That was my exact thought process when it came to #EarthPorn photos.
For those not familiar with the somewhat graphic sounding phrase, EarthPorn is used when referring to nature photography that makes you step back and say “Damn.. Earth/Nature/etc is beautiful”. Do a quick Google Image Search or search the hashtag on Instagram or Tumblr and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Now I never really consider myself much of a nature photographer. If you were to bump into me on the street and ask me what I shoot you can bet that “Landscapes” would the very last thing I list. It’s not because I dislike it, it’s simply because I don’t do a ton of it. However, nature and landscape is something I enjoy as much as the next person. And let’s be real, there are some absolutely gorgeous places in the world, and even beautiful locations in our own backyards that we overlook in our daily life.
I’m fortunate enough to live in California, which is an absolutely beautiful state with a massive range of things to photograph from our beaches to our redwood forests, Yosemite National Park to Death Valley, cityscapes like San Francisco and the Bay Area I grew up in, to the concrete jungle of Los Angeles or beach cities of San Diego that I’ve also called home. There are literally millions of different things you can photograph without leaving our borders.
But for this blog, I’m sharing my most recent work at the beaches of Orange County… more specifically, Laguna Beach.
This was my first attempt.
Not too shabby, right? A ton of you guys shared this around FB or enjoyed it on IG. About a half dozen of you guys ordered prints, too.
The hardest part about this type of nature photography is finding something interesting. You can’t simply just walk up and and take a picture of the beach. Nor can you just snap an image while hand-holding your camera. You need to frame it. You need to think about the final shot. You have to play around with shutter speeds and ISOs to get a combination you like and want depending on the effect you’re going for.
I always tell people “PLAN your shot.” I didn’t go to the beach thinking “I’m going to find three rocks”… Of course not. Don’t be silly. But while I was there I walked all over trying to find something interesting. Once I did I must have moved the camera 20 times to find an angle I liked. I messed with the f/stop and shutter trying different things several times.
And then I waited.
And I waited.
And waited some more.
I also accidentally ruined my favorite pair of extra running shoes. Ha! Bummer… while framing in-camera a large wave washed over the tide pools and I was closer to the water than I thought. Oh well, they were my “beat up” pair of shoes. But still. I was bummed. I also use a basic tripod for this stuff since it’s going to be set up in sand and salt water… I’m too scared to risk a $400 tripod to those kind of elements.
Patience is the most important thing with nature work. It’s probably one of the reasons I don’t do much of it. Sometimes I just get bored waiting around. What am I waiting for? Well, I’m waiting for the perfect speed of the water washing over the tide pools. I’m waiting for just enough calm-water in the foreground to contrast the rushing water in the background. I’m waiting for the right sunset and amount of light in the sky.
I’M WAITING FOR AMAZINGNESS, PEOPLE! THIS IS ART, DAMN IT!
…or something like that. hahaha!
Even after sun down, if you’re still patient, and don’t mind the water, you can create some really eerie and cool shots.
This is created at the same beach, just a different location… Longer shutter speeds, and, most importantly, knowing that I wanted a dark and creepy looking photo so I could set my camera accordingly.
My second time out to create more shots was the least productive of any of my trips to the beach. That evening the clouds blew in faster than I expected and sky was completely washed out except for the blues. This was the only image I created that evening.
For my next trip a few days later I tried a new location…
It took some climbing, scrambling over rocks, and patience, but I got down to these tide pools – I was at least an hour early for sunset.
Time to find something cool to shoot!
Bundled up and waiting for sundown. It was super cold… but it was windy, and a lot of mist in the air from the waves crashing.
I was told shortly after this photo that the tide was going to be unseasonably high that night. This particular location required climbing/etc to get to. And that route would quickly be covered in water/waves the local guy told me as he was heading out.
But I was determined to get my photo. And I knew I had two complete changes of clothes in my car… I was going to wait it out and get my photo. Getting a little wet doesn’t scare me.
Some twenty minutes later I was able to create this image of the tide pools I was waiting by.
The tide DID in fact increase quite a bit. And it’s possible that on a different day this would have been a better shot with less-intense water. But oh well.
When hiking out of anywhere, always remember to stop and look back… that’s something I always did as a Boy Scout with our backpacking trips. You miss a lot by not turning around.
As I hike out of locations (or climb in this case) I will stop every 15 feet or so and look back because there might be something worth shooting.
In the bit of twilight that remained I was able to create this. My shorts were half soaked from the rising tide, and I kept getting splashed, but I think it was worth the trouble.
Beauty in Darkness.
Another very hot day in SoCal and I decided last minute to grab my gear and head back to Laguna. I went back to a spot I’d shot before and decided to try and find at least two new photos to create.
I found something that might be interesting and planned a new shot. Rather than shoot low, I’d shoot high, and down – this was also much easier since I’m 6’2″ and meant no kneeling for me. haha!
This time I’d frame my image centered on the sunset. Again it was a lot of testing with shutter speeds to find one I liked (I tend to like 1 second exposures, though). Then it’s just waiting for the perfect wave when everything just…works..
This is what I ultimately created. It probably took me half an hour. These aren’t quick, people… don’t think it’s just “go take a photo”. And after capturing it, you still have to edit and prep the image.
Either way, this is one of my favorites that I’ve created so far. Everything in the image was working together that evening and I managed to capture a very pleasant wave that wrapped around the rocks just right.
Oh, you want to see something crazy that will just totally screw with your head?
So over the last couple years the sand level has increased significantly in this area, effectively covering most of the gorgeous tide pools that were here in the past.
See the rocks to the right of the little waterfall… yeah, the sand is now up to where Megan’s neck is in the photo on the right. Such a bummer. These tidepools were gorgeous.
After capturing the horizontal shot I started with, I wanted to try a vertical shot. I don’t do many verticals.. and honestly these don’t really sell either. But I think they look cool regardless.
Packed up and ready to leave since the sun had completely set. It was still a nice night out, even with my feet in the water and the wind blowing I was just wearing a tank and light zip up.
Walking out to leave the beach and there was just a bit of sun left on the horizon as I came out of the cave/pathway from the tide pools.
Another great evening is Laguna.
So there you go… a bit of behind the scenes to my recent foray into #earthporn photos at the coast here in SoCal.
I’ve been meaning to get more into astro photos soon since I know people love space. So hopefully I can get those trips planned shortly. Getting away from city lights is a bit tricky here in L.A. though. hahaha!
Prints are available here: http://www.johnremusstore.com
Thanks for reading, and hopefully I’ll have more of all this for you soon!