Simplifying the scene…


5:17:33 a.m.

Simplifying the elements of a scene is always important, and when the weather doesn’t cooperate by providing the anticipated magical light, it becomes even more critical. Over my shoulder there was “almost” some nice first light, but a frontal system had stalled just offshore long enough to dull any chance of a dramatic sunrise. So, instead of warm pinks, yellows and reds lighting up those dappled overhead clouds, I had to settle for the deep pre-dawn blues of what was actually a cold, spring morning.

As soon as I arrived here, I knew immediately that I wanted to make the round boulders the star of this scene. In the second photograph I splayed the legs of my tripod out as far as I could and tried to get as close to the ground as possible. By doing so I was able to place greater emphasis on those beautiful smooth rocks which seemed to stretch forever. In both I liked how the classic Maine treeline and crescent shaped cove help to subtly frame the scene, and I don’t mind how the low-tide line and trees are silhouetted.

In the first photograph above, a longer exposure (80 seconds) added the effect of a little movement in the clouds (which I like), and in the second photograph we see a more traditional rendering of what were billowing and textured clouds. I think both of these are rather simple compositions… rocks, shoreline, trees and sky. I’d be curious about your thoughts on either of these compositions…

5:31:29 a.m.


28 thoughts on “Simplifying the scene…

  1. Skip

    The early bird gets the photos! I like both compositions. I believe you made the right choice in the longer exposure for the wider shot. The movement in the clouds fits well with the wider spread of more and smaller (visually) rocks. The sharper clouds in the second shot just seem to go better with the closer, larger rocks.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Skip. I always enjoy the surprise of discovering what a long exposure turns out like, and I did like this one. Either way… love those rocks!

  2. I love them both, but prefer the first. For some reason I can’t define I always seem to prefer the “landscape” shape to the “horizontal” (not sure what that is in English as my computer is in Spanish!).

    I live on the east coast of an island, and sunrise is my favorite time of day. I often just sling my camera over my shoulder when I walk my dog in the morning (as opposed to the days when I go out specifically to take photos), and only recently learned (duh!) that there is beauty and interest in the days when I don’t see the sun coming up too.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Linda. Whether the sun makes an appearance or not, I do love that time of day when we get the first light. I’m usually drawn more to “portrait” oriented photographs – something to do with what’s in the foreground, though in this case I really do like the wider perspective of the “landscape” shot.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Michael. There wasn’t much wind and everything was incredibly still… fast becoming one of my favorite times of day also.

  3. David. Personally I like the second photograph better. I like how the rocks in the forefront are defined and give a place for my eye to start its journey through your photo. I would have liked to seen the second one in landscape mode. I like the juxtaposition between the clouds and rocks in the second photo as well… you really see the definition and separation between each cloud as well as inbetween each rock.

    I wonder how it would look if you raised the temperature of the photo? I am not in the majority, where the blue does not do it for me… the photo looks like there is too much of it.

    There are my two cents.

    • David Patterson

      Chad… thanks for the thoughtful suggestions. The effect of the wide angle lens in the portrait-oriented version definitely accentuates the foreground rocks. Much of the definition in the foreground rocks is based on being able to tip the camera down. I’m not sure I can achieve a similar effect (get as close to the rocks) and maintain a pleasing composition with the camera turned ninety degrees. Hmmmm… maybe I should have made several frames in portrait orientation and then stitched them together to create a wider view – one that still has the more “defined” rocks in the foreground?

      I hear you on the impact of the “blue” color. As soon as I arrived and saw all of those rocks I knew that they would be reflected as blue while the pre-dawn light strengthened. As I usually do, I had the camera WB temperature set to 5500 degrees (daylight), and believe me… the scene took on the blue cast of cooler light. As you suggested, I tried warming the temperature of the RAW file up a bit, but I find that it just doesn’t work for me. All personal preferences in play here of course, though maybe I’ll go back again and take another look at dialing the blue back a bit.

      Again… thanks for the two cents… much appreciated πŸ™‚

  4. Luke Heikkila

    Very nice detail within the rocks. I took some photos of rocks (usually included my foot) while I was walking through the endless supply of rocks in Afghanistan. None of them turned out as well as your do, but there’s so much going on in a rock bed. Shadows, shapes, colors…I dig it.

  5. Those blues are gorgeous.
    The streaking sky in the first one is striking, especially that sumptous deeper blue over the water. There is a lovely tension that pulls the image together and holds your eye.

    • David Patterson

      Mirze… thanks. That first one was literally the first composition I made that morning. Funny how that tends to happen.

  6. I like both but prefer the vertical framing best. I feel vertical framing provides more of a 3D effect to draw the viewer in. The close-up rocks, with their shapes and soft colors, are attractive and get more emphasis. They also establish a pattern which is repeated more clearly in the sky when the shorter exposure is used.

    Thanks for sharing your images!

    • David Patterson

      Russ… thanks for the insightful comment. Normally I get drawn to portrait-oriented compositions. I think it has something to do with the ability to place something of interest in the foreground. Glad I shot both ways though πŸ™‚

  7. David,

    I’ve been looking at these photos for a couple of days trying to decide which I like better and why. I guess I like elements of both, and sort of wish they were combined. I like the texture of the clouds in the first photo, and the over all hue, but the color-sameness of the rocks in the foreground (once I looked at the second photo) seem to blend too well with that of the sky and over-all color cast. The second photo, with the closer view of rocks in the foreground, provide ever so slightly more color and texture, which I think would counterpoint nicely with #1’s clouds. #2’s rocks pick up slightly more orange/pink – opposite the color wheel of the predominantly blue cast – plus the texture of the stones is a pleasing contrast.

    Such discreet differences, though. You photos are always fantastic – asking us to decide between them is very difficult.

    • David Patterson

      Rick… thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback. I totally get where you’re coming from, and in hindsight I wish I’d thought to try and combine the elements you spoke of together! Oh well… just have to go back again and keep trying πŸ™‚

  8. With images like this, you should never have regrets. I completely admire your sense of composition and technique. But I suppose it’s like the practice room for a musician – the musician never feels like he/she has ever done enough.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Rick. I obviously enjoy returning to places like this again and again. Never the same, I think I can enjoy each visit – and photograph – as a separate experience, but I understand and appreciate your comparison. PS. I enjoyed reading about Joe… sounds like he was a fierce friend.

  9. Stunning blue photos, David! My favorite is the last, because here is calm in the sky, and because here the beautiful rocks are highlighted in front of the picture.

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