I used the circular polarizer for my Churchlike piece. That brought out the color saturation in the blues and greens.
For my Beach Reflection composition, I made the artistic decision to utilize the chaotic nature and twisted limbs of the silhouetted tree. By zooming in, I was able to extend it to the sides of the frame. Though the area of wet sand in the foreground was reduced, it still offered plenty of the spectacular reflections. Since this was created before sunrise, the sky has the same fantastic coloring as the other work in this series. Getting closer also enhanced the single available cloud by increasing the visual interest it provides. This quickly became one of my favorite pieces from the beach.
I loved how battle worn the silhouette in my Bristled piece looked. The sharp angles and jagged lines immediately give you a feeling of how tough it is to be beaten by the water, wind, and sand day after day after day. Yet it resiliently stands tall even with most of the base of its root system exposed. The rough appearance is enhanced by my choice of shutter speed and the nearly cloud free sky. Because the majority of the composition is smooth, the coarse texture becomes amplified when viewed against it. The gorgeous colors reflecting off from the wet sand and water surface helps counter any harshness and bring the two opposing concepts into a peaceful balance.
The beach quickly became busy with photographers and, in most circumstances, I was able to clear them from a scene by reframing the composition. In some cases, depending on their position, I had to abandon my artistic vision completely. To help avoid that, I continued to move up the beach to new areas that I hadn’t yet been to. The silhouette in my Toppled piece can be seen in the middleground and background of several other images from this series. As this was created before the sun was above the horizon, it shares the same magic light colors.
The subjects in my Wavy piece are near the far end of where trees can be found along the beach. Though close to making its first appearance, the sun was still below the skyline. I love how the shadows formed in the reflections off of the wet sand. Because I composed this vertically, a few more of the thin, wispy clouds were available and provide additional character to the sky. There was also just enough light to where the trees weren’t completely dark against the much lighter background which allows for some color and surface texture to be seen.
I was right back in the line of photographers setting in their cars waiting for the gate to open at Botany Bay on the third morning. There is a little trail just to the right side of the gate that allows you to get past it. With a flash light or head lamp, you can easily walk up to the station, get the paperwork required for access to the site, take it back to your car, fill it out, and then return the necessary portion before the gate opens. On the way back to my car, I stopped at the vehicle directly in front of mine and met Clarence Holmes, a photographer out of New York who had been shooting along the coast as he trekked back to his home base. While there wasn’t as many photographers as the previous day, it still felt like we were in a competition to get to the beach first so that one could claim their preferred spot on it.
With sparse clouds and the sun not yet above the horizon, the colors in my Gold Beach piece were fantastic. I especially liked the golds on the wet sand of the shore and being reflected off the surface of the water. The oranges in the sky and the pinks closer to the skyline were equally attractive. I also liked how the silhouette of the tree breaks up the smoothness of the sky. Though the center of the tree is close to the left one third line, using the rule of thirds, I made the aesthetic decision to pull it over to the left a little to increase the space to the right and decrease it by the same amount on the left.
Shimmering Sand is close to being a horizontal companion to Gold Beach. They both feature the same tree and gorgeous colors. However, the perspective was changed. More of the thin cloud was included and the tree itself is further into the middleground. While not perfectly balanced (i.e., it is a bit heavier on the right side), I decided to place it fairly close to the center to allow the foreground stumps on both the left and right sides to be pulled into the frame. That aesthetic decision also made the tree feel more isolated and lonely. That being said, the reflections off the wet sand are the reigning super stars in this piece.
Morning Beach was also composed before sunrise, and, once again, my main aesthetic desire was to capture the colors reflecting off the wet sand. That goal drove several other artistic decisions including the tree group placement (both horizontally and vertically). While Mother Nature only gave us a couple of thin clouds to provide additional visual interest in the sky, she did nicely light them.
At the close of the second day, I returned to Botany Bay and drove along the driving tour looking for a suitable place to watch the sun go down. I pulled off the road and drove a few yards up a two track trail between areas seven and eight. I scouted the area along a bank and felt that it would work. For my Marsh Sunset piece, I used cordgrass as the foreground along with some limbs and Spanish moss. The background trees were a bit close to catch the sun in the frame while filling the sky with golden hour light. In fact, as it descended past the trees, the colors just weren’t exciting enough. That said, there is a reason why you don’t pack up and go home simply because the sun sets or drops below the background. I waited for the magic light colors to emerge and fill the sky with oranges and yellows and the gaps among the trees with reds and purples. That also enabled those same colors to be reflected off the surface of the water in the marsh. Additionally, it allowed more water to continuously flow in and raise the level high enough to where the entire foreground could reflect the gorgeous blues in the sky (prior to that, whole sections were just dark black). I paid for it though. The darker it got, the more sand gnats (or no-see-ums) found me very tasty. I must have killed 100 or more just on my arms and they even tried to get in my nose.
There was still a little bit of golden hour light left as I came past the jungle area I wrote about in a previous post. After pulling the car off the road and surveying the scene, I knew that I had to create a few more images from that spot. I opted for a composition that included much more of the foreground water for my Jungle Reflections piece. That aesthetic decision allowed fantastic details to be captured along with the lush greens and warm, earth tones. The various layers and the complexity that the reflections added heightened my excitement as I took in the scene through the camera’s view finder.