How I Got the Shot #6

While visiting family on Long Island for Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to do some photography.  My mother has a small cottage on Peconic Bay on the east end of the island.  The house was built in 1922 by my great grandfather as a summer home.  We are fortunate that it is still in the family.

Several houses east of us is a large estate with a good sized dock.  I have shot many photos of this dock from different angles and during different weather, but I had never done a long exposure of it.  With a fairly calm bay and mild temperatures, this seemed like as good a time as any.

Early setup shot.  Note intervalometer to control bulb time.

Early setup shot. Note intervalometer to control bulb time.

With the 5D Mark III and 16-35L f/4 on my tripod, I tried a number of compositions from a low viewpoint.  I incorporated an adjacent jetty into the scene as a foreground element as seen in the setup photo and an early result.  I liked the footsteps in the sand, but there seemed to be too many elements overall which became distracting…the viewer isn’t sure what to look at.

Early composition is very busy.

Early composition is very busy.

I moved closer to the dock which simplified things but I still didn’t have a warm fuzzy feeling about the low vantage point.  The shadows under the dock were very dark and didn’t add anything.  The feeling was amplified by the long exposure.  I tried raising the camera up so you could see the planking of the dock where the seagulls drop clams to break them open.  The shell fragments added a bit to the foreground.

By raising the viewpoint, I was able to add a better leading line – the dock itself – pointing out to the vast bay.  The nearby jetty was not visible.  The end result was a very minimalistic scene.  The long exposure made the calm bay even calmer and a nice reflection of the dock was visible.  There was a fiberglass mooring whip on one of the dock poles that I later took out in post processing because I thought I was distracting.

All my shots were taken in the early to mid afternoon.  There was low cloud cover that was moving at a slow to moderate pace.  I used a Lee Big Stopper ND filter to lower my shutter speed causing the clouds to blur nicely.  The water was a little too dark compared to the sky so I also used a three stop graduated ND filter to balance the exposure.  To further the minimalism of the shot, I converted the image to black & white.

Final image:  171 seconds at f/16, 32mm.

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