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).
After stopping at the marsh area for a couple of minutes, I hurried on to the beach. Although I wasn’t racing anyone to get there, a couple of other photographers had already beaten me to it. The twilight colors were just as spectacular as they had been all week. While composing Unspoiled, I thought about how lucky we are to have a state treasure like this that has gone so many years relatively untouched by human development. Earlier this year, I found out that the beach was closed indefinitely due to damage from Hurricane Matthew (apparently the beach trail bridge was destroyed). I hope all of the trees I photographed survived the storm, and I’d like to visit again sometime in the future.
While working new groups of subject trees, I was able to keep the fantastic reflections off the wet sand, colorful waves and reflections off the water, and gorgeous colors in the sky. The water levels at the beach vary from day to day, and I may have needed wading or hip boots to get to the spot I composed from for my Coastal Roots piece on any other morning. That’s one of the great things about returning to a location several times – you will likely have different conditions for your creations.
I was attracted to the scene in Choppy by the chaotic nature of the wood. As the sun got ever closer to the horizon, the golden tones continued to increase in the sky and reflect off from the water brought in by the waves. All of which raised my excitement level. I also love the twilight purples and the blues along the horizon and in the water.
As I saw this scene start to materialize, I grabbed my gear and literally ran to get into position. I love how the entire beach in my Color Wash piece is reflecting the golden hour colors. There is also a little serendipity at work here too as the foam from an earlier wave creates a somewhat serpentine leading line toward the sun. I specifically composed this so that the sun would be between two of the limbs, and, as a bonus, that created a feeling that the limbs are bowing to it like some type of primitive god.
While the subject tree in Boneyard is featured in other work from the beach, this composition is decidedly different. Most notably is the position of the tree in the frame and of the sun being clearly above the horizon. I love how the sun enhanced the reflection off of the wet sand, created a red toned path that fans out across the drier sand, and highlighted the shells/stones with a sparkle effect. As I inspected the image in the camera’s LCD monitor, it was yet another one that caused spontaneous, excited, chuckling. As I stood on the beach taking it all in, I was elated to have this as my final piece in the Botany Bay Beach Sunrise series.
The cabin check out time was later, so I used the morning of our final day to shoot on Botany Bay. I had been looking at the spot where Botany Bay Marsh was composed as I passed by it all week because I felt that, under the right conditions, a composition could be created. As you head toward the beach on the trail, this marsh is on your left. Since the scenes at the beach were normally much more enticing, it had been difficult to justify spending any time someplace other than the oceanfront (especially when most of the time the photographers were racing each other to get there). That changed with the twilight colors in the sky this morning. I was thrilled with the reflections off the water and the streaks in the sky. I didn’t stay long though, the beach was strongly pulling me with visions of what I was missing.
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).
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.
I was attracted to the scene in my Tree Mountain piece by the sheer size of the canopy this group of trees provide. Stepping back to take it all in, I was fascinated with how tall they were and by the width of the covered area. This is another section along the driveway close to the mansion. With the prolific Spanish moss filling in most of the gaps between the leaves, it felt and looked like the top of a small mountain.
The massive, beautifully adorned tree in Perimeter is at the edge of the side yard to the East of the mansion. Following the gravel road that runs beside it into the middleground of the frame will take you to a corner. If you then turned right, you would be on the Alexander Pond Trail. We saw several alligators and lots of birds from the start of that trail, across the bridge, and to the woods along the Rice Field Dike.
The magnificent tree in my Limbs composition is near the back edge of the yard behind the plantation mansion. I was struck by how massive the limbs were (they appear to be so long and heavy and pull down with such force that it causes them to arch as they come off the trunk). Some have been bent to where they nearly touch the ground. I loved the pattern they formed while flowing out and across the frame and how the leaves and Spanish moss provided both detail and color.
The tree in my Skyscraper piece is tall, majestic, and typical of the beauty that abounds throughout the plantation yards. I placed the subject in a location where the limbs support a visual journey through the frame. The background leaves add color and detail while the sweeping Spanish moss both softens and creates texture depending on movement and/or relative position.
Weightlifter features a tree that appears to be posing in a way reminiscent of a body builder showing off their arm muscles. Indeed, it made me consider the tremendous amount of mass that the trunk must be able to hold up. Most of the plantation trees appear to be small ecosystems that are capable of supporting other life (e.g., moss, ferns, vines, Spanish moss, lizards, and insects).
There is no ground for a point of reference in my Nature’s Awning piece because I couldn’t resist the scene when looking up into the tree limbs at this spot. I loved how the limbs flowed across the entire frame and shot out like a flash of lightening to ever smaller branches. I placed the main group of leaves and limb diagonally to bisect the frame. The Spanish moss and background leaves soften the fractal-like angles of the limbs and branches while adding color and texture. Given that the perspective is skyward and very little sky is visible in the background, it is easy to see how the trees can provide so much natural shade for the backyard.
The tree in my Plantation Monster piece has lots of character, and it almost feels scary or sinister. In my mind, that is due to what looks like an eye and sneering mouth that appear to form a tortured, screaming face from missing limbs. The dappled light helps reinforce that feeling as well. I immediately liked this tree, but it isn’t with the others that are near and around the house. It’s actually along the driveway that leads up to the mansion. I composed this on my way out just before we headed back to the cabin for lunch.
The tree in Behemoth feels nearly as menacing as my Plantation Monster piece, just in a different way. They both feature the same subject, and it was the first place I stopped on my way back into the plantation. The perspective I used captured the limbs coming out over the top of my head as if the thing was about to ensnare me. This tree has huge limbs (some bigger than the majority of trees on our property). I loved how they filled the frame and provided a sense of how large this big ‘ol boy is.
My artistic vision for Driveway Liners was to show a slice of the raw beauty one passes while on the plantation road. Indeed, the gravel drive is in the immediate middleground. I wondered how pretty the entrance and grounds were to visitors riding in a horse drawn buggy shortly after the mansion was constructed.
The tree in my Stately piece is another fine example of the alluring sights anyone on the driveway will pass. I decided to compose it in a way that would show the size (with limbs that stretch out far beyond the frame) while maintaining the tree’s majestic qualities (especially the Spanish moss streaking down from every limb and the patches of lush, green leaves). It’s hard to imagine owning land with a single tree this nice, let alone acres of them.
Yard Scene was composed on the West side of the mansion. My aesthetic goal was to simply capture the plantation’s picturesque side yard. Gorgeous trees, leaves, Spanish moss, grass, and lots of shade for those hot summer days – what more could anyone ask for from a yard?