En Plein Air: Beach Photography

As a writer, I’m trying to pay attention to the stuff the people aren’t paying attention to.
JONATHAN FRANZEN

When this quote came across my Twitter feed today, I found myself thinking about how it applies to photography too.  And establishing a habit of taking photos every day…with the express purpose of posting at least one…pushes me to consider new ways of paying attention to the potential images around me.  It’s not that I don’t see what others see…I do, and I often see that others around me take photos and post photos that are similar to mine.  So that means I need to pay attention to the details of composition, lighting, angles…

I realize that I use photography for a variety of purposes.  Sometimes I am documenting events in my life, sometimes I am teaching myself some new techniques, sometimes I am relaxing and enjoying the outdoors…and sometimes I am working to create art.

Some photos turn out just the way I want them to, with the colors and focus and frame all in perfect harmony.  And some pictures benefit from some editing…cropping, light adjustments, filters and such.

When I saw the Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge today was “work of art,” I knew I would focus on photos taken at the beach.  I headed to the beach today as a break from worrying about the wildfires in our community.  School was canceled, the weather was still hot, and the sand, waves, and briny sea air called to me.  As I got closer to the shore I noticed the juxtaposition of the bright blue sky to the west and south and dark smoke rising from the north.  The fires on Camp Pendleton had flared this morning, and firefighters were hard at work knocking it back down.  As I walked in the cool salt water I aimed for the shot that would capture the brightness of the blue sky and also capture the dark, ominous smoke in the distance.

beach with smoke

The carefree playfulness of the children on the beach was contagious!  Even though the water is still cool…in the mid 60’s, it seemed that everyone was enjoying the water.  I saw this group of kids heading into the surf and wanted to get a sense of the activity.  It’s interesting to me that the photo looks like the beach is empty, just by the framing of the shot, when in reality there were lots of people on the beach today.  I also played with a filter in Snapseed, creating a bit of a vignette effect, highlighting the children at play.

beach play

I ended up back at the beach later this evening when my husband came home from work.  It was still quite warm out and I had enjoyed the beach so much earlier in the day that I wanted him to have the opportunity to feel the relaxation and the cool of the ocean.  As I walked down the ramp toward the shore I noticed this gull on the roof of the  beach building.  With this post in mind, I decided to play around with the image a bit, cropping to bring the bird closer and then using a black and white filter.  I’ve noticed that black and white is great for some photos…and terrible on others.  I like it on this one.

Gull on roof

It wasn’t yet sunset as our walk came to an end, but the sun was low in the sky and created a shiny reflection on the water below it.  As we sat on some benches on the hill above the beach at the end of our walk, I was drawn to the silhouette of the palm tree in the distance.  I’ve photographed this tree before, but not quite at this same angle or at this same time of day.  It’s funny that this filter is called redscale, it seems to give the photo a yellowish, sunset kind of glow.

sunsetting yellow filter

As a photographer, even an amateur, there is a lot to pay attention to.  And the more I practice my craft, the more I find that I am able to pay attention to the stuff other people aren’t paying attention to, resulting in some interesting works of art…or alternatively, some interesting prompts for writing.  The beach is a rich resource to draw from, a source of inspiration, renewal, relaxation and fun.  And for me, today, it was also a welcome distraction.

4 thoughts on “En Plein Air: Beach Photography

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