It’s all about the Lines : Scripps Pier, San Diego

The clouds are back in town and as a landscape photographer, I couldn’t feel happier! I’m picking up from where I left in my last post, and this time, the focus is on lines. Why lines? I’ll get to that shortly. A lot of times, you would have planned ahead, looking at tide charts, or thinking of interesting compositions, sometimes even visited the scene the previous day and so on and so forth. However,  the shot that awaits you when you reach the place on the day of the shoot, is almost invariably different compared to what you had in your mind. Once again, I repeat, a good photograph is not taken, but made.

So, you are left with two options then. I do know some photographers, who are very very picky. Unless the conditions are perfect for their shot, they will not take it! They’ll come back on another day. I truly salute their perseverance and single minded resolve. However, sometimes, you can get lucky if you stick around and try to use the conditions around you. For instance, let me tell you the story of this shot. I had started planning for this one three days in advance. I had looked up the tide charts, sunset times, where exactly the sun would set and also where to park! On the day of the shoot, I used the pier camera for looking at how shallow the tide was and how the light would impact the sand. Everything was in order, and I was quite thrilled that I would actually be able to pull the shot off.

Enter two couples on a wedding engagement shoot. Yes, not one but TWO, on the same day! Add two more assistants to carry fans and flashes. To this concoction, add some thick clouds blocking the sun completely and finally add all the kelp you can find to garnish. A perfect recipe for disaster. I could have just said “Exit, stage left” and returned another day, but something told me that there was a good shot waiting in the wings. My original idea, was to use the reflective sand on the shore to mirror the sky and the pier and I had planned a composition using that. The clouds though, had ensured that the sand wouldn’t be as reflective as I wanted them to be. So when you are thrown a curveball, what do you do? Sunset was 10 minutes away, and I had to think fast. Plan B then! I decided to use the waves as foreground interest and then use the lines they generate to lead the eye in. There was a small hitch in Plan B as well. I honestly believe that a huge ship had docked on shore and dumped all the kelp available in the Pacific right on the shore and then taken off. I couldn’t find a patch of sand that was free from kelp!

My iPhone isn’t too good with high dynamic range 😉

What you see here is Plan C. I decided not to use any of the sand as part of the shot. Instead, I focused on using the waves, the pier and the sky. It was not the ideal composition, but it was the best available that day. Meanwhile, the two wedding photographers were furiously clicking away behind me and the assistants were using the fans like TV antennas. Right then, the setup. When you don’t have any foreground interest in a shot, you can create some by just shooting from a lower angle. I set the tripod up quite low, almost splaying its legs on the sand. Next, the shot itself. I strayed away from the conventional rules of composition, although the pier ends on one of the rule of thirds intersections. I placed the horizon almost on the center of the frame and then just waited. I wanted the sun to peep through the clouds, and secondly, I needed the waves to line up properly. Both these things had to happen simultaneously.

It’s often a case of trial and error, but if you know what you want from the shot, things get a lot easier. It took a couple of takes, but I finally had the shot I needed. The sun looked through the clouds and the waves lined up quite nicely. Once I had the shot canned, I raised my hat to the two assistants who were still diligently holding the fans and left.

In post, my goal was to bring out the experience of the place. I always try to convey the idea of how the place feels, as opposed to telling people this is how the place looks like. If I have made you feel like you were there in the scene, the waves flowing over your bare feet, a cool breeze wafting as the sun casts its last few gazes over the sea before calling it a day, then I have done my job.

Often, the tones you choose in an image, convey the mood of the scene. The tones here are hinting at the onset of twilight (NOT the movie by any stretch of imagination!), and the waves show the dynamic nature of the scene. The lines from the pier and the implied lines from the waves lead you to the clouds and the sun. Like I said, it’s all about the lines. Until next time, have a good one guys! Cheers.



Questions, comments, suggestions? Feel free to post below…

2 Responses to “It’s all about the Lines : Scripps Pier, San Diego”

  1. Lauri says:

    I love this shot, the colors are brilliant!

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