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Outpost by londonxpress Outpost by londonxpress

I would like to dedicate this piece to two artists on DA who I have learned a lot from in the past couple of months. Through their work they have introduced me to a new style of photography and I hope to add my own twists to it over the coming months.


I've had a few people ask why I don't allow comments - and given the content of my recent journals I thought I should explain before I look like a hypocrite! I always like to respond to feedback that I receive - and I'm always grateful when I have the time to reply to each person, even if it is a generic message. But as school has moved on that has become more difficult to do. I reached a point last year when I was spending too much time replying to my own work - I was missing out on the work of others which was the main reason why I joined this site. I'd rather be commenting on work that doesn't belong to me and learning through the creations of other artists. But, and this is a big 'but' - I still like to receive feedback. As a photographer I still have a lot to learn and I'd really like to hear what you think of my work. If you have any critiques please send me a note - I'd be more than happy to read it and consider your ideas / input!

The Location

This photograph was taken at my favourite spot in Nova Scotia: Scots Bay which lies on the western shoreline of Cape Split. I've captured the remains of wharfs and piers on the northern part of the beach, but have never hiked south. A couple of months ago I found the remains of a larger structure that is farther out on the flood plains. Because of the distance from shore the original height of the structure must have been quite high to clear the high water line (roughly 14 meters). All that remains of this site are a series of posts which stand no more than 4 feet high. Given the number of remains scattered along the beach it is safe to say that Scots Bay was once a major shipping / boat building center for the Annapolis Valley area of Nova Scotia.

The Photo

In comparison to other coastal shots that I've captured this was the hardest to catch. I have spent months trying to photograph these posts at the right moment, but shifting tides and changing weather have never cooperated. I use a series of tide charts provided by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and weather information from Environment Canada. I had traveled to the beach last Friday as high tide was supposed to hit at 1:00PM. Because these posts are about 100ft from the tip of the beach and 15ft below the high tide line I knew that the only time I could capture them with water moving around their base was three hours before or after high tide. I arrived at the beach at 9:00AM and set off for the hike - wanting to get their early so that I could take some test shots in order to find the right exposure. Because of a weekend storm moving in on the Bay of Fundy the tide was coming in faster and higher than predicted. What was supposed to be a 11.5 meter high tide turned into a 13.5 meter high tide. I had missed my window of opportunity by about 30 minutes.

I decided to make another trip on Saturday, and arrived at the beach around 9:30AM in order to give myself some extra time. High tide was going to hit 13.5 meters again but it wouldn't happen until 1:50PM so I was feeling confident. By the time I hiked to the location and set-up I had about an hour to figure out my framing / exposure. It was fun to watch the sand pipers fly along the beach - I was even treated to some female bald eagles! To make the scene even more dramatic, a heavy fog bank moved in shortly after I arrived - creating a flat sky that would be perfect for the long exposure.

The following is a step-by-step process of how the photo was captured;

:bulletgreen: The first thing to do was find a suitable angle for the shot and prepare the camera. I had about an hour before the tide hit the support posts so there was plenty of time to take photographs and find the one that I liked the best. Once I found the angle I was looking for I set up my tripod and placed rocks around the legs to hold it in place. The waves were starting to pick up as the broke over the flats so I didn't want to take any chances.

:bulletgreen: The second thing to do was focusing. A key step is to find your focal point before you start to put filters on - it makes the process that much easier. I focused on the post to the far right and then hit the manual focus button on the lens so that any accidental push of the shutter release wouldn't change my focal point.

:bulletgreen: I decided not to use a polarizer this time - I wanted to have a nice shine to the surface of the water, something that would start to hide the detail of the rocks below and the subtle textures of the waves as they broke around the posts. Because of this I had to be careful about losing detail in the highlights as there was a lot of diffuse light reflecting off the surface of the water. I was able to take test shots before the water arrived in order to find the right exposure for the posts. With the filters that I was using the right time seemed to be 3 minutes and 30 seconds. As the water approached I took another test shot to meter for the reflections. Because the water changed the lighting conditions (reflecting more light than the sand and rocks of the flats) I had to compensate, reducing the final shutter speed to 3 minutes.

A tool that helped me in this situation was my camera's built in histogram (on the Canon 20D hit the info button twice when you are in the preview mode to view the tonal distribution of the photo. A great tutorial on histograms can be found here: [link]

While I'm not concerned with creating the 'perfect histogram', I've found that it is a useful tool when I'm out in the field and can't see the finer detail on my LCD. It's nice to have information in the highlights and shadows when you bring a photo into an editing program - because it is a flexibe image you have more to work with and can 'push' or 'pull' a photograph more without losing detail at the extremes.

:bulletgreen: The first filter attached to the lens was my ND400. This filter works to cut all available light - reflective and non-reflective. It has the ability to cut light to 1/500th of it's original intensity (allowing for longer exposures than the ND8x I've been using previously). The nice thing about an ND filter is that it gives you more control over your aperature / depth of field. Before I was using ND filters I had to stop my lenses down to f22 or higher in order to reduce the amount of light. A major problem that I was running into was lens diffraction: my depth of field was increasing, but the sharpness of my photos was decreasing. Although each lens is different, most wide angle lenses perform the best (in regards to sharpness) between f5.6 and f8.

:bulletgreen: The second filter to be mounted on the lens was a Hoya ND8x - less powerful than the ND400, but it works in the same manner. When I combine the two filters the amount of light blocked at any given moment is greater then when a single ND filter is attached.

:bulletgreen: The last step was to attach the TC-80N3 remote timer. I put the camera on full manual mode and set the aperature to f8. The remote timer allows you to step away from the camera when it is in bulb mode - controlling the shutter release on it's own. After test shots I programed the timer to open the shutter for 3 minutes.

Photoshop Work

Even though this was 3 minutes in length and the light coming through the lens was finite, there was virtually no noise present. The noise that did exist in the flat tones of the sky was quickly erased with Noise Ninja - a noise reduction program that can be found here;

I created a custom profile for noise reduction - an 8MP Canon 20D shooting for 3 minutes in monotone RAW. The rest is history.

The first step in Photoshop was to create a straight horizon - there was a slight angle to it. I created a second layer and used the Skew command and ruler guides to find the perfect line. The second step was to darken the detail in the posts to the left. Because the water was deeper at that particular point the waves crashing around them were stronger - obscuring the details and making it look as if that part of the frame was overexposed. I used the burn tool and burned the midtones at 5% intensity.

The final step involved resizing and sharpening. In the past I've used the basic 'Sharpen' command, but I've found that the 'Un-Sharp Mask' command gives better results. The edges are crisp, but they aren't as jagged as other sharpening options.


Canon EOS 20D | Canon 10-22mm | ISO 100 | f8 | Shutter: 3 minutes | Canon TC-80N3 Remote Timer | Hoya ND400 Filter | Hoya ND8x Filter | Manfrotto 190CL Tripod |
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Submitted on
September 12, 2006
Image Size
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