First off, let me just say that for everyone that does not know this already, the word Corolla when in reference to the town on the Outer Banks is pronounced Kuh-rah-la! This is not a Toyota car. I know its spelled the same way, but the pronunciation is left over from our maritime heritage here on the barrier islands where you can still pick up an old English brogue in folks dialect. I know its a small thing, but its a bit of a pet peeve of ours around here.
Driving the beach this morning, I was on a mission for a little sunrise photography. A few clouds had started to materialize over the eastern horizon and at first I thought that I was going to be working with some dramatic color. Rather quickly however these clouds had broken up and wafted off leaving the sky almost completely clear. Not what I was hoping for.
Not to be deterred, I continued to drive south looking for a nice run of what we call cusps in the beach. These are the ridges and gullies you see running perpendicular to the ocean on the foreshore of the beach and are caused from a mixture of wave direction and steepness of the beach in that area. The idea behind finding cusps where that these formations have a tendency to funnel the swash up and then allow it to fan out slightly higher up the beach the surrounding area. With an ultra wide lens and a long exposure, this offers you the chance for a dramatic foreground element when does not exist otherwise.
In the distance I saw a line of clouds begging to stretch out over the ocean toward the direction of where the sun was going to rise. I didn’t think much of it at first until I realized that this was line of altocumulus clouds. These clouds are a lot of fun. As a mid level cloud they work wonders for skies in photographs. They are spaced just right to let light though and add a nice touch of drama and leading lines with landscape photography. Typically when these clouds are spotted in the morning, they forecast a front coming through later on in the day. . . which there is.
The sky was glowing good by this point, a touch of red was on the horizon, and I was still several miles too far north to take advantage of these clouds. Its possible that I may have driven a little fast to get down the beach under these clouds. . . but I’m sure the sheriff would have understood (HAH!).
Normally I like to set my white balance through the Kelvin scale manually. This morning however, knowing that the auto white balance would work wonders for pulling out the blue that was dominant in the sky on its own I decided to set my WB accordingly.
Honestly, I wish that I had a wider lens this morning. I was shooting with my 12-24mm but was doing so on my Nikon D300 which comes with a DX sensor and therefore a 1.5 digital crop factor. So, this means that even at 12mm with the lens, really I was shooting at something like 18mm when I actually wanted 10 without a fish eye. The altocumulus did their job nicely. With a wider lens, I would have been able to capture more of the swash running up and down the beach and could have utilized this as a foreground element to pull your eye into the scene even more effectively.
I did not use any filters in creating this image – not even a graduated ND filter. In photoshop I placed some marching ants (selected) the ocean / beach as well as the upper third of the sky and lightened with curves. This helped to do the job of a REVERSE graduated neutral density filter which is designed specifically for these situations . . . that is, photographing into bright horizon line.