Light Show
Photo By Mark Brodkin

The word “photography” is a combination of the Greek root words “photo” and “graphia,” the former meaning light and the latter meaning writing. In a literal sense, photography is the art of writing with light. I think about this regularly when I’m shooting in a spectacular location. Too often, the light doesn’t cooperate and the “writing” is less than artistic. I arrive with incredible anticipation and leave with disappointment.

Disappointment was the result of all of my prior visits to Bandon Beach on the Oregon Coast. Bandon is one of the most beautiful beaches in the United States and has become a mecca for landscape photographers. Going 250 miles south of Portland, you can reach Bandon Beach in 4.5 hours. The beach itself is easily accessed and loaded with interesting sea stacks, rocks and tidal pools. The problem is that the light is often blocked by a dreaded marine layer. Unfortunately for me, the marine layer blocked out the setting sun during each of my prior visits.

As I arrived at the beach on this day, I was cautiously optimistic. The clouds were heavy but high. With a little luck, I thought, there might be a chance for a nice sunset. I slipped into my hip waders and headed down to the beach. It was low tide, so there were numerous pools and rocks to work into my composition. I chose my 16-35mm wide-angle lens and set my camera on a tripod.

Then it happened.

As the sun slowly lowered to the horizon, the clouds broke and the sky began to fill with color. As each minute passed, the color in the sky grew more intense. I knew I had an opportunity to make a fantastic photograph and scrambled to create numerous compositions. For me, these moments create tremendous exhilaration. I know I have the prospect of doing something special. I also know that time is fleeting, and I need to get it right.

For this image, I positioned the camera extremely low, almost touching the sand. My chest was literally on the beach, and I strained to see the composition through the viewfinder. As I shot the image, I paused to check my settings and focus. My focal length was 26mm, the sweet spot of my lens. I got off several shots and then moved to another location. Somehow, I knew the image from this location would be the keeper.

As the light show ended and the incredible color faded from the sky, I packed up my gear and headed back to my car. This time the light cooperated and nature provided the most spectacular beauty that I was fortunate enough to witness and photograph.

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Nikon D800E, AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR at 26mm, Really Right Stuff TVC-24L tripod and BH-40 ballhead, B+W Circular Polarizer, Hoodman HoodLoupe. Exposure: 0.5 secs., ƒ/16, ISO 100.

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