Sparkling Surf

Early morning surf at north Narrabeen, NSW, Australia. Olympus E-System

Image specs: Olympus E-3, f18, 1/800, ISO 160, focal length 500 mm (1000 mm film equivalent), Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom, white balance auto, shutter priority, metering: spot, vivid mode, manual focus, exposure compensation +0.3 EV, sequential shooting, tripod support, RAW.

Photographing early morning wave riders presents all manner of creative potential for a shoot. Try a fast shutter speed (here 1/800) to freeze the wave action and sea spray or try a slow shutter to express a more surreal ocean beauty with a hint of a human presence by blurring the swirling crests and troughs. You have to contend with extreme highlights, glare as you shoot into the sun (creating lens flare) and capture fast surf-riding action. At north Narrabeen beach, renowned as one of the northern beaches’ top surf spots, I arrived to an offshore wind and steadily rising wave height.

Don’t forget to keep sand away from the camera! I took all manner of plastic bags with holes cut in the end and placed them over the lens. My plan was to use the one telephoto so no lens changing was necessary.

Finally, a wave ...

Because I am working from the beach I needed maximum telephoto reach and added the EC-20  2 x teleconverter to give me a film equivalent focal length of 1000 mm. Amazing for a zoom lens. Working in this bright light it is possible to hand hold the lens, however, I attached the 90-250mm to a tripod but kept the head lightly frictioned so I could still re-compose with ease. I shot in RAW mode holding the realistic expectation that I’m not going to get every shot ‘spot on’ considering the technical challenges, but assisted by the histogram I was able to keep my exposures close to manageable.
The spot meter reading in this shot, measured from the darker areas of the water’s surface, kept the ocean highlights under control and silhouetted the board rider. That’s what I was aiming for. With a little curve work the shot could look substantially different. I wanted to hold the contrast, similar to how I saw it through my (squinted) eyes. Not every shot was so well pre-conceived … that’s also the way I liked it on this fine morning.

© Warren Field 2010


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