The image had been forming in my mind over seven days.
Monday 16 January’s sky was huge. Six in the evening and it was obvious we were in for something special. I like to get to the coast if I can for big skies. I’d also been thinking of capturing an image of the old Pylons at Princes Pier, Port Melbourne. For a while.
When I arrived there it was obvious many others had the same idea. One might think it easy to compose a spectacular shot at this location. Many have been taken. I’m yet to find a composition there that I could really feel satisfied with. The sky came alive big time around one minute past Nine. That might have been twenty minutes after sunset. For about a minute. A few shots were banked, but that’s not really today’s story.
While I was in the area I was quite taken by the simple beauty of the “Front Light” at Beacon Cove (right next door to Princes Pier). A couple of shots were stored and then I moved on to the Pier itself. That’s where all the tripods were clustered after all!
But reviewing the pics afterwards I found myself drawn more to pure simplicity of an old beacon than complexity of hundreds of pylons pointing skyward. Not that those pylons aren’t interesting. Just that the sky, itself, was so amazing. So last week’s mistake was following the tripods, and not staying right where I was. I need to be more instinctive.
During the week another image formed in my mind. What would the lonely beacon look like with an extra long exposure backed by dark / stormy sky. The idea with long exposure is to simplify the water to… smoothness. And also to create some “drift” in a sky. It’s a trick that works especially well in poorer weather when the light is softer, maybe when there’s less interference from shadows.
I didn’t have to wait too long to find out because the evening of Monday 23rd saw some serious heavy clouds all over. The atmosphere was positively pregnant with rain when I reached the location wishing I’d left work earlier. Sporadic drops fell. Set up would have to be very quick. So many times it seems to take hours to reach a location. But often you only get a handful of perfect minutes to get the shot.
But I’d been there one week before, knew exactly where the tripod would go and had pre-visualised the composition. Had an idea about all the exposure parameters. Focus. etc. So it all came together very quickly like this:
a) Position tripod; camera on; make sure 100% level; get it focussed; switch to manual focus so the focus can’t change; attach lockable remote release cable to camera;
b) Set camera in manual mode and set aperture to F16 and ISO to base of 100. Meter light. Camera suggests 1/6s.
c) Attach ND1000 filter to camera and immediately commence exposure (lock the remote release); no time to waste with maths;
d) Grab phone and set timer for 5 minutes (following instinct). Now divide 6 into 1000 and think = 166 seconds => about 3 minutes. Consider: do I follow the pure maths or instinct? It’s getting darker by the minute. Rain could come soon. There might not be another chance to go longer. Stick with five minutes.
e) Lens cloth comes out and is used to very gently wipe the occasional rain drop from the filter.. gently so as not to shift the camera. Try to shield the camera from rain. Should have had an umbrella.
f) End exposure after five minutes and have a look. Wow, it’s sharp. Histogram view.. balanced in the middle… nothing clipped… !
Rain is coming. Camera goes back in the bag. Image (raw file) finds its way to Light Room. The simplicity of this location can be presented in so many different ways. There are simply so many different ways to crop and process. Here I’ve shared only one of them, my favourite for the time being, but maybe, another day, will be another, and maybe more still!
(Captured with Sony RX1Rii ISO100 F16 307s)