Behind the Camera: ‘Surf’s Up’ – Porth Swtan/Church Bay, Anglesey


Sometimes it can be getting dark, but there’s still too much light.

That was the situation I found myself in last night when I rolled up at a local beach just as the sun was kissing the horizon. I knew that by the time I’d be setup I’d have missed the sunset so I decided to make the most of the red sky that my “Spidey weather senses” was predicting we’d get.

And I was right. By the time I’d scouted out a spot with some interesting foreground, midground and background elements in it, the sun had dipped below the horizon and the sky had started to pink up nicely.

I set up only inches above the ground, and right on top of where the water was lapping. I just love the face that my 3 Legged Thing Erica tripod (I can’t call the thing Eric, sorry, so I’ve added an “a”) can get so low to the ground – scarily low when you’d above lapping sea water!

Despite the fact that the sun had set on us for the day, it was still too bright to get a long exposure without using filters. Even slamming the aperture down to F16 – which I did to get a good depth of field – didn’t slow things much beyond a second, so I reached for my trusty Formatt-Hitech 6-stop Pro IRND filter (which is like my Lee Little Stopper except the Formatt-Hitech filter has two advantages over the Lee product – it is resin rather than glass so a lot less likely to explode into a billion expensive pieces, and it also filters out IR as well as visible light so I don’t get the crazy blue color cast).

The filter allowed me to keep the shutter open for 30 seconds, plenty of time to catch the water lapping over the rocks and seaweed, and it also reduced my post-processing time later by not messing with the colors as much.

As usual I got my feet wet taking this shot (I promise I’ve ordered some Muck Boots which claim to be able to accommodate my big calves … so once I have them I’ll no longer be complaining about my feet) but getting up close and personal to the water is part of the fun of these shots. Sure, I could set up the tripod at eye height and position myself ten feet away from the water, but that shot wouldn’t be anywhere near as dramatic as one where the lens is less than a foot from the water.

Being this close to the water meant I couldn’t use my cable release safely in case it went for a swim, so to reduce camera shake I activated the 2-second delay on the camera, which worked fine. I also made sure that the tripod had a firm footing so as not to move during the shot.

How did I process this shot? Well, that’s a bit more involved so I’ll leave that for a later post – I’m just off out to take some more photos now!

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