“One Year Later” –Part 2: The Importance of having a “Spot”

I have found that in the development of technique as well as technical proficiency, one constant always remain true.  Cut down on the “uncontrollable variables.”   The first main solution I have found is finding a “SPOT” or “SPOTS” that way you can see the differences in the light as a variable not the changing challenges of the landscape.  I have 2 spots, the places that I worked out the kinks in my “NightScapes”  This edition of Photography Secrets is focused on my second spot, …Hermosa Park, or “Bird Rock”
This was my first beach location.  I chose it because of the lack of interfering light.  I can push the longer exposures and not get crazy specular highlights from the homes nearby.  This means that when I am composing a shot I can do so with the knowledge that I have a very predictable light source. The moonlight, one of the best softest lightscources that I know of.  The beautiful magenta light that I can only describe as creamy.
I go to this location to work on any theories or test shots I am trying to work out (ie. Large Format, Photomerged).  I was able to predict the light changes because I have been here so often, the benefit was I can shoot up to 12 images in the same light without cars or annoying floodlights messing me up.  This is what I mean when I talk about cutting down on variables.
Another test I had at this location was the long exposure portraits or “Moonlight Portraits.”  I had the idea to do shoot bridal and engagement couples in this way.. But to get models out in the freezing cold to do “TEST” shots is not realistic. I had to be my own Guinea Pig.  I waited for a clear sunset (as to not have to contend with clouds).  I walked out to the end of a walkway and then (with the help of my 20 sec timer) made a 30 sec test shot.
This was the result ” The Green Photographer”
This was shot at f3.5 at 30 sec ISO 400
One year later or (25,000 night shots later) I was able to figure out why you only saw a silhouette.  I knew that shooting into a sunset with natural light and one shot would be a futile excersise.  I then decided to return at midnight, and use the same formula.  Well the same formula with one exception I wanted to wait for the moon to act as my mainlight.  The result was mind-blowing.
Second try.. “Moonlight Portraits”
This was shot at  F4 at 30 sec ISO 400
I think the result is clear.  Moonlight portraits is a real viable idea.  Now I can get a couple out there and do a real run in the dark.  It is important to shoot several shots before you go live with real clients.  Messing up or not being aware of all of the variables can make your clients lose faith in you and set you up for bad images and a burnt bridge!
The other issue I had was the Lack of large format beach images (how to details in in old posts)  I have shot this location 3 years in a row.  The first 2 are in the old posts about large format.
Moonlight Portrait:
Year 1:   10.2 Megapixels “Midnight Beauty”
Year 2:  22.3 Megapixels  ” November Night”
Year 3:  35 Megapixels   “Hermosa Park”
The final image isn’t my favorite (only because of the clouds)  but as far as the composition it is exactly what I wanted the first year I went out.  I love the second year but my issue was I couldn’t see “Bird Rock” which is the end of Hermosa Park.  I know they don’t look dramaticly diffrent, I wouldn’t have been able to make my other night images if I hadn’t shot thousands of frames in this area.
The clouds are the only remaining variable that you have to keep an eye on this is the last part of having a spot.  you can wait for diffrent clouds for diffrent effects.  My first try at this location was again right at sunset,  Then I waited for killer fastmoving clouds for number 2 and finally I used all of my accumualated knowedege to create a large format version of the area.  The secon was my favorite so now when I go out I know if my clouds look like that I am going to “Bird Rock.”  This is how you let the clouds determine your location.
Test 1:  10.2 Megapixels  “Bird Rock”
Test 2: 10.2 Megapixels  “Bird Rock”
Test 3: 10.3 Megapixels  “Bird Rock”
The final image is great but I only wish I waited to get the clouds with more definition and movement.  This is the downside of variables.  The upside is now from over ten miles away I can determine whether or not to even make the trip.  In conclusion, find a spot or spots and shoot shoot shoot like a mad man.  I only get better the more I shoot, and the same goes for you.  Go out and shoot the same locations as much as you can until you feel that you have mastered the light in that area.

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