The Tide Is High But I'm Holding On.

April 28, 2013  •  1 Comment

How I took this photograph.

10mm...f18...3.2 seconds...ISO100

LEE 0.9 ND, LEE 0.9 Soft Grad, LEE 0.6 Hard Grad

Ok, so as someone previously thanked me for sharing my settings in an upload on my facebook page ( I thought I'd share with you why I used these settings and how I took this photograph.

Film Speed: ISO100

I don’t use film but the sensitivity of a digital sensor is still referred to as film speed. I use ISO100 most of the time as this is the best quality ISO. You don’t get noise or grain caused by higher ISOs.

Focal Length: 10mm

This is a wide angle shot, I use Olympus cameras which has a 2x crop factor so if you know 35mm film focal lengths then this is shot at 20mm. I used this lens to get a lot of the scene in front of me in the photograph, but it exaggerates perspective. Things close look a lot larger and distant objects look a lot smaller. I got close to the seaweed on the sand as this is the main subject of the photograph, my idea was that you’d see the seaweed then follow the water out to sea, then look at the posts before your eye tracked to the lighthouse. When taking or making landscape photographs you should always have the viewer in mind – what do you want them to see, how to you want them to see it, how can you guide them through the photograph? It’s like writing, a good author helps the reader, and a good photographer should help the viewer.

Aperture: f18

Why did I use f18? Well depth of field (how much is in focus) is dictated by aperture. The higher the f-number, the smaller the aperture and the more in focus you will have. However if you go too small (f22) then you get light diffraction within your lens which results in soft edges so your image isn’t as sharp. So between f16 and f18 is usually my limit. This also allows less light into the camera so your shutter speed is lengthened.

Shutter Speed: 3.2 seconds

I wanted a long shutter speed for the water motion, but the filters and other settings (ISO and Aperture) dictated this anyway.

Metering: Evaluative

To meter for this shot I used Evaluative metering, which basically reads for the whole scene rather than just the centre like you would use for portraits.

Filters: LEE 0.9 ND, LEE 0.6 Soft Grad and 0.9 Soft Grad.

By using a solid 0.9 ND filter I limited the amount of light entering the camera for any given unit of time, this allowed me to blur the moving water. By using graduated filters I was able to control the exposure of the sky. The sky emits light and therefore is a much brighter object than the ground which only reflects light. For this reason there is a disparity in brightness between the two. To account for this I use graduated filters which are darker at the top and lighter at the bottom in order to reduce the light coming from the sky but keep all the light coming from the ground. Normally by the sea I would use a Hard Grad which has a hard transition between the dark section and light section but because the lighthouse protrudes so far into the sky a hard grad would cause havoc with such a non-light emitting object. For this reason I used a combination of two soft grads, adjusting them so that the exposure was as balanced as possible. I can tell this by viewing the histogram on the camera. A well exposed and balanced photograph will have a histogram that looks like a bell-curve.

Essential: Tripod

If you want to take landscapes you need a tripod. The settings you need to use such as f18 and ISO100 means that your shutter speeds will get long, and you can’t hand hold the camera for this length of time without camera shake.

Essential: Wellies

If you’re going to get water washing across your scene you’ve got to get in the sea. I was almost knee deep in water when the waves rolled in. If you’re wearing trainers you can’t get to where the drama is.

Recommended: Shutter release/remote

It’s a good idea to not be touching the camera when you’re taking landscape photographs. By pressing the button you’re introducing camera shake, which will blur distant objects. Use a cable or wireless remote to trigger your camera. If you don’t have one then set your 2 second delay on, so when you press the shutter button the camera will wait for a couple of seconds – and stop shaking – before it takes the photograph.

How I took the photograph:

As I said I was knee deep in water, so I pushed my tripod legs deep into the sand so that the ebb and flow of the tide didn’t shift my tripod mid exposure. Depth of field works for one third in front of where you focused and two thirds beyond where you focused. So don’t focus right under your nose or you’re wasting a third of your depth of field – it will be behind you – so I focused between the seaweed and the poles, knowing I’d get everything in focus. As the water washed up the beach I took the photo so that it was exposing as the water rushed back down the beach and out to sea, giving those streaks over the seaweed.

So that is how I took this photograph. Hopefully this info will help you take another one similar.


Best wishes,



JANE POWELL(non-registered)
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