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“Sunset Waves” by Robin Conover
Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 28-300 mm,
3.5-5.6 L IS USM lens with circular polarizer
ISO 1250, f-8 at 1/500 second, Gitzo tripod

There are a few general rules in photography that become engrained in your mind as you learn the craft. Three of my favorites played a role in this image:

  • F-8 and be there
  • Fill the frame
  • Keep the sun at your back

But, as we all know, once you understand them, rules are sometimes meant to be broken. Following two of these tennants and breaking the third led to this image.

I had observed a couple of cycles of waves crashing into these rocks along the Pacific Coast just north of San Diego and thought there might be a chance for an interesting image. Checking tidal and sunset times told me that high tide was going to coincide with sunset. The cloudless sky had me doubting that I could get a good sunset shot as the light would be very contrasty and probably blow out any detail in the waves.

I set up my tripod where I observed the highest splashes, hoping the waves would obscure the direct glare of the sun. Choosing an ISO of 1250 and a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second helped “freeze” the water as it arced toward the sun. An f-stop of 8 kept the depth of field relatively sharp from the foreground to the horizon.

With the cloudless sky, the harsh sunset light would have been much less interesting if I captured only the sun setting on rolling waves. It would have just been a ball of light in the sky and limited detail in the shadows. Filling the frame with the foreground rocks and the arcing wash of a crashing wave added interesting elements.

Take care when shooting into the sun. Protective solar eyewear is a must for your eyes, and making sure the sensor isn’t exposed to direct light for long exposures also helps prevent damage to your camera body.

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About Author

Robin Conover

Robin Conover has spent the last 23 years documenting the people and places of Tennessee with The Tennessee Magazine. After graduating from Murray State University, Robin began working for magazine in October 1988 as a communications specialist and photojournalist. She now serves as TECA vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. Her interest in preserving the environment and Tennessee’s beautiful natural areas has led her down many miles of trails to capture thousands of images. Robin is currently a board member of the Friends of Radnor Lake, a nonprofit in Nashville. Robin’s images can be seen in greeting cards, calendars, books and at a few fine-art shows she participates in each year.

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