Eastham is on Cape Cod, a place where a major portion of my youth, (and adult life), was spent. Today I still return there to the family home, to the beaches and favorite haunts. Now, instead of carrying a surf rod searching for summer Blues and Striped Bass in the waves of the ocean side beaches, I carry a camera. Cape Cod through my lens I hope brings someone closer to the outer beach, the dune grass and the lifestyle that is Cape Cod. Patti Page sang it in her song “Old Cape Cod” and Henry Beston said it in the words of the Outermost House. (I firmly believe this should be required reading for anyone having been to or planning a trip to the Cape). I was maybe ten years old, when we made the sojourn, on foot of course, through the sand to see the Outermost House – where Beston spent a year writing in the peaceful solitude of the Dunes of Coast Guard Beach. A few years later the great raging tempest – the Blizzard of ’78 – tore his small one room shack from its foundations carrying out into the depths of the Atlantic.
When I am “on Cape”, each morning in the cool air I venture out to capture the first rays of light creeping over the eastern horizon. The Cape is waking up, the lapping waves in the salt ponds, crashing surf at Nauset, the feel of the morning cold held by beach sand. All of these things bring inspiration. I find my images down long forgotten roads that I once travelled by bicycle and in later years by car. This morning I passed by the Young Windmill and then crossed the Orleans Rotary by only a hundred yards to turn down onto Collins Landing. A unique place that nobody other than locals would stop to visit. This is the Southern end of Town Cove. Leaving here, small boats travel North past Hopkins Island and around Snow Point into Nauset Harbor and then the Atlantic Ocean. Here lobstermen and clam diggers working for private clients and local restaurants keep their boats. If it is a half tide, halfway between high and low, biting sand flies keep me swatting, while making camera adjustments – that is just part of the experience.
This one morning the sky was clear of clouds – featureless and devoid of character. The normal sunrise, although brilliant in light and color would still be humdrum and plain. How do I make the shot and hold the viewers interest? Closing my eyes to full experience the other senses of smell, hearing, and touch, I noted the stillness of the place. Stillness does not have the motion of the sunrise breeching the perceived barrier of the horizon. I did not need the sun at all, were my first thoughts.
Small boats abound – my subject was everywhere! I did not need the sun, so I would not show it! A small boat on the water the camera tilted down slightly would eliminate the horizon. That would simplify my composition – the viewer would not be confused by multiple “targets” in the frame. I would position the small boat on the right of the frame to match the direction of the sun coming up creating positive space with just a touch of negative space to stop the viewer’s movement through the frame. Now, composition chosen – time to work the settings. I chose ISO 400 in the dim light conditions. It also allowed me to use a smaller aperture and higher shutter speed as ISO400 is far more sensitive to light than my normal ISO100.
Next, I wanted to increase the warmth in the image – White Balance is one of the answers to this. Telling my camera that I am shooting in a light that is slightly more blue in color will force the camera’s internal computer to add yellows and reds to the image to correct the perceived lighting difference – I choose set my WB to 7500° K. Next, I placed Singh-Ray’s LB Color Intensifier on my lens. The camera would add some orange hues by my change in the white balance and would not be affected by the filter. It would affect the subtle blues of the water and aid the contrast within the boat. I wanted a moderate depth of field – I did not need a deep depth of field as I was only concerned with getting the boat in focus. My selection was f10, now in the manual mode, all I needed to do was meter and under expose by using the shutter speed, while checking my LCD to get the image I wanted. Shooting below 1/60 of a second would introduce some camera shake into the image without the use of a tripod. This gave me my slowest allowable speed.
I had it quickly and then began to use other boats in composition, but time and time again, I came back to this scene.
The image was cropped to 16×32 in post processing to align more with the long landscape feel of the image. The final image was sharpened slightly as well.
Final settings: ISO400, f10, 1 / 125, 7500°K white balance
Mr. Wilson: very nicely done. And very well-written. I really appreciate the details of your decision-making, start to end — your essay is very instructive. Thank you for sharing with us.