Platypod on the Rocks!
By Deborah Sandidge
I’ve been enjoying taking time to photograph the East Coast of Florida, exploring new areas and rediscovering old ones. Florida has several locations with rocky beaches, coquina in North Florida and limestone formations in South Florida. Each visit has been unique; the terrain is vastly different depending on tides and storms. It is never the same scene twice.
Recently, I went back to an area just south of Marineland, Florida, which is just south of St. Augustine on the East Coast. Working during low tide, I photographed, with the advantage of low angles close to the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. With a receding tide, I didn’t have to worry too much about incoming rogue waves, although it’s important to watch closely whenever your camera is near the water.
I set up Max, securing it on top of a large rock using the spiky screws made for stabilizing it. That stability allowed me to level my camera on a wide rock. From my low camera angle this provided a fabulous perspective of the ocean waves. I was intrigued with this view of the dramatic waves as they met the unique rock formations and set my camera up for several shots, including a video.
I like to compose so that my camera captures a diagonal flow and rhythm throughout the image. The wave action was amazing. I love how the waves seemed to be doing a happy dance as they splashed over the coquina rocks. Essential to the photograph, was having my Platypod in that low and stable position. I wanted to tell my story by capturing the action at 1/15 of a second to convey motion. The resultant splash was an artistic representation of tidal motion; exactly the artistic shot I wanted to come away with! I enjoy experimenting with different shutter speeds for various creative interpretations. I will bounce between a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second to convey motion, or 1/1000 to freeze action, or shoot a video while I’m set up. Platypod allows me the stability and security to make shots at slow shutter speeds while keeping my camera rock steady.
I brought along a fun prop, a big shell I had purchased earlier to use at the beach. I wanted to photograph the ocean with conveyed motion using a colorful shell. This can be a lot of fun if you want to try it. You can use any prop, a shell, a starfish, try using any item that you don’t mind getting a bit wet. I wait for the right waves and shoot at a slow shutter speed to softly blur the water.
For my shot of the shell, I wanted to have my camera angle parallel rather than shooting down on the subject. Platypod was perfect for this concept, enabling me to shoot low. I used a slow shutter speed to convey motion in the waves that reached toward the shore. This shutter speed was also 1/15 of a second, yet this shot is dramatically different than the waves-on-the-rocks shot. If you want more blur, extend your shutter speed. If you need to control light, use a neutral density filter. I use a solid density filter. A three-stop neutral density filter is usually just about perfect to get my exposure where it needs to be, slow enough to blur the water. In the photo, you’ll see that I’m using a very wide lens, the Nikkor 14-24mm lens, which requires a specialized filter holder. However, for many wide-angle lenses, ring mount filters will work too. I carry both the square mount and the ring mount filters to have them handy to work with in various light conditions and creative options. An advantage to using a ring mount neutral density filter is that you can also use your lens hood. You’ll generally encounter a lot of salt spray in the air, and using the lens hood can help deter some of that salty air from collecting on your camera lens and keep any salt spray and splashes from landing on the lens.
If your camera has a tilt monitor such as my camera, the Nikon D850, it will make shooting tremendously easier. On this particular day, I was shooting with my Nikon D5, which required that I compose using live view... a bit more challenging this low to the ground. I like to keep my eyes on both my camera and the ocean waves. I can usually count on being in the water, or at least getting splashed while I’m at the ocean’s edge. You might want to use a rain cover for your camera and lens for any splashes that might occur while shooting at the beach. I use Optech rain sleeves. I always travel with rain sleeves in case of stormy weather, water splashes or any activity that might result in getting the camera and lens splashed. No fear!
You can easily set up your camera and Platypod for seascapes or water’s edge shots. I used a wide-angle lens for my shots, however a zoom lens would work nicely and give you a totally different look with your shots. The perspective is different than eye level, and low angle images can be beautiful and mesmerizing. Plus, it can be whole lot of fun!
About the Author: Deborah Sandidge is a Nikon ambassador specializing in world travel and artistic imagery. Deborah is a photography instructor and the author of the book Digital Infrared Photography.