Photographic Process: From Snapshot To Artwork

Okay, I'm perhaps exaggerating on both ends here but all I am trying to show in this post is my photographic process of getting from the first brief snapshot of subjects that grabbed my attention to the final image I am very satisfied with. I explain working with the composition and other considerations, out in the field. Ota and I attended the workshop with Bruce Percy couple of weeks ago. We spent couple of mornings and evenings photographing Bay of Laig on the Isle of Eigg. I packed my stuff and slowly headed for breakfast when I noticed interesting sand waves created by the low tide water. Also, some nice heavy clouds started to group above Rum on the horizon.

  Sand on the Beach

Sand on the Beach

I did not like the sand set up on this one but looking around, I started to have pretty good idea what I want. And soon enough, I found it.

  Wave on the Beach

Wave on the Beach

Two nice waves to work with. And clouds are getting more and more interesting. I'm talking to Bruce about how to bring the best out of the scene in front of us. The waves are fine but the rolling effect is less evident on the screen of my camera. Bruce grabs it, goes lower and suggests simplifying vertical design that seems to work much better.

  Composition Exercise

Composition Exercise

Now we discuss how and where the wave should start on the left edge. Differences are subtle but important for the final impact in my view. Notice the left shot - it misses the bottom part of the ripple. In contrast, the right one has perhaps too much of it while the top part is somewhat cut by the right edge. So we go for something in the middle.

Caption: Rolling Beach, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm, Digital Back: Phase One IQ140, ISO: 50, Aperture: f/32, Exposure: 10s, Filters: Lee ND Graduated 0.45 Hard

In the meantime, the strong storms starts above Rum. We can see blasts of rain pouring through the island. I'm happy that I'm not there not only because I have just witnessed amazing nature's performance. I stop my lens down to achieve a slower speed to potentially capture more of rain, the cloud movement, and the atmosphere. Bruce has left for the breakfast in the meantime, I'm grateful for his guidance and inspiring talk as many times over that week.

The storm continues to be in my mind when I decide to pull out the film back loaded with Velvia. It should be rendered dark blueish should I go for a longer exposure, in a nice contrast to the light yellow sand. Moreover, I believe the island and the sky needs more space (IQ140 has 1.3 crop factor compared to 645 film frame, and I shoot 35mm prime lens...). It may jeopardize my previous discussion with Bruce when it comes to the wave in the foreground.

Caption: Storm On The Beach, Camera: Hasselblad H1, Lens: 35mm, Film: Fuji Velvia, ISO: 50, Aperture: f/11, Exposure: 4m16s, Filters: Lee Big Stopper, Lee ND Graduated 0.45 Hard

I'm extremely pleased with the result. Dark blue hues of the sky play very well with the yellow sand. So does the rough foreground structure with the soft clouds. Stillness of the waves versus dynamics of the storm. The final image is what looked like a post-best-morning-light snapshot and started as a simple composition exercise. Over the process, through blending of the vision (interpretation of relationship between tiny waves and the mighty island), luck (the spectacular drama in the background), artistically skillful design (Bruce's vertical composition) and craft (beloved Fuji Velvia, Hasselblad and long exposure), I got the photograph with impact, I believe.

I would love to hear your views.