The Challenge of Mid-day Photography At the Beach

I have a rule about photography at the beach.  I make it a point to be there either at dawn before the sun rises or in the late afternoon just before sunset  I seldom, if ever, drive to the oceanfront during the balance of the day, but, of course, there are exceptions.  One came this past weekend. My wife was going to a noontime reunion of her cousins at Pine Knoll Shores, one the small beach towns on the Bogue Banks.  “Want to ride along,” she asked.  “Sure,” I said, knowing full well that the worst time for photography at the beach is mid-day, but the beach is the beach and I was weary of taking pictures of cotton and tobacco rows.  It’s not a long ride to the ocean from our farm, 45 minuits or so and we arrived a few minutes after noon.  Of course, it was blazing hot and the glare from the sun directly overhead was retina frying.  So what to do.

This is my usual routine. First,  I make certain I’m shooting in the RAW format.  RAW is essentially a digital negative.  It records everything the camera sees. Jpegs are compressed images. RAW files are not.   Every DSLR has a RAW setting though the camera makers use different names for their version.  Nikon RAW files are called “NEF.”   The big disadvantage to shooting in RAW is that the files are huge, they eat up a lot of storage space.  To me, it’s worth it.  RAW allows me to change the White Balance and make other adjustments to the image in processing that are not possible with Jpeg.  To my mind, it is essential for photography at any time and particularly so for mid-day shooting.  Next, I dial the ISO down to the very lowest setting. For me that is 1.0.  Third,  I closed down the lens. to about f/22.  I  used center weight metering.  The histograms on each shot looked okay,  so I decided to leave well enough alone.


Had I not been pressed for time,  I probably would have taken a few additional shots of each scene using spot metering but doing so requires rechecking the exposure after every shot and I was in a hurry.  In order to preserve domestic tranquility, I needed to get back to the cottage to mingle before lunch time.  Anyway, not too shabby for shooting at high noon in high heat.

An aside.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to continue with this blog.  WordPress, the host site, notified me Monday morning that they had frozen my account because my password had been corrupted.  They sent me a password reset code to my hotmail site, but for some reason it did not show up. It took me two days to learn that microsoft’s hotmail email service, for some reason I cannot fathom,  sometimes blocks transactional emails  such as the  reset code for changing my password.   After figuring this out, WordPress then sent me a code which apparently bypassed Hotmail allowing me to directly reset my password.  As you might guess, I am in the process of changing the email service I have registered with Wordpres..   All’s well that ends well but at my age, I don’t have two days to waste!  Thanks for the look.  Comments are certainly welcome.  See you next time.

Reprocessing old RAW Files

I wrenched my lower back this past week.  I wasn’t trying to lift a car or anything, just bending over in a chair to tie my shoe.  I was greeted with the awful muted pop!  I knew what happened as soon as I felt it.  I’ve had the problem with my lower back for a long time.  I won’t bore you with all the whys etc.  It all  comes down to sitting….. too long!  Sitting too long at the computer processing photographs and writing….another book.   Any orthopedist will tell you, sitting is never good for the back. Ever!

I had to stop sitting so much.  It required some lifestyle changes.  I got my old oak, adjustable drafting table out of the barn here on the farm and refinished it.  It now serves as my desk.  And,  I bought one of those standing pads and a good  pair of walking shoes with a large “toe box.”  Mine are New Balance 877’s. They are working wonders for me.  ( I am not paid by New Balance to endorse their shoes.)   I wear a back brace often during the day and I am doing lower lumbar exercises every morning and afternoon and my wife and I bought a new firm mattress.  I have good days and bad days but overall, I get the idea things are improving.

I know this is a photography blog.  Stay with me.  I’m getting to it.

So what to do when you can’t go roaming for that perfect shot?  You work on old files.  Since I converted to digital photography in 2009, I have shot everything in RAW.  Nikon’s version of that is called NEF. Raw is, for lack of a better term, a digital negative.  It captures everything the camera sees.  It does not condense or compress any of the data.  The downside is, shooting and keeping raw files requires an enormous amount of space.  These files are BIG.  I have five external drives devoted to storing these things as well as on line storage in the so-called cloud.  These files require processing or conversion before posting or printing.  It’s sort of like developing  film in the old days.  I use the conversion program in Photoshop Elements.

Going back and reworking old gems allowed me to take advantage of software tools that either were not around or I did not know about about at the time of the original conversion.  This past week, I’ve been reprocessing shots are from the summer of 2011 taken on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, one of my favorite places for photography.

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Sea Oates at Duck Posted to Flickr August 9, 2014  Blogged. Facebook

My reason for going back and reworking these shots was to remove camera shake (I had taken these handheld with no tripod. Now I know better) and to use the haze reduction tool.  You’ll have to take my word for it that the sharpness and clarity of these two views are remarkable improvements over the originals.

So if you don’t shoot your images in the RAW format your camera has, think about it.  External drives and on-line storage are  pretty cheap. Flickr is free!   You’ll have the benefit of seeing just about everything your camera has recorded and, you’ll have something to take your mind off an aching back….for a while.   Thanks for the read, have a good week and stop sitting so much!

The Far Pavilion

Blogged February 6th, 2013

I got an email the other day asking if I shoot in the RAW Format (Nikon calls its Raw format NEF) and whether I have my cameras set to vivid.  I do shoot everything in RAW for the simple reason that doing so preserves everything the sensor “sees”.   In other words, the image is not compressed.  The downside is that RAW files are very large so your memory card will fill up much quicker.  For me, its worth the tradeoff.  As for camera settings,  all of my cameras are set to “Camera Standard”.   I found  the vivid setting really overly saturates color.   For years, I preferred highly saturated color but in my old age,  I suppose I have mellowed a bit.  This, of course, is a sunrise on the coast taken at Duck on the outer banks.  Thanks for the look and have a great evening.