On Friday southern Vancouver Island experienced the first of the winter storms. Winds on Harling Point were a steady 50km/hr (30 mph) with gusts to over 60km (40 mph), according to our local weather station, maintained by a neighbour who lives across the street from the Chinese Cemetery. We get stronger winds than this, but the first of the season always seems to have more bite and to be fiercer than the numbers would warrant. Though it was windy, there were periods of sun so I was off to the waterfront to see how Sahsima looked. I have posted about Sahsima before – it is a large glacial erratic in the intertidal zone which, according to the oral histories of the Songhees First Nation, is a transformer stone. Its name translates into English as Harpoon Rock and the story is on my earlier post. I have been photographing it ever since I got my DSLR in the summer as it has many personalities depending on the weather. The post linked to above shows Sahsima in calm sunny summer conditions with a seal splashing on the smooth sea. Today is another story and thus another personality of this rock.
There is smaller erratic high in the intertidal zone which is perhaps one metre in diameter – were it not for this I don’t think I could have taken many pictures today. I set my camera up in the lee of the rock where there is a reasonable view of Sahsima nearly at right angles to the wind today. Pictures are taken through a Takumar 100mm macro which fortunately has a long lens hood which kept spray off the glass. The weather was really demanding, and because the camera filled the sheltered area behind the rock it was not all that much fun to take these pictures, though I did not have to worry about the camera getting a drenching, or even much salt spray at all. My glasses were so covered in salt and spray that I could not see well through the view finder, nor see my camera or the view clearly.
My strategy was to set the camera on the tripod, frame as best I could (all pictures needed straightening unfortunately), put it on aperture priority mode (the old lens prevents other modes except manual), focus and then back off from the camera and take pictures as the waves rolled in. I put the ISO to 100 and used a polarising filter to reduce light levels further, as well as bring out colours in the rock. Then I just fired away, adjusting the aperture from f.4 to f.22 in order to get different shutter speeds and different water effects. Every now and then I reframed the shot, changed the focus, and so on. The camera was in continuous shooting mode and it was not long before I had hundreds of shots to work through. A task that began only after wiping the camera down, followed by a few cups of tea to warm me up, and another log or two in the airtight.
I am not sure it is a good strategy for getting shots – it left me with a ton of work (only just begun) for sorting and selecting and deleting, straightening horizons and other basic adjustments that normally would be avoided when there is the ability to attend more closely to detail. But I am not sure how else to cope with being rocked by the wind, unable to see properly, and needing the camera close to the hard and wet ground in a static position tight against the side of a boulder. I think it was worth it though. A few pictures worked out, and there is some good raw material here for when I start to learn how to post-process properly. It was also by way of an experiment for me to start to learn about photographing water with different shutter speeds. For this post I have put the shutter speed as a caption, I don’t know the apertures as they don’t get recorded with this old lens.
For me, the images at the slower speeds are much more pleasing where the spray and moving water gets a creamy appearance. My intent to show water in motion and Sahsima surrounded by a vigorous sea are better served by the shutter speeds in the range of 1/8th to 1/20th of a second. Although, I have not included any at 1/8th here – they just seem to have that much more camera shake from the wind and my hand on the camera. I did know already that the slower shutter speeds were likely to be better at telling this story, but it has been satisfying to prove it to myself.