Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliot by Steven Johnson

The latter half of 2014 was very busy personally so I wasn't able to get out much and make any images. In the middle of the year I participated in the Shitbox Rally, after which I became quite busy with work and preparing for my first child, including some renovations to our home. Finally, in December Mandy and I became proud parents of Angus. Last week we headed down to Middleton for a week with some friends on our first family holiday, and luckily I found some time to get out one morning with the camera and produce some images. As I was heading out for sunrise I decided to head to Freeman's Knob at Horseshoe Bay, Port Elliot. I chose this location as I knew it would provide a rocky seascape with an easterly aspect, which is good for sunrises. I'll now briefly explain what happened on this morning to give you an idea of what happens on one of my early morning shoots.

I arrived at the location just before dawn (in the dark) and with my head torch on I headed to the breakwater at the point of Horseshoe Bay. I found a small pool in the rocks that looked kind of interesting, and with the clear skies I wanted to capture a pre-sunrise image so I set up for this first image. Usually sunrise images work best with some scattered cloud cover to bring out the beautiful dawn/sunrise colours, but with the clear skies I knew I should capture an early dawn image as these tend to work best in these conditions (i.e. with the orange sun light only slightly lighting up the sky). When making this image I didn't want to use too long an exposure so that some movement would be captured in the waves while showing the stillness in the small pond that had formed in the rocks from the outgoing tide. I also wanted to create a leading line/curve to lead the viewers eye from the bottom of the image along the breakwater and out to the golden light and island on the horizon. Hopefully you can see the line that is formed by the rocks in the bottom right corner and then up through the pond and along the breakwater.

I then wanted to create an image showing the waves which incessantly pound the breakwater at Freeman's Knob. I moved closer towards the edge of the water where the waves were hitting the rocks and set up so that I could capture an incoming wave while also showing the water flowing over the rocks from a previous wave. As I was setting up for this image some heavyish cloud over rolled in quite quickly as you can see in the image below.

I knew the sun was close to rising so I was hoping the clouds would hold out and not block the sun as it hit the horizon. Also, with minimal time till the sun was due to rise I stayed in the same position hoping to get an image with the sun just kissing the horizon. This time I wanted to capture the water flowing over the rocks as some foreground interest, and not have a wave in the mid-ground as I had captured with the last image. This is where you need to observe the wave conditions and patterns and time the exposure to get the water flowing over the rocks nicely. I knew that a shutter speed of around 1 second should work nicely to capture the movement in the water so I set up for this appropriately (f/16, ISO 100) and then watched the waves coming in with my remote shutter release in hand at the ready. It can be a little bit of trial and error when capturing these types of images so I usually take a few frames which I can then choose from later. Thankfully I managed to time the image below just nicely.

Once the sun had risen the clouds blocked the sun so I knew there probably wasn't much chance to capture any great images from down near the waters edge. My plan was to walk back around the bay to the jetty before heading back home for Angus's next nappy change. As I was walking back up the hill from Ladies Beach and the breakwater I noticed this old fence post and a nice vantage point looking back towards the beach and breakwater. From this spot I was looking easterly, so I thought a long exposure might work here due to the clouds moving in an easterly direction creating the effect of movement towards what was left of the golden hour light (which wasn't much at this point).

Finally I headed to the jetty with the plan to capture a long exposure with the jetty in the foreground, and some nice smooth, milky water and the moving clouds in the background. Given the strong lines and contrast created by the jetty I decided a black and white image would be good here to accentuate these lines.

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As a photographer, and particularly a landscape photographer, you need to be able to observe and adapt to the conditions. No matter how much you may plan and research a location or landscape things can and will change, and you need to be able to observe and adapt to these changes. These changes may happen during a shoot, or the changes may be in relation to your expectations from either a previous visit or from your research prior.

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