Edward Mendes: Take Creative Control
I never get enough of the Big Sur coast in Central California; it’s just one of those amazing places where you can continue to make new photographs for a lifetime. This abundance of photographic opportunities is wonderful for me because this is one of my favorite places in the world and one that I come back to many times a year either for a family get-a-way or to teach photography workshops. The ever present possibility that another great image is right around the corner keeps each trip back to Big Sur as exciting as the my first.
On this particular trip I was scouting locations before the start of one of my workshops and decided to stop by what has quickly become one of my favorite locations along the coast. It’s a small but very beautiful sea arch that during the spring months receives the warm glow of the setting sun on its northern face, a fact that took me a few scouting sessions to discover. The previous week had been overcast but the cloud system that had draped the coast in dreary gray for days was finally starting to break up and my spirits were starting to lift. My excitement for the possibility of a sunset filled with colorful clouds and soft light on the north facing side of the arch was reaching a fever pitch.
As always I arrived well before sunset to scout the location and choose the best composition for the given conditions. On this particular day the sea wasn’t particularly rough but did have enough white caps to show the prominent patterns of the water if the exposure was just right. Images like this can be a bit tricky because an exposure to long and the water is a faint mist, to short and it doesn’t show movement. My goal with images like this is to strike a balance between illustrating the power of the sea and its elegant beauty. I made a number of exposures in both vertical and horizontal orientation trying to capture different wave action against the arch and the coastline; if memory serves me I believe the exposure for this image was about 8 seconds. Making things extra difficult were the high winds that would occasionally gust and shake the tripod; luckily my Manfrotto 055PROB is very solid so I was able to take away a few sharp images from the evening.
An important component in creating a successful image is thinking about the different elements that make up the scene and visualizing how you want those elements to look in the final image. Anyone can set their camera on “auto” and push the shutter but who’s really making the image? It’s these creative decisions that help to define you as an artist. When I’m in the field I’m visualizing the finished image, making creative decisions and using technical skill to do more than just capture what’s in front of my lens but to create something that will connect with the viewer on a deeper level.
The next time you’re in the field I encourage you to think about the scene in front of your lens, how each element plays against the others and what adjustments large or small you can make to take the final image beyond the simple recording of a moment in time and allow your creative vision to shine through.
Accompanying Image Information
Title: Sea Arch, Big Sur Coast
Camera: Mamiya M645
Lens: Mamiya 45mm f/2.8
Film: Fuji Velvia 100 Color Slide Film
Filters: Cokin 2-Stop Graduated Neutral Density Filter
Tiffen Circular Polarizer
Tripod: Manfrotto 055PROB with Manfrotto 3030 Head
Exposure: Shutter Speed 8 seconds
Written by Edward Mendes