I went down to Sorrento Back Beach with some friends this past weekend. The weather wasn’t entirely cooperative. The clouds were lovely but kept obscuring the sun, which meant that the foreground never really took off. Photographing landscapes is a balancing act. The landscaper’s dilemma is that by exposing for the ground (which is naturally darker), you blow out the sky. By contrast if you expose for the sky to capture colour and contrast in the clouds, you tend to overdarken the foreground and lose detail and light. A perfect scenario is a sun above or behind the photographer lighting the foreground so that you can lower the overall exposure value of the shot, allowing you to darken the sky at the same time and capture the depth of the skyscape. But that depends on factors beyond your control. Namely, the climate.
No luck today.
So I had to cheat a little on this shot and used a graduated neutral density (GND) filter in post-processing. When I say ‘cheating’ I should really say ‘lazy’. When it comes to post processing I try and keep things fairly realistic and limited. I don’t use HDR or any of its cousins. The GND allows me to put a horizontal line across the image and apply slightly different exposure values above and below the image. I’m okay with doing this because you can in fact get GND filters that fit onto the camera itself, like a polarizer or a UV filter, and I generally consider anything I can do ‘in-camera’ as legit in post (but admit that it’s a tad lazy). However the cost of getting a Cokin or similar filter set to fit the ginormous filter-ring (82mm) of my yawning 16-35mm wide-angle, not to mention the fiddle quotient, really makes a few careful clicks in Lightroom a much more preferable option. I do want to get into the habit of using GND filters at some stage, however, as I find the art of capturing as much of the image as possible at the time I take it immensely satisfying. And the GND function is pretty indispensible for a landscaper like me.
Sorrento Ocean Beach is one of my favourites around, with a lovely arc of sand and lots of interesting rock formations stacked about. There’s also lots of fun to be had scrambling over the rocks and exploring the tidal pools. Admittedly walking around with a Canon 5D and 3 L-class lenses stuffed in various pockets made me a little cagey while crawling over sharp rock outcrops. A slip could get expensive.
The shot was taken on the aforementioned Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM. It’s a behemoth of an ultra-wide-angle lens, an absolute beauty when it comes to landscapes, and I love it to pieces. You could park an Airbus A380 on the field of glass that makes up the front end, but by the same token it lets in so much light that I could almost shoot hand-held in moonlight. For any aspiring landscape photographers out there, it’s a beautiful piece of glass and a gorgeous addition to my lens collection. In this shot I really like how the wide angle of the lens has bent the bay around to give it a half-moon-esque curve to it.
That was a lot of words just to talk about a photo.
Note: Do click the photo to see it bigger than you can here on the page…