Behind the Camera: ‘Chaos Theory’ – Poth Swtan, Anglesey


I like taking shots of things that are moving in what seems to be a chaotic manner. Here everything that isn’t made of rock is moving … the sun is moving, the water is moving, the clouds are moving, the little bits of foam are moving, and above all, the light is moving.

Then they all arrange themselves into the visual equivalent of a poem, the shutter opens and closes, and then they return to their chaotic movement! This is what I love about photography.

With this shot I had to get close to the water – OK, into the water – and get the camera low down so as to give me the best angle on the surf and rocks, while also giving me a good view of the sky. This means being prepared to get wet while at the same time working to keep the camera from falling in to the sea. Sand is soft, and as the waves go in and out, the tripod sinks in, which not only shifts the composition and can ruin long exposures, but also destabilizes the tripod. If you become distracted because you’re faffing about trying not to get wet (or freaking out because you are wet), this is when your camera gets a chance to go for an expensive swim. Remember, you can dry off a lot easier (and cheaper) than your camera can!

I shot this at F22 not only because I wanted pin-sharp detail front to back, but also because I wanted to show down the shutter speed to get a slight sense of motion. I could have used filters but there was a fair bit of surf and sand blowing about (this was shot in February, and while the sun looks warm and appealing, it was actually cold and blustery and the sand was whipping at my skin and eyes) so it was easier to keep my lens clean than it was to keep a filter clean.

But F22 does bring up a couple of problems in post. First, it shows up dust on the lens and camera sensor, especially in areas of blue sky. This means time with the spot-healing tool in Lightroom. Another problem is that closing down the aperture like that softens the image a little, but because the only thing we want pin sharp here are the rocks, it’s nothing that a little sharpening can’t fix.

With this shot what I did was set my camera to bracket exposures (+1 stop, normal, and -1 stop) and then fire away with a cable release. A lot. It’s almost impossible to catch everything in the right spot, so I stand there (with wet feet) pressing the button and trust that Mother Nature will arrange things just right. Most of the time she does.

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