Jim Salge Photography Blog

Images of New England captured in dramatic light and atmosphere

Experimenting With Earl…

Shooting at iconic tripod holes is very easy, but getting a unique shot at one is the ultimate challenge.

Yesterday I went to Portland Head Lighthouse, looking for an iconic shot during the remnants of Hurricane Earl. The storm was a bit of a disappointment, a bit out to sea, and well weakened by the time it made it past Long Island. The state of the ocean was beyond choppy, but lacked the power and size that we had hoped for. High tide came at 7:30AM, and in the rapidly drying conditions, I found myself shooting with dozens of other photographers hoping for their own dream shot of the coastal beacon.

Photographers in this location line up at a few classic spots, set up their tripods, snap their picture and move on. These classic shots always offer perfect compositions, and yesterday, an engaging sea and story. This type of shooting doesn’t satisfy me though…and I always try for something different. Here are some examples of how I made some unique shots yesterday.

Change Location:
The fence lines corral people into getting the same shots. Line up at the fence, get your shot, and move on. But there’s lots of room on both sides of the fences for creativity. On the near side, about 10 feet back, is a great patch of goldenrod to use as a foreground. On the far side, you get closer perspectives to the water…and it doesn’t involve an increased risk in most situations. Yesterday, I hopped the fence, and grabbed this shot, impossible from the standard locations.

Long Exposure of Earl's Swirls Beyond the Fence Line

Long Exposure of Earl's Swirls Beyond the Fence Line

Experiment With Exposure:
While the waves were larger than normal, they were not epic large waves that would stand on their own at this location that is captured every storm. My first few shots, with exposures that froze the action were really lacking, so I stacked a couple of ND filters and increased the exposure time to 5 to 15 seconds. This allowed the waves to move through the shot, and more swirling look. All of my favorite shots yesterday were multiple Mississippi snaps.

Tricks With Time:
Moving locations once again to the far side of the lighthouse, I found a cobble beach, where each crashing wave would cover, uncover and rearrange the rocks. The sound was amazing, but the action allowed some classic camera trickery. With a well timed long six second exposure, the rocks were above water for three seconds, and under water for three seconds, giving the scene this mysterious look to it.

Tricks With Time...Waves Over Rocks

Tricks With Time...Waves Over Rocks

Adding People:
While I focus on high quality, artistic captures in dramatic light and atmosphere, shock style shots shouldn’t be ignored. With the right touch, you can combine both styles. Here’s a long exposure of the two photographers I shot with yesterday, Glen Taylor (foreground) and Brad Bradstreet (Cliff Next To Lighthouse). People add perspective, scale and stories to any picture, and while it’s uncommon for them to be sold at art shows, I like having them in my portfolio.

Hurricane Earl - People in the Landscape

Hurricane Earl - People in the Landscape

I’m thrilled with these shots here, but have even greater plans for subsequent visits to this location…now I just need a bigger storm, and a dramatic sunrise to do them. Hey, if it were easy, everyone would have a shot of this location, right! ;)

4 Responses to “Experimenting With Earl…”

  1. Jim…..I love your work…see it frequently on the NE Photographers facebook page…..I am a landlocked Vermonter, but try and escape to the ocean when I can….work like yours touches something deep inside of me….I love lighthouses and your ability to capture the sea in such a unique way is so very special…..judy

  2. Jim…ditto my sister except I’m not landlocked. I enjoyed your tips. I have tried to emphasise on the photography page to get out of the comfort zone and look for a perspective that no one else has. You bolg illustrates that to the “T”. I can’t remember how many times I’ve watched photographers show up, snap off a couple of shots, and move on. They never investigate a different angle or perspective. One of the first things I look for when I get to a site is all the possibilities for shooting. Some may involve some time to get to and may require at little effort but that’s where you leave the masses and come back with the shot that everyone asks, “where did you take thtat from”?

  3. Charlie Hawkins says:

    Jim your pictures came out rally nice ,i love the way the water look

  4. Bev R says:

    Thanks for sharing how you get such dramatic shots. We have our first digital SLR and are learning as we go.

Leave a Reply

Get our latest updates

Subscribe Via A Feed Reader


Jim Salge Photography on Facebook

Jim Salge Photography on Flickr

Jim Salge Photography on 500px