Sahsima Storm

1/20th

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.

1/15th

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.

1/25th

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.

1/13th

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.

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1/13th

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.

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1/320th


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16 thoughts on “Sahsima Storm

  1. Pingback: Sahsima in Green « burnt embers

  2. Pingback: Storm Rocks « burnt embers

    • Hi AC – thanks for coming by, and for posting a link to your picture which I really like. Nice to see what it was like down there a couple of hours later (from the looks of it). I was out there for a bit less than an hour starting at 2:45pm, I think you must have been around sunset. [Edit: I have just looked through your photos – there are many very good shots there, some even of subjects I have covered in my blog. Nice to see.]

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    • Hi drawandshoot – thank you for coming by, and for commenting. I was just down at the rock again a few minutes ago and the water is glassy and smooth. It changes by the minute, but it is good to be reminded of the latent power and associated danger from time to time.

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    • Hi Toad – thank you so much. These storms are a regular feature of my life living on a small point of land that sticks out into the Straits of Juan de Fuca – we get the wind from most directions and one or another of the neighbourhood beaches gets a good pounding every few weeks in the winter.

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    • It will be fun to experiment with even longer exposures, when there are lower light levels, or I have the right kind of filters. I am guessing that the photograph of Tim Ennis’ of this same spot that I refer to in another comment below was probably taken with a longer exposure, perhaps even several seconds, and on a nicer day too.

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  3. Wow! These images are stunning. I know little about photography, but how I would love to set up to paint there! All the same, the struggle with the wild wind remains.

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    • Thanks Wayside, I am glad you like them. You are not the first person to want to paint this scene – if you follow the link to my earlier post you will find near the end a link to an artist that has painted Sahsima and other scenes in the area. I now notice I linked to a terrific photo by Tim Ennis in that post which seeing it again must have been some of the inspiration for my attempts. That photo shows what I took to be a shelter and Tim saw as an important part of the composition of this location. Makes me realise how far I have yet to go with my picture taking, and post-processing.

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  4. I especially like the fourth image–at first I though maybe there should be more contrast to make the light and spray on the large rock pop. Then I realized that the softness of the colors allows your eye to move to the striking light and spray, and follow the image towards the back right. Really nice photograph, Sally

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    • Hi Sally – thanks for your comment. It is always good to hear why someone prefers one image over another. I think I like that same portion of the first image better, but my reasons are more to do with having sat and watched this scene for 45 minutes than it is out of preference for composition. What I like in the first one is that it gives a good sense of the spray bending around the rock as the wind blows if off the trajectory the wave threw it into. In many of my images the spray is like a flat fan which is not how I experienced it. I will have to think more about the composition and see if there is a better way to crop this image.

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  5. Gorgeous photos! Wind pictures are so challenging to get but so worth it when you make the effort. I was in Vancouver without my camera yesterday, and wishing I had it. I think some of the gusts were higher than reported—in the lower mainland they were reporting gusts up to 100 kph, and on Gabriola a big pine came down in our yard (not on anything important, luckily, but it will be interesting getting it out of the pond).

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    • Thank you skadhu. I heard that the winds we got were not as strong as elsewhere on the south coast – ferries were cancelled or delayed by more than an hour, and many other signs of a good blow were on the news. I am sorry to hear you lost a tree – that always changes the feeling in a yard, though sometimes it turns out in the long run to have been for the better. I hope you find a way to get it out of the pond without further damage, that could be quite tricky.

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